Kerry’s ‘tired rhetoric’ upsets Africa climate champs

By Aghan Daniel I


US climate envoy John Kerry has inadvertently provoked the ire of African environmental activitists who claim his rhetoric downplays the dangers of climate change on the continent.

The campaigners slammed Kerry, President Joe Biden’s Special Climate Envoy for his ‘minimalist’ approach which they believe exposes a lack of comprehension of the magnitude of what’s in store for Africans from the vagaries of climate change.

In a petition seen by Sayansi Magazine, activists responding to a speech delivered by Kerry at the resumed 18th session of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) taking place in Dakar, Senegal.

Coalescing under the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), the groups  drawn from diverse backgrounds and in 40 plus countries and sectors said the US Climate Envoy chose to play with “semantics” and termed his presence at AMCEN as a ‘public relations gimmick’ which they noted is characteristic of the US government.

“Africa is disappointed that John Kerry came to AMCEN without coming out strongly to deliver a bold commitment that would offer hope to families in the Horn of Africa, Sahel and the rest of Africa whose livelihoods have been turned upside down by a problem they have very little to do with,’ said Mithika Mwenda, the Executive Director of the PACJA.

In his speech during the AMCEN, Kerry denied that the West and developed nations bear responsibility on climate change and urged every country to bear the burden of its impacts. 

The US climate envoy had rubbed Africans the wrong way by stressing the need for mitigation while they tend to favour a focus leaning towards adaptation.

According to Mamadou Barri, an activist from Senegal, Africans had expected Kerry to commit to supporting its agenda for the 27th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change set for Egypt in November. “Chief of our agenda in COP27 is recognition of Africa as a region of special circumstances and circumstance,” he said.

Mithika noted that for the last eight months, since the beginning of the year, African CSOs have conducted several consultations among themselves and governments, both formal and informal, and have identified critical “no-go zone areas” in engaging with the global community in COP27, the boundary through which the negotiators should not pass.

“A COP in Africa, undoubtedly, should recognize what has united all of us; special needs and circumstances on the continent that personify the impacts the climate crisis has condemned on humanity,” said Mithika.

Mithika said African CSOs consider it a mockery to the people on the continent when a top US diplomat spews out what Africans have heard over the years without telling them why his country continues to churn out tonnes of carbon emissions across the Atlantic and on its failure to honour its commitments on climate finance.

“Kerry’s mere recognition of the “climate crisis facing the African continent” is just a tired rhetoric which we hardly want to hear,” he said.

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