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Rhetorics of #COP21 #Paris and Analysis of Agreement for #Africa

To understand fully the implications of this analysis, please download a copy of the Final Agreement signed, by clicking on this PDF link!

It is not without hesitation that I begin writing this on New Year’s Eve 2016. I delayed the discussion about COP21 Paris for a very long time because of the different security measures imposed on Delegates in various COP21 official Pavilions. Nobody Blames France for stepping up security measures but things were done in a way that made the attendance of COP21 so empty and exclusive, one wondered,”What are we doing this for?”


First of all I should clarify my involvement in the various stages leading up to COP21. Because of my past experience with People’s Forum during COP15 in Copenhagen, I was invited by a colleague in Africa to be a part of his visiting delegations from PACJA PanAfrican Climate Justice Alliance to the Alliance to attend the event inside UNECA United Nations Economic Commission for Africa‘s African Pavilion (established since COP17) for this year’s COP21 in Paris.

I want to say that people simply do not just show up and lobby! A great deal of preparations go into various delegations attending any COP because it is essentially a United Nations event. Like many UN events, it is often a very closed door event but in the case of COP, usually each country hosting it provide “Side events” venue for various NGOs and International Lobby groups coming to COP.


This is where the point of contention began. France under the threat of terrorism, basically made sure that no such venues were available for voicing dissent even before #Bataclan bombing incident. So where did that leave lobby groups?

Lobbies like First People’s Nation Worldwide were left with having to fundraise for their own expensive venues as a “Side Event” to COP21. While it was a positive and impressive media photo opportunity event, covered by Voww.Tv founder Vinanti Shaker and member Anne Edelstam with other similar events attended by Robert Redford and other celebrities.


“Side events” make impressive Media Photo opportunities but they add nothing to the negotiations inside the official Pavilions, though often in the media, they are mistaken for being COP21, they do not hold any official sway. The reality of what was happening Inside the Official COP21 venue were much more grave and less glamorous. 

Indigenous leaders across the globe are denouncing the exclusion of Indigenous rights and traditional knowledge from the long-awaited COP21 climate agreement. The initial draft mandated states to respect “the rights of Indigenous Peoples…when taking actions to address climate change.” However, the sentence was removed from the final text per the request of several governments.climate-change-agroecology-nutrition-and-food-security.png

Amids Problems of Academic Corruption in the research about Climate Change, Greenpeace used the platform of COP21 to release results of an undercover investigation that revealed just how easy it is to pay an academic to say whatever you want him to!

Inside COP21, various representatives from 200+ World Nations, continue to refuse to debate over the culpability and responsibility for the failure of the past. Delegates inside the African Pavillion expressed their frustration at the official negotiators attempt to “side-line” Africa’s guidelines for Climate Justice.

The final agreement, were uneasy compromise on a number of front:

I am going to contrast the recommendation of The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) with the terms of  the final Paris Agreement. PACJA is a continental coalition of Civil Society Organizations from diverse backgrounds in Africa. Founded in 2008, PACJA has emerged as the most vibrant and largest civil society platform in climate change and sustainable development. My colleague Appolinaire Zagabe and I were honoured to join PACJA’s lobby efforts inside the African Pavilion at COP21.


As such, we are in complete agreement on the following issues that stipulates the Paris agreement must be a fair, equitable and legal binding deal in which all countries play their part and the principle of Common but differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities outlines in the UNFCCC is respected.

PACJA recommended: clear targets and verifiable measurements indicators with concrete plan for implementation. An agreement that is legally binding.

Paris Agreement: Only parts of the agreement are legally binding. 

The agreement walks a fine line, binding in some elements like reporting requirements, while leaving other aspects of the deal—such as the setting of emissions targets for any individual country—as non-binding.

The agreement gives countries considerable leeway in determining how to cut their emissions but mandates that they report transparently on those efforts. Every five years nations will be required to assess their progress towards meeting their climate commitments and submit new plans to strengthen them. the Times

The following areas were LESS that Hoped for and would mean significant negative impact and compromise for those living in Africa.


The 2010 Cancun Agreements agreed to limit Temperature to 2 degrees Celsius. Industrialized countries are some of the world’s biggest emitters and preventing dangerous climate change is impossible without their efforts. Africa is the world’s fastest urbanizing continent and population and demand for energy is set to grow over the next few decades.

Paris Agreement: 2 degrees target remain.

The deal requires any country that ratifies it to act to stem its greenhouse gas emissions in the coming century, with the goal of peaking greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible” and continuing the reductions as the century progresses. Countries will aim to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100 with an ideal target of keeping temperature rise below 1.5°C (2.7°F).  quote from The Times

Friends of the Earth U.S. President Erich Pica said the agreement is “not a fair, just or science-based deal” because it fails to adequately address losses due to climate change in the most vulnerable countries.

PACJA recommended : Climate Financing

Adequate financing to the Green Climate fund for tackling climate change, was strongly highlighted by PACJA. It was recommended that a minimum of USD 100 billion a year will be set aside for climate action by 2020. It was recommended that GCF funds only sustainable projects and protects human rights. To avoid issues of lack of transparency and corruption, it was recommended that the fund disburse money to accredited entities rather than implementing projects itself.

Paris Agreement: The text of the agreement includes a provision requiring developed countries to send $100 billion annually to their developing counterparts beginning in 2020. That figure will be a “floor” that is expected to increase with time. The Times

PACJA recommended: That the UNFCCC addresses Gender based inequality as  a key part of tackling climate change and putting African countries on the path to sustainable development. COP20 calls for implementation of gender-responsive climate policies and mandates across all areas of negotiations. PACJA supports the setting of a GEF Gender Equality Action Plan that aims to mainstream gender issues through its programmes.

Paris Agreement: No express provisions recognising Gender specific imbalance beyond COP20 agreement in Lima.

PACJA recommended: Loss and Damage

That Developed countries bear a disproportionate responsibility for causing Loss and Damage in African countries and must address this issue as mitigations and adaptations actions to date have not been sufficient to prevent it. Industrialized nations need to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. The mechanism established in COP19 had been side-lined since and PACJA would like to see the full Implementation of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, and that such topic is allowed to be a Standalone Pillar at Paris Negotiation.

Paris Agreement: The requests are written into the agreement but not any implementation nor were any legally binding enforcement obligations established. 

In conclusion, I think it is important to think beyond on the rhetorics of Developed Nations bureaucracies and ask ourselves, if we are talking about a transparent process, why was there so much effort to hush voices of dissents even before Terrorism created the perfect rationale for France’s actions?

Media showed a glamorous one-sided State controlled “peaceful” protest. Everyone had to praise France for its resilience against Terrorism. But few considered the details of COP21 Paris.

The reality for those attending the REAL COP21 events were never so glamorous as  photo opportunities dressed up in one’s native costumes with celebrities like Robert Redford! Amidst the backdrops of terrorism and France under martial laws, delegates attending the various COP21 pavilions were under a lot of security assessments and risks.

wp_20151201_005.jpgI was unable to attend COP21 but I was already included in the visitors list a month ahead via my involvement with PACJA. However Voww.Tv member who wanted to report inside the pavilion was unable to get into Le Bourget on an ordinary press pass, special permissions had to be granted for media covering COP21.

Meanwhile, many protests were quashed. Police clashed with protestors, many were put under house arrests ex judicial. Risks assessements for my colleagues from Africa who wished to influence the negotiations inside COP21 ran quite high. For example:

1) being targeted for access into official venue.
2) being accidentally profiled by police as an agitator posing as a delegate.
3) race based profiling.
4) terrorism based profiling.
5) mistaken identity target profiling by protesters who decide you represent the establishment that oppose climate action.
6) theft and mugging. Tear gassing. Police brutality. Protesters using self-made weapons. Professional. Terrorists using professional bombs. Amateurs using home-made weapons. Petty crimes.
7) being Accidentally or deliberately arrested and detained without charges for crowd control reasons in the course of making their way into COP21 pavilions at Le Bourget.
8) being photographed during COP demonstration and incorrectly identified as security risks in future COPs

This was on top of the Terrorists activities and threats in Paris.


So, if there was any real Heroes in this process of international climate change diplomacy, we must ask whether the mere courage to go inside the Pavillion was already a test of Valour which many failed or were prevented from? In my case, it was a simple risk assessment choice. Many of the things I could do, were done via modern technology anyway. However I can honestly commend the courage of all those who attended COP21 in the Africa Pavilion and they know that while I was not physically there, we were in daily contact with up-to-minute strategies and mutual consultation. That is more than what I could say was achieved by many inside COP21! 🙂 While my experience from COP15 helped, certainly COP21 in Paris was much more dangerous for delegates than for all of us attending KlimaForum People’s Climate forum at COP15. Furthermore for those who lobby as side-events in COP21, I am very aware of the cost incurred because French Government did not deem it necessary to provide a free venue for global NGOs to showcase their good works as Danish and other governments from previous COP did! While it is not illegal to do so, we wonder about the morality of asking lobby groups to pay their way to be allowed to voice their concerns, while corporate sponsors dominated the main COP21 pavillions at Le Bourget?

Little things like that, add to the failure in “Liberty” that France supposedly believe in above all other nations in Europe and as such, it was disappointing to see that protesters had to “march with their shoes” because other forms of protest were forbidden for fear of terrorism.

While I am a fan of Robert Redford’s, I have to ask,”Is it appropriate to parade the first nation “natives” in their costumes while Europe speaks on behalf of the Underdeveloped world once more in the media for photo ops? Was there no other way of showing respect for the genuine voices of First Nations Indigenous People and/or Africans except to parade them in chicles of what the Western Media use to diminish their professional gravitas in UNFCCC level negotiations?”

I don’t know. But one thing is sure, I commend my colleagues choice in choosing to make a simple gesture of putting on a Nehru Suit in African Fabrics. While these things do not seem much, at least he is saying as a modern well-educated African man,” Like India and China, we will not be dressing up to entertain European ethnocentric construction of the world any more!” I think little gestures, express a great deal about assertiveness in a world that is vastly uneven in its playing fields, mostly created by disproportional unilaterally imposed “trade agreement” and “white slavery trade” in the past!

It was a pity that France failed to show appropriate cultural sensitivity in its hosting of COP21 by giving the world’s people the forum and the opportunities to voice their dissent and share their knowledge. I know from experience COP15 tried its best to do so. Again one wonders, “When will COP get it right ?”


2 comments on “Rhetorics of #COP21 #Paris and Analysis of Agreement for #Africa

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