Interview: Kofi Annan on climate change

By Interviewed by Nicholas Norbrook and Patrick Smith
Posted on Monday, 27 July 2009 00:00

Kofi Annan?, Former UN Secretary-General interviewed about the road to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009

The Africa Report: In the run-up to Copenhagen, what are the climate-change priorities for Africa’s governments??

KOFI ANNAN: They have to take measures to adapt to the changing environment. And it’s going to be one of the issues in Copenhagen where they [the industrialised countries] will have to come up with funding – in my judgement – to help these countries adapt. These are the 50 poorest countries in the world. They count for less than 1% of the pollution, but today they are bearing the brunt. Some people think climate change is waiting to happen, not realising that it’s happening now. And individuals and communities are suffering. We have responsibility for the planet. Pollution has a cost and the polluter must pay for that. And some of the funds raised have to help the poor adapt.

Do you think that there’s a chance of actually getting an agreement that the countries of the world will all sign up to for the first time??

If you get half the world saying okay, it wouldn’t solve the problem. We all have to move forward together. Sometimes, people say that the developed Western countries can go ahead and do it. If they go ahead and do it and you have the Third World with the emerging powers not doing it, it’s not going to solve the problem. So we all have to accept that we have equal, but differentiated, responsibility and do what we have to do. If we put on the table something that is equitable and fair, it is likely to lead to an agreement.

What is your sense of the positioning of India and China in Copenhagen?

It’s difficult. India has just gone through elections. [Indian Prime Minister] Manmohan Singh’s party has been given a very strong mandate; there could be ramifications for the Indian negotiating posture. And China, I think they’re beginning – they’re taking the environment seriously and, hopefully, will be open to a reasonable agreement. But they will not move unless industrialised countries, seen to be most responsible for accumulated pollution, move – so they should go to Copenhagen prepared to lead. And I think that if they lead, it’ll push the others also to move.

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