African Groups draw lines between people and planet, Trump and profit as climate talks begin

As a small island state, COP23 President Fiji is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change effects. Source - CLEW 2017.
As a small island state, COP23 President Fiji is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change effects. Source – CLEW 2017.

By Atayi Babs

African civil society groups attending the 23rd session of the conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have called for a swift classification of the global community along the lines of those for the people and planet and those who are for Trump and profit.
The call was made against the backdrop of of destructive hurricanes, fires, floods, droughts, melting ice and food security-threatening impacts that preceded today’s opening of the UN climate talks.
According to the civil society groups under the aegis of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) which represents small holder farmers, trusts, pastoralists, women and youth from across Africa, the global community has increasingly become more vulnerable to the devastating impacts of climate change due to President Trump’s ill-advised attempts at reversing his predecessor’s climate legacies and the cold, conspiratorial silence of those who choose profit over the planet.
“Coming from the region that suffers the most due to climate change, we have watched with utter dismay President Trump’s continued efforts at dismantling the former President Barrack Obama’s climate legacy, and wish to reiterate that this is the time to classify the global community into two: those for the people and planet, and those for Trump and Profit” says Mithika Mwenda, the alliance’s Secretary General.
Augustine Njamshi, executive director of the Bio-Resource and Development Centre in Cameroon takes it further. Njamshi wants a declaration that equates climate inaction by any party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to being in alliance with Donald Trump.
“Unless we see accelerated action on the implementation of the Paris Agreement pursuant to Marrakech Action Plan by industrialised countries, we will declare them silent allies of Trump and enemies of the people and planet, irrespective of the empty rhetoric they bring to the climate talks” Njamshi added.
Identifying with call by non-state actors from Africa, newly elected COP23 President, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama whose country suffered damages of well over $1bn after Cyclone Winston struck in 2016 said “all over the world, vast numbers of people are suffering – bewildered by the forces ranged against them. Our job as leaders is to respond to the suffering with all means available to us,” said. “This means to meet our commitments in full, not back away from them.”
Mr Bainimarama during his acceptance speech at the opening ceremony said that Fiji is working to build a “Grand Coalition” throughout the year between governments at every level, civil society, the private sector and faith-based organizations.
With only war-torn Syria keeping the United States company in the cold coven of countries outside the Paris deal, the US appears set on its path to isolation in climate talks. A small company of diplomats representing the United States will find themselves in an extremely awkward spot: negotiating a deal their president has already walked away from.
“The mood on the ground is it is going to be OK: the US is not going to be a pain in the arse. They still don’t know what they actually want” says a COP veteran. when asked about dealing with the US, Nazhat Shameem Khan, Fiji’s chief negotiator said “You can have a dialogue even with somebody who is an axe murderer.”