Copenhagen: Africa picks up the tab

Monday December 21 2009

The agreement in Copenhagen by major Western industrial democracies to contribute to a $100 billion kitty to help Africa cope with the effects of climate change has, as any promise of money always does, drawn applause from various quarters on the continent.

For an event that fell so short on delivering on its initial promise, the pledges were the ultimate escape clause for the industrialised North that continues to somehow manage to get the rest of the world to clean up after it, on terms that are largely its own.

In this case, Africa had wanted $400 billion but in the tradition of “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush,” happily accepted the degraded terms.

With such munificence, the West leaves Copenhagen with a light conscience, its moral burden sloughed off with that $100 billion.

For Africa, however, the devil as usual lurks in the detail.

If traditional aid disbursements are anything to go by, it will be a very lucky continent indeed if releases of this money are structured in a manner that allows any meaningful development to take place.

It will be an even more fortunate Africa if the local buzzards muster the moral courage to allow what little will trickle in to be put to its intended use.

Otherwise, it all looks like theatre with the powerless masses as mere spectators. Little has really changed.

One way or the other, poor Africa will pick up the tab for global warming while its richer cousins hide behind meaningless tokenism.