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African Leaders' Climate Message Unheard At Home
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African Leaders' Climate Message Unheard At Home

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African Leaders' Climate Message Unheard At Home
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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Africa contributes the least to global warming, but stands to suffer the most. That's the case African leaders are making in Copenhagen. They're demanding a higher reduction in emissions by industrialized countries and more money to help them cope with climate change.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from Senegal on the divide between the politics of climate change in Africa and the reality.

(Soundbite of Video, Copenhagen Summit)

Archbishop DESMOND TUTU (South Africa): All scientific prognoses show that the continent of Africa will be severely hit if we do not act now.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: In this video played at the Copenhagen Summit, Nobel Peace Laureate and South African anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu echoes the concerns of many that Africa will suffer most from the consequences of climate change.

Frustration over the pace of negotiations in Copenhagen prompted the African delegation to lead a five-hour boycott of the conference yesterday. Sudan's Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping is the chief negotiator for the large and influential G-77 bloc of developing countries, plus China, which took part in the walkout. He told the BBC that the row showed how deep the divide remained between rich and poor.

Ambassador LUMUMBA STANISLAUS DI-APING (Deputy Permanent Representative, Sudan): There is an ever-widening gap between developed countries and developing countries because developed countries have accepted that condemning Africa, condemning the small island states, condemning developing countries to destruction and massive suffering is something acceptable to them.

QUIST-ARCTON: African leaders have united over climate change in a way unusual for the continent when national interests often trump continental concerns. Environmentalists say coastal erosion, desert encroachment, drought and floods, for instance, will only make life harder for Africa's impoverished population. However, developments in Copenhagen haven't attracted that much media attention here in Dakar. Minielle Tall is a Senegalese environmental activist.

Ms. MINIELLE TALL (Environmental Activist, Senegal): I couldn't feel any engagement from the civil society here in Senegal. And even if they see that their environment is degraded, it's like - well, that's the way it's supposed to be and, well, somebody will take care of it, but it's not our responsibility.

(Soundbite of waves)

QUIST-ARCTON: It's in places like this, such as Rufisque, outside Dakar, that you see the affects of coastal erosion. It's one of the problems here in Senegal, which has a coast that goes from St. Louis in the north right to Ziguinchor in the south. And erosion is a problem in many parts.

(Soundbite of waves)

Ms. LADAME MBAYE: (Foreign Language Spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: Ladame Mbaye comes from the Lebu fishing community in Rufisque. Forlornly, sitting on the sea wall overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, she laments the fact that the waters have swallowed up most of the beach.

Ms. MBAYE: (Foreign Language Spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: Mbaye said this is where she used to play as a girl. This is where my children played soccer, she says, right here on this beach. This is where our mothers and fathers, our aunts and uncles gathered to settle fishing village problems. But the ocean has eaten up the shore. There was room for everyone, she says. There were houses right here. Now they're all gone. In Copenhagen, Ambassador Di-Aping of the G-77 stressed that President Barack Obama and the United States mustered the necessary will for the financial bailout, so the president must now do the same to fight climate change.

Mr. DI-APING: First of all, he has to increase his reductions by more than the current number, which is really four percent. Four percent would not save Africa. The world needs a few hundred billion dollars. He can enable that to happen the way he did in the financial crisis. We know that he cared for the Wall Street. He gave them the trillions. Let him say now he cares for the children of the world.

QUIST-ARCTON: As global heads of state, including President Obama, prepare to gather in Copenhagen. The African delegation is driving home that message.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar.

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