can’t see the forest

Tadesse Dadi on Climate Change in Africa and on “The Polluter Pays”

Posted in Africa, business, ecology, Global Warming, Lifestyle, Social and Politics by Curtis on 9/22/06

This commentary by Tadesse Dadi appeared on the BBC website’s Green Room. It has to be taken in context as part of the discussion from whence it comes, but I thought it was so eloquent and to-the-point that I had to reproduce it:

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The worst effects of climate change are already being felt by millions of Africans whose livelihoods are directly dependent on the weather. As a number of you have pointed out, poor farmers also face the effects of deforestation, lack of good governance, and rapid population growth.

I do not deny that we Africans are as much to blame for not getting our act together and using our resources to address these self-inflicted issues ourselves.

Climate change, however, involves all of us as we share the same atmospheric resources. The question is: are we ready to give our lifestyles a critical look and see if we are causing damage to our neighbors and the generation that is to come after us?

I think there is a question of justice to consider here. The “polluter pays” principle has been successfully applied in Western countries to discourage pollution by heavy industries. Why can’t we apply these same principles on a global level?

The high living standard enjoyed in the West today is the result of a century and a half of industrialization, primarily driven by the consumption of fossil fuels.

There is no denying the fact that these industries have contributed to the CO2 emissions which have been blamed for the “greenhouse effect.” With its low industrial base, Africa contributes just 4% to the global total of CO2 emissions, whereas the USA accounts for 20%.

I agree with one reader who said appropriate solutions such as dry land agro-forestry are needed. Such an approach not only restores the forest cover, but also ensures that people get products they can harvest and earn income from.

I believe that helping farmers cope with climate change now will prevent future humanitarian disasters. As the Western countries have led the world into industrialization, I urge them to take the lead in adopting lifestyles that are less damaging to the environment, particularly the atmosphere.

The future of the planet for our grandchildren is at stake.

Tadesse Dadi is a programme support advisor for the charity Tearfund in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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