NEW YORK (Reuters) - Africa is unfairly suffering from global warming and must be able to sell carbon credits to grow in a “green fashion,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told Bill Clinton’s philanthropic summit on Thursday.
Climate change took center stage at the third annual Clinton Global Initiative sponsored by the former U.S. president, being held as the world’s biggest polluters, including the United States and China, met at the State Department in Washington for talks on global warming.
“Africa contributed nothing to global warming because it failed to develop the way the rest of the world developed,” Meles said. “Africa’s capacity to cope with climate change is very weak. Therefore climate change could push the fragile economies and societies of Africa beyond the precipice.”
Speaking on a panel with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.N. climate change envoy Gro Harlem Brundtland and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Meles said the “only realistic option” for Africa was sustainable growth, but money was needed to achieve that.
“The money has to come from the cap and trade mechanism,” Meles said. “We did not pollute. We are being punished because of what you did and we deserve the right to sell carbon credits to you so we can use the money to promote green development in our countries,” he said, drawing applause from the audience.
Under the Kyoto Protocol to curb global warming, rich countries can meet their emissions reduction targets by funding green energy development in poor countries in exchange for carbon credits.
But the overall $30 billion emissions market has failed to help Africa, with China and India benefiting the most. World Bank data shows Africa accounted for 3 percent of the credits sold, compared with China’s 61 percent share and India’s 12 percent.
Scientists say smokestack and tailpipe emissions of heat-trapping gases cause global warming, which could lead to more deadly floods, droughts and heat waves.
Clinton said the carbon market could “energize investors and ideas people to create the multifaceted change that will be really necessary to prove that we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and grow the economy at the same time.”
At Clinton’s summit on Thursday, Standard Chartered Bank made a commitment to seek out and underwrite $4 billion to $5 billion in debt for renewable and clean energy projects in Asia, Africa and the Middle East over the next five years.
“There’s lots of opportunity in Africa and we are already active in Africa,” Chief Executive Peter Sands told a news conference at the Clinton brainstorming summit on health, education, poverty and climate, which rates action over talk.
Blair said world leaders this year must lay out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol in which everyone -- including the top two emitters, the United States and China -- take part to cut emissions. The Kyoto deal runs out in 2012.
“We are at the point now where the business community internationally is ahead of the politics and is saying to political leaders: ‘Now is the moment. If you give us the framework we will get behind it,'” Blair said.