Avert­ing col­li­sion on cli­mate change

There are low-cost ways AU mem­bers could slow down or even de­rail Trump, writes

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

EV­ERY four years the CIA’s Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Coun­cil (NIC) pro­vides the in­com­ing pres­i­dent and his ad­min­is­tra­tion with an assess­ment of the most pow­er­ful global forces likely to af­fect for­eign and do­mes­tic af­fairs. Known as the CIA’s Global Trends, the re­port is also avail­able to the public and nor­mally has a time hori­zon of five years and beyond.

Don­ald Trump would prob­a­bly be prompted to dis­miss the 235-page 2017 edition with a tweet af­ter get­ting just half-way down the first sum­mary page.

The next five years, the re­port says, will close an era of Amer­i­can dom­i­nance fol­low­ing the Cold War.

Trump would un­doubt­edly see this as a per­sonal af­front to his prom­ise that he will “Make Amer­ica Great Again”.

Iron­i­cally, Trump’s own be­hav­iour dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and tran­si­tion only lends cre­dence to one of the re­port’s gen­eral fore­casts that the next five years will see ris­ing ten­sion within and be­tween coun­tries.

So far Trump has stirred ten­sion with a range of coun­tries. He has made con­tro­ver­sial state­ments that have of­fended, among oth­ers, Euro­peans, Asians and, of course, Mex­i­cans.

The re­port pro­vides a use­ful start­ing point to re­flect on what’s in store for Africa over the next five years and how the con­ti­nent should think about re­spond­ing to chal­lenges it iden­ti­fies in the con­text of a Trump pres­i­dency.

A case in point is the re­port’s find­ings set against Trump’s stance on cli­mate change. The Global Trends 2017 puts greater em­pha­sis on the ur­gent need to mit­i­gate and adapt to global warm­ing and other man-in­duced cli­mate change than ear­lier edi­tions. But Trump’s cli­mate de­nial rhetoric and the prom­i­nent de­niers he is in­clud­ing in his cabi­net con­tra­dict all avail­able ev­i­dence-based judge­ments.

This might sug­gest that the con­ti­nent and Trump are on a col­li­sion course given that Africa will suf­fer more than most re­gions from the threat of cli­mate change. This needn’t be the case. There are some low-cost ways AU mem­bers, in­di­vid­u­ally and to­gether, could un­der­take to slow down, and even de­rail, Trump and his cli­mate de­niers. And shrewd diplo­mats would do well to use the re­port as a use­ful ref­er­ence for prod­ding US ne­go­tia­tors. They might also use it for gaug­ing lev­els of public and Con­gres­sional sup­port for Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial poli­cies.

There have been few in­di­ca­tions of Trump’s in­ter­est in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa. But a few clues of how his ad­min­is­tra­tion views the con­ti­nent have been re­ported by the New York Times.

The re­port was based on a leaked four­page list of ques­tions about Africa his tran­si­tion team sent to the State Depart­ment and Pen­tagon. The ques­tions in­di­cate a gen­eral scep­ti­cism about the value of for­eign aid or even US se­cu­rity in­ter­ests in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, sug­gest­ing Africans have squan­dered Amer­i­can money and ef­fort. Ques­tions in­cluded: •With so much cor­rup­tion in Africa, how much of our fund­ing is stolen?

• Why do we sup­port that mas­sive ben­e­fit to cor­rupt regimes? (in re­la­tion to the African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act).

• Are we los­ing out to the Chi­nese? (re­gard­ing US busi­ness in­ter­ests).

Based on these ques­tions, it’s pos­si­ble that Trump will opt for an Amer­i­can re­treat from the bi­par­ti­san de­vel­op­ment, hu­man­i­tar­ian and se­cu­rity as­sis­tance goals of pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions. Even so, poli­cies he pur­sues on global is­sues such as trade and cli­mate change will have a dra­matic im­pact on the con­ti­nent.

The Global Trends re­port con­clu­sion is that prospects for progress on the con­ti­nent clearly out­weigh the dan­gers.

It says in the next five years African coun­tries will fo­cus on in­ter­nal is­sues as they struggle to con­sol­i­date the gains of the past 15 years and try to re­sist the geopo­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic head­winds that threaten them.

It also iden­ti­fies the key chal­lenges, among them the fa­mil­iar is­sues of rapid pop­u­la­tion growth and ru­ral-ur­ban mi­gra­tion, se­vere if un­even en­vi­ron­men­tal and health risks, rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and fail­ures of gov­ern­ing in­sti­tu­tions.

The re­port’s em­pha­sis on cli­mate change is par­tic­u­larly telling. It cites cred­i­ble sci­en­tific ev­i­dence of global warm­ing and fore­casts dire con­se­quences for coun­tries across the world, in­clud­ing in Africa.

The re­port en­dorses the find­ings and process ap­proved by 194 coun­tries par­tic­i­pat­ing in the UN In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC).

The Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion was a global leader in the IPCC and agree­ments reached in Paris in 2015 on re­duc­ing green­house gases emis­sions in a vol­un­tary process have now been en­dorsed by vir­tu­ally all UN mem­bers.

Obama was also com­mit­ted to a bi­lat­eral agree­ment with China, obli­gat­ing the world’s two largest emit­ters to ma­jor re­duc­tions. And he made a pledge vi­tal to Africa of $3 bil­lion to­wards an ini­tial IPCC $10bn fund to as­sist the most vul­ner­a­ble and un­der-re­sourced coun­tries adapt to global warm­ing. This fund is sched­uled to grow to $100bn an­nu­ally by 2020.

Trump, how­ever, has repeatedly threat­ened to re­nege on all these US com­mit­ments once in of­fice.

Here are some low-cost ways AU mem­bers, in­di­vid­u­ally and to­gether, could un­der­take to slow and even de­rail Trump and his cli­mate de­niers:

• Seize ev­ery op­por­tu­nity in bi­lat­eral talks and mul­ti­lat­eral fo­rums to ref­er­ence the find­ings pre­sented in Global Trends 2017. Although pre­pared dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, it is the work of non-par­ti­san civil ser­vants.

• De­vise and im­ple­ment public diplo­macy cam­paigns in part­ner­ship with civil so­ci­ety groups, en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists, and the African Di­as­pora. Re­call­ing lessons from the highly ef­fec­tive anti-apartheid move­ment of the 1970s and 1980s could be help­ful.

• De­velop a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of and links to Amer­ica’s boom­ing al­ter­na­tive en­ergy sec­tor. Costs of so­lar, wind and other clean en­ergy sources have fallen dra­mat­i­cally to the point that eco­nom­ics, rather than pol­i­tics or ethics now drive most ma­jor re­duc­tions of Amer­ica’s dan­ger­ous emis­sions. There may be busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for African com­pa­nies and coun­tries to ex­ploit for eco­nomic growth, de­vel­op­ment and deal­ing with the ef­fects of global warm­ing.

• Ac­tively sup­port Amer­i­cans (and any­one else) who sup­port a car­bon tax, with gen­er­ous al­lowances for low pol­lut­ing African coun­tries and swop credits with rich emit­ters, with cash generated as­sist­ing cli­mate adap­ta­tion.

• With Obama gone, China alone ap­pears poised for global lead­er­ship on cli­mate change. South Africa could help by us­ing its mem­ber­ship in the Brics and close ties to China and Brazil to press In­dia, and es­pe­cially Rus­sia to meet their obli­ga­tions. It might even get the group to in­crease its con­tri­bu­tions to the spe­cial fund for af­fected African coun­tries.

•Re­as­sure po­ten­tial Amer­i­can donors and part­ners, in­clud­ing Trump and his al­lies, that funds al­lo­cated for help­ing Africans ad­just to cli­mate change will be ac­counted for through a vol­un­tary trans­par­ent process of plan­ning and re­port­ing. Such ac­count­abil­ity is a key vi­sion of the New Part­ner­ship for Africa’s De­vel­op­ment and its African Peer Re­view Mech­a­nism, cur­rently un­der re­newal.

• Fi­nally: tap into African ex­per­tise. Ar­gu­ments should make full use of the con­ti­nent’s small but grow­ing com­mu­nity of cli­mate sci­en­tists and their many links to Amer­ica’s sci­en­tific com­mu­nity and en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists. Hold­ing Trump to facts, not opin­ion, has failed so far. But ev­i­dence sug­gests public sen­ti­ment and eco­nomic in­cen­tives in­creas­ingly favour bet­ter cli­mate man­age­ment.

Africa’s ap­peals to Amer­ica for fair­ness can be as ef­fec­tive as they once were for free­dom. – The Con­ver­sa­tion John J Strem­lau is a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand.

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