Is draft climate deal a form of 'apartheid' against developing nations?

A group of African nations have criticized a draft of a United Nations climate change deal, saying the text is unbalanced against developing nations.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters/File
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks during the closing of the Climate Summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Sept. 23, 2014. UN negotiators have begun the latest leg of talks leading up to a major climate summit in Paris in December.

South Africa on Monday joined other African nations in criticizing a draft United Nations climate change agreement, calling the text a form of “apartheid” against developing nations.

The draft is an early version of a global accord that negotiators from 195 countries are set to agree on at a major Paris summit in December. But a final week of negotiations on the draft text, which began in Germany Monday, faced opposition from developing nations who said their demands had been edited out of the 20-page draft.

“It is just like apartheid,” Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, South Africa's delegate who also represents a group of more than 130 developing nations and China, said at the meeting. “We find ourselves in a position where in essence we are disenfranchised.”

Ms. Mxakato-Diseko’s remarks echo those of other countries in the African bloc, who on Sunday said the draft “cannot be used as a basis for negotiation, as it is unbalanced, and does not reflect the African Group positions, and crosses the group's redlines.”

Developing nations are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – which in sub-Saharan Africa means more frequent droughts and higher temperatures. While the new text touches on providing support for developing countries toward implementing climate goals, the African bloc opposed to the draft want more focus on financial assistance to help poorer nations cope with the consequences of climate change, said Seyni Nafo, the group’s spokesperson.

The African nations’ protests are supported by a recent report, released Monday by 18 civil society groups, that the United States and other developed countries are doing less than their fair share to fight climate change under the draft accord.

"The ambition of all major developed countries falls well short of their fair shares," according to the report by groups, which include Christian Aid, Oxfam, the International Trade Union Confederation, and WWF International.

Still, negotiators are confident in the draft’s potential as a basis for further discussion. The text includes a commitment to keep global warming to no more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – considered a key point because research says that warming above 2 Celsius could lead to “catastrophic and irreversible” climate events, The Guardian reports.

The text also provides for a continuous review process following any Paris climate deal, with countries required to release their emissions goals every five years. Richer and poorer nations would have “common but differentiated responsibilities,” according to the draft.

“We will get to an agreement by the end of Paris,” said UN climate chief Christiana Figueres. “Perhaps the reaction here is that we went from a text that has too much in it to a text that has too little.”

Mr. Nafo added the African group was confident they could introduce changes to the text before the latest leg of negotiations – set for Oct. 19 to 24 – get underway.

“Our position is not to delay work, but to ensure that there's a fair basis for all,” he said.

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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