"Help Those Who Need to Be Saved From Climate Change"
When Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, the chairman of the G-77 group of developing countries at Copenhagen, came to the press center at 1 AM last night, he was not there to pontificate or yell. Looking weary, Lumumba spoke with a calmness that belied his disappointment and anger over the deal forged last night between the US and the world's biggest developing economies. For developing nations, the ones who have done least to cause global warming but who will suffer most, the deal was "the worst development in climate change negotiations in history."
After the Sudanese chairman likened Obama to his predecessor for working "against the hope, against tradition of transparency and participation on equal footing by all nations and parties." I asked him if he had a message for the President. He did.
Bypassing the rhetoric that came from Obama and other leading developed and developing nations' leaders over the importance of a treaty for domestic jobs and energy security, Lumumba invoked a more deeply moral reason for stronger climate action, and a better commitment to developing countries. A sheer sense of of justice
On behalf of many G-77 countries, Lumumba expressed disappointment that the Copenhagen accord -- a weak and last-minute face-saving measure that tries to point the way forward for the next climate change summit -- lacked legally-binding force, gave no guidance on a cap in global temperature rise or carbon levels, and includes less aid than may be necessary.
Many developing nations have parted ways with their richer counterparts like China and India over demands they say must be met to prevent catastrophe: a limit in global temperature rise to 1.5°C, an atmospheric carbon level of 350ppm, and climate aid totaling 1.5% of rich countries' GDP, double what the current accord provides.
My message to the President: What the world needs is a just and equitable deal. What the world needs is a transparent, democratic, participatory process for concluding a deal. What the world needs is a sense of solidarity and a commitment to help those who need to be saved, as we speak today.
Those demands stand in contrast to the provisions of the weak agreement Obama called "meaningful", which was reached in consultation between China, India, South Africa and Brazil.
Lumumba has previously called out Obama for insisting on ditching the Kyoto Protocol, the binding carbon-cutting regime that will now be included in further talks, and attacked the President for not committing to stronger carbon cuts. But doing so would depend upon consent by the US Senate, which is currently holding up climate legislation. "Perhaps he is a general without troops," Lumumba said in Bangkok in October.
Later on Saturday morning, during a plenary session that would give mild approval to the Copenhagen accord, Lumumba compared the agreement to the Holocaust, repeating a dubious theme he has used throughout the summit -- dubious not least because of his government's reputation.
It would be cynical however to hear in Lumumba's outrage an attempt at controversy for the sheer sake of bombast or political provocation. Remember that as the chief negotiator for the developing world at these talks, Lumumba's voice must speak not just for the delegates but for the millions of people whose voices have gone and continue to go unheard, and whose very lives are at stake for reasons out of their control. And for reasons in ours.
From that perspective, giving exposure to powerful representatives like him -- and reminding the developed world that it is causing measurable, still unknown and ultimately preventable damage to people elsewhere -- may be one of the Copenhagen conference's greatest legacies. A growing sense that the developing world is asking not for money or handouts but for climate justice will help build a stronger foundation for a climate treaty next year.
Lumumba's message then isn't just for Obama. After all, the President is not the only one who can sign a fair and strong climate treaty, and he's not the only one who can pressure others to do so. Lumumba's plea is to every one of us.
Below is the raw video of Lumumba's statements to reporters, in two parts.