Africa contributes very little to the pollution blamed for global warming but its people are likely to be among the hardest hit by droughts, floods and rising sea levels.
African leaders have put a $67 billion price tag on the cost of climate change on their continent.
Leaders from 10 African nations have gathered in Ethiopia to work out a united position to take to the climate change talks.
Their resolution calls for a 40 per cent cut in emissions by rich nations by 2020 and for the developed world to pay $67 billion a year to counter the impacts of drought and rising sea levels.
Professor Frank Jotzo is the deputy director of the ANU climate change institute.
‘It’s really Africa that stands to lose most in terms of climate change impacts, but Africa has contributed so little to the problem,’ he said.
‘Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, for instance, has about 12 per cent of the global population at the moment, but has contributed only around 2 per cent of the greenhouse gases from human activities that are currently in the atmosphere.’
The African Union resolution comes from environment and agriculture ministers including the power-house nations of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.
Roland Schulze is an emeritus professor of hydrology at the University of Kwazulu in South Africa.
‘We are expecting anything between one-and-a-half and three degrees temperature increase in the next 40 years and up to five and six degrees in the next 80 or so years,’ he said.
‘At the same time the rainfall patterns are expected to change. These changes are likely to impact on the agricultural sector in a number of ways.
‘On the one hand, African politicians are quite correct in saying that climate change is not an environmental issue that has been caused by the continent of Africa, but rather by the more developed nations.
‘On the other hand, putting a price tag like $67 billion compensation to adaptation issues may also be a bit of politics.’
A professor of population security at the University of Sydney, Peter Curson, says another fall-out of climate change is maintaining enough food and water.
‘Currently probably one in three people in sub-Saharan Africa are what could be called chronically hungry – that’s about 300 million,’ he said.
‘And that’s likely to increase dramatically with even a moderate change in climatic factors.’
Professor Curson says it is a great irony that Africa is selling its agricultural land.
‘Many Asian countries are in fact land-grabbing or buying up land in Africa simply to establish food production systems for their own countries,’ he said.
‘This is one of the really interesting developments where countries that can’t even produce enough food for themselves are selling up their best land to countries like China, India, South Korea and some of the gulf states to actually produce food for their own nations.’
The draft resolution still needs to be approved by all ten African leaders before the Copenhagen talks in December.