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Environment

African leaders unite against climate change on Cop22 sidelines

media KingMohammed VI of Morocco (L) greets President of Senegal Macky Sall at the opening of the Africa Action Summit, on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (Cop22) in Marrakesh Reuters/Youssef Boudlal

African leaders on Wednesday agreed to work together to fight global warming at their first ever Africa Action summit, spearheaded by Morocco’s King Mohamed VI. The summit marks a diplomatic coup for Rabat as it seeks to reassert its influence on the continent.

Getting over 20 African heads of state all under the same roof is one thing, getting them all to agree to a common stance on global warming is another.

On Wednesday King Mohamed VI succeeded in doing both.

African leaders gathering in Marrakesh on the sidelines of UN climate talks signed a joint declaration to pool their resources and speak in one single voice to tackle climate change.

Thirty-six of the 50 countries most affected by global warming are African, according to the UN.

“We are here because we are part of the solution, we want to be part of the solution,” Mahlaba Ali Mamba, Swaziland’s deputy ambassador to Ethiopia told RFI.

“We are affected by drought in the whole of the southern Africa region, drought is a problem and it’s caused by climate change. We’re here to see, as Africans, what way forward we can take to meet these challenges.”

Drought, deforestation, flooding

Leaders identified three problems seriously affecting their populations: drought, deforestation and flooding. They established commissions for each in the Sahel region, Congo basin and island states.

“I’m quite happy that as Africans we are now coming together to learn to do things by ourselves,” Uganda’s Environment Minister Mary Goretti Kitutu told RFI.

“The world needs to know as Africans we’ve not polluted the environment but we’re being impacted on heavily so the world needs to come up and support us in these heavy expenses.”

Technology transfer, capacity building and access to funding are some of what she is referring to.

Currently Africa only attracts around five percent of climate funding. By 2020 it’s meant to be able to dip into the 100-billion-dollar (90-billion-euro) green fund – on condition it has valid projects up and running that prove it’s making the shift to clean energy.

“We welcome the kind of offers that he [King Mohamed VI] has provided that Africa should come and speak with one voice to ensure that we reverse this great challenge which is affecting us,” Sierra Leone’s president told officials during their three-hour plenary session.

The Moroccan leader was heaped with praise by the many heads of state for his efforts to put Africa’s plight firmly in the spotlight at Cop22, dubbed the Cop of Africa.

Rwandan leader Paul Kagame for instance spoke for less than two minutes and praised Mohamed VI twice.

Hosting the summit is a diplomatic coup for Morocco as it seeks to reenter the African Union after a three decade hiatus.

The king has since toured east Africa—including Kigali--in a bid to woo support. After the Marrakesh talks he is due to visit Addis Ababa, where the AU is based. One month before his bid for reentry gets cast to vote.

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