I have been reading on the history of Africa, particularly the Berlin Conference of 1884. It was convened by Otto Von Bismark of Germany but at the behest of King Leopold of Belgium.
At stake was the access to resources and thus economic power, the conference cemented the fate of Africa till this day. The languages we speak, the outlook we have and our current economic positions were determined at that conference.
What we are trying to define in the Copenhagen consensus is similar to the Berlin Conference. We are trying to determine the futures of several nations with divergent agendas.
It is no longer a matter of access to resources; it is about how we will be allowed to use our own resources.
I would argue that Rwanda is not polluting enough; we have such miniscule industrial output that our emissions are negligible.
I would welcome pollution if it meant more jobs for Rwandans. That is the crux of the issue, every nation must think in its own selfish interest even if the effects are felt elsewhere.
The population of Rwanda is only a third of the population of the Shanghai metropolitan area, therefore our effect is low compared to China.
Western nations complain about the thousands of coal-fired Chinese power stations, and yet they buy the cheap goods that can only be produced with cheap energy, cheap labour and cheap raw materials.
That is at the heart of the third scramble for Africa; the need for cheap resources and cheap energy but the third wave; cheap labour will lead to the industrialisation of Africa.
For the time being China is the factory of the world but energy prices will no longer make it viable to produce some goods in China, so Chinese industries are moving abroad to reduce the logistic burden.
The issue of global pollution can be solved with just 6 parties; the EU, USA, China, India, Brazil, and Japan. They are responsible for 70% of global pollution and industrial output.
There are too many issues to deal with, and all these issues have been encapsulated in what we now call “Climate change.” We cannot deny that the seasons are changing, I have personally noted that rainfall is lower than usual.
Linking this to economic activity is very hard, and a cap in trade will not save our planet. We Africans want big cars, big plasma screens, and we want to fly around the world just like Europeans.
So what is the consequence of the thousands of miles flown, tonnes of pollution and cocktail parties at the Copenhagen Consensus?
The most likely result will be a document watered down to such an extent that is will be meaningless and unenforceable. We cannot afford renewable energy due to the cost, we also cannot afford the environmental cost of climate change. We need to directly tax pollution, not carbon credits, and use that money to develop green technology.
Rwanda is going to be a regional energy power, our gas alongside the oil in Uganda will power the East African revolution. For that reason we cannot be bound by limits to pollution when starvation is the other option.
Rama Isibo is a social commentator