African aid useless without action on climate change

Leaders of the G8 have been warned that the best will in the world - and the most generous aid package - will not help Africa unless more effort is made to combat climate change too.

A working group made up of members of a powerful alliance of NGOs and aid agencies has published its latest report, Africa: Up in Smoke? praising rich nations for their recent interest in the continent and positive noises about climate change, but saying it is pointless to look at the two in isolation.

The coalition is made up of over a dozen hard-hitting environmental pressure groups and development agencies, from Christian Aid to Greenpeace.

Its Working Group on Climate Change and Development has pointed out that Africa is on the front line when it comes to global warming, with the majority reliant on small scale agriculture and reliable rainfall.

The extreme rains, hail showers and drought that are predicted to arise from climate change will erode soils, shred crops or wither them as they grow.

Its report has been released in the run up to the Gleneagles G8 summit in an attempt to focus the minds of the delegates and draw their attention to the links between poverty and climate change, reminding them of their responsibilities to their poorer neighbours.

“The UK government has failed to understand the full extent of the problem and failed to meet commitments to crucial funds that have already been established to help the poorest countries deal with climate change,” said a spokesperson for the coalition.

“Recent reports that carry the Government’s stamp of approval are blighted with the same fatal blind spot as the G8 agenda: they fail to recognise the scale of the threat climate change poses to human development.”

The report says climate change means that Africa needs a new approach to development based on resilient and locally-owned strategies, echoing the findings of a similar study released by the University of Minnesota last week (see related story ).

It also argues that a new approach to economic development is needed in the G8 based on an agreed framework for emissions cuts that goes far beyond the targets laid out by the Kyoto Protocol.

But it has its work cut out, with any international effort to tackle the problems running into the stubborn refusal of the US to accept mankind’s influence on the global climate.

The latest leaks of the G8’s plan for action on climate change show the Bush administration still pushing for a watered-down version with any mention of inactivity making things worse, ecological impact or human blame removed.

The Up in Smoke? report nevertheless makes an urgent call for the international community to cut emissions as well as adopt a host of new strategies to make aid efforts more effective in the long term.

In the introduction to the report, Archbishop Desmond Tutu says: “The richest countries of the world, as represented by the G8, have a responsibility to help the poorest.

“This is not just charity, but a moral obligation.

“The world’s wealthiest countries have emitted more than their fair share of greenhouse gases.

“Resultant floods, droughts and other climate change impacts continue to fall disproportionately on the world’s poorest people and countries, many of which are in Africa.

“The UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s stated commitment to tackling climate change and helping Africa is most welcome.

“Africans look forward to seeing some firm outcomes from these commitments during Blair’s presidency of the G8 and the European Union.

“Words will not be enough.”

By Sam Bond

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