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Sudan and Egypt won’t be signing up anytime soon

An American delegate talks in the press conference room at the UNFCCC's Copenhagen conference. A number of African states didn't sign the Copenhagen Accord at the meeting / Fredrik Naumann - Panos Pictures

Close to 45 of the 53 countries that make up the African Union arrived at the latest round of climate talks in Bonn having signed the much criticised Copenhagen Accord. While many African nations acknowledge that the accord is not perfect, many have expressed their intention to be listed as signatories. But not Sudan, Zimbabwe, Niger, Cameroon, Sao Tome & Principe, Equatorial Guinea and Egypt.

Reports went round this week particularly from the Pan African Climate Justice Allaince that developed countries were using money to lure rejectionists of the Copenhagen Accord. I asked Mr Ismael Elgizouli, one of the negotiators from Sudan and also acting vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and he confirmed that they had received some members from development countries asking them to sign the accord but he would not mention which country had tried to lobby them. Egyptian negotiator Mouhamed I Nasr, also confirmed that they are being lobbied to sign the accord.

What has been particularly interesting about the attitude of these African countries is that for the first time in a long time, they don’t seem interested to compromise their position for any amount of money.

The Sudanese negotiator argues that they have profound differences with the content of the Copenhagen accord and those spearheading it. “We don’t trust the World Bank for equity reasons.” He said, Sudan prefers that a fund should be created within the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) to manage climate funds. Hosted in the World Bank, he explained, Sudan will never be able to access it.

The Copenhagen Accord, he argues did not follow the procedures of the United Nations convention. “The process through which the accord was reached is absolutely not transparent.” To him, the existing channels of negotiation within the UNFCCC were not respected in Copenhagen.

To further buttress the reasons why Sudan refused to be associated with Copenhagen, the Sudanese official went on to say, “For us in Africa, the priority is adaptation and the long term financing is mostly for useful mitigation which only big developing countries can have access to.” To him, the Copenhagen Accord neglects adaptation in the long term.

I also asked the Egyptian delegation to explain why they were not signing the accord and one of their negotiators, Mr Mouhamed I Nasr explained that “the Copenhagen Accord does not meet our expectation – we are suffering from drought, desertification and [a] two degrees rise in global temperature is unacceptable to Africa.”

Cameroon and Niger explain their case

While Sudan is staunchly opposed to the Copenhagen Accord, it is however ready to continue discussion to settle the sticky issues in the negotiation until a legally binding agreement is reached. Also, while it is understood that the Sudanese Government of President Omar El Bashir, indicted for war crimes in the Darfur Area of Western Sudan might oppose the accord because of its differences with the mostly Western countries believed to be behind the indictment, it has been hard to understand why countries like Cameroon, Niger, Equatorial Guinea et al, who are considered good students, have not signed.

I met the representative of Niger and Cameroon at the ongoing climate change summit in Bonn to understand why they have not signed the accord. In the case of Niger, its lead negotiator at the Bonn summit explained that it was due basically to do with the change in regime in his country. The military deposed President Mamadou Tambja last year in a coup d’etat. Mr Tchousso Manhama explained that it is their intention to sign the accord once the reorganisation of the democratic institution in his country is over.

In the case of Cameroon, it chief negotiator at the climate change negotiations in Bonn speculated that it may be a question of bureaucracy adding that Cameroon may eventually sign the accord even though it is imperfect.

The impact of refusing to sign

I asked some of the negotiators from these countries if they were aware that they may not benefit from the money currently being raised for climate change adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer, capacity building and forest conservation. The Sudanese representative boasted that they are proud of their decision not to be associated with the accord. “We think that we did the right thing because we are in the middle of 2010 – where is the money?”

The climate change negotiation process has not halted because Sudan and a few other countries have not signed the agreement. But judging by the aggressive manner in which the United States for instance is courting them, it is certain that all countries (small or big) are needed on board to make the process credible and respected.

No matter what view one may have of these countries that have not signed the accord, it is evident that their actions may in the long run contribute to making the process a better one.

David Akana is an Associate Editor of Pan African Visions, an online magazine marketing African success stories, where he reports on environment and development. He is at Bonn as a fellow with the Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP), a collaboration between Panos, Internews and International Institute for Environment and Development. The opinions in this blog feature do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panos London.

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