Right Message, Wrong MessengerOctober 30, 2009
In about six weeks (December 2009), government leaders and environment officials from 117 countries will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the United Nations Climate Change Conference to forge an agreement on a new climate treaty that succeeds the Kyoto Protocol. The fundamental objective of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference [COP 15] is to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, and to ultimately limit human effects on climate change and global warming.
The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference has already attracted statesmen, government leaders, environmental advocates, and scientists from different corners of the world. Most of the participants of the summit come to Copenhagen with the urgency of developing an international framework to solve problems associated with the cause and effect of climate change.
Ironically, Copenhagen has also attracted some leaders with dismal environmental and human rights record. The most notable of such leaders is Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia whose reckless industrial, agricultural and administrative policies are responsible for deforestation, land degradation, and environmental pollution. In August 2009, African leaders selected Ethiopia to represent Africa in the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference despite Meles Zenawi’s abysmal record on the protection of the environment and his skepticism about climate change.
Ginbot 7 acknowledges that climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing mankind, and it applauds all concerned parties who diligently work to avert the risk climate change poses on the planet. Ginbot 7 strongly believes that current world leaders have the primary responsibility of saving the earth from future environmental disaster. However, the initiatives to fight global warming should start at home; and no leader or group of leaders should be trusted to save the world before they save their own country.
Africa’s representation in the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference is very appropriate since more than 75% of the effect of climate change is felt in developing countries. Moreover, International cooperation and agreements are crucial in finding the solution to global warming. However, what matters most is the domestic environmental policies which every country puts in place, and the success of governments in implementing those policies. Ethiopia under Zenawi has never had a meaningful environmental policy. The Zenawi regime’s ineptitude to design and implement environmental strategies and its appalling tolerance for environmental destruction has put the future of Ethiopia on the line.
Ethiopia’s environmental degradation of the past two decades is highly attributed to recklessness, greed, and misguided development policy. Agricultural and industrial development projects that lacked appropriate feasibility studies are responsible for most of the deforestation and environmental pollution. Due to this misguided development policy, Ethiopia has lost 14 percent of its forest cover [2.1 million hectares] between 1990 and 2005.
One of the most shocking environmental crimes of Zenawi’s regime is committed in one of Ethiopia’s world renowned bird sanctuary named – Abijatta-Shalla National Park [aka- “Ornithological Paradise”]. Lake Abijatta, recently, re-named by the locals as “The Dying Lake”, is home to a variety of colorful rare and endemic birds. With four beautiful lakes [Abijatta, Shalla, Zewai and Langano] in its belly, the Abijatta-Shalla National Park is listed in the Endemic Bird Areas list of the world [EBA, Code C17]. Sadly, the greed of Zenawi and his insatiable gangs has reduced this world treasure into a toxic lifeless wasteland. Yet, this environmental criminal [Meles Zenawi] is invited to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.
The Soda Ash production plant on the shores of Lake Abijatta has enormously altered the chemical balance of the water; and as a result, plants and animals inhabiting the waters of the Lake have completely disappeared. Consequently, the number of fish-eating birds and other wild life that depended on the aquatic life of the surrounding area has diminished. In a surprisingly bizarre move, recently, Ethiopia’s phony Environmental Protection Authority indexed Lake Abijatta in its green book and presented the book to the parliament as proof of its “wonderful” environment work.
Sadly, behind the protective wall of the parliament and Zenawi’s regime, Abijatta Soda Ash Enterprise is reaping soda ash from Lake Abijatta, killing life in the water, forcing rare and endangered birds to abandon the area and depleting the volume of the water. Meles Zenawi’s nonsensical crime on the environment did not stop on the shores of Lake Abijatta. In fact, his recent land sale deals have far reaching environmental consequences than anything he has done in the last 18 years. In his negligent “only money matters” policy, Meles Zenawi has gone wild on a land sale spree, transferring millions of hectares of bio-diverse forestland to foreigners.
One of the beneficiaries of Zenawi’s land sale policy is the Ethiopian born Saudi business tycoon Sheik Mohamed Al Amoudi. His newly formed company, Saudi Star Agricultural Development Plc, has acquired 10k hectares of land in Gambella Regional State to grow rice for Saudi Arabia. The company has already paid $80 million for the delivery of Caterpillar earth moving equipments to chop down juniper and other indigenous trees in the last remaining pockets of Ethiopia’s protected forest land. According to reliable sources, Saudi Star has a plan to increase its land holding to 500k hectares in the coming 10 to 15 years, which simply means, Ethiopia’s last remaining forest land will be wiped out by 2020.
The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference may have multiple objectives, but its primary objective is to urge developed nations to embrace mandatory ceilings on greenhouse gas emissions in order to stem climate change. It is true that greenhouse gas emissions from industrial countries directly affect Ethiopia and other poor countries. However, it is also true that ecological disasters such as deforestation, land degradation, and soil erosion in Ethiopia are man made problems that have nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions in rich countries.
It is evident that most of Ethiopia’s environmental problems are caused by the greed induced industrial and agricultural policy of Zenawi’s regime. Moreover, Meles Zenawi is a man who has consistently turned a blind eye to the grave environmental problems of Ethiopia and the country he supposedly leads has one of the worst environmental records in Africa. Current economic development theories strongly support that human rights and development policies directly or indirectly affect the sustainability of the environment.
In fact, according to the Human Rights Watch report of June 12, 2008 titled “Collective Punishment - War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Ogaden area of Ethiopia's Somali Region” the Zenawi regime was responsible for burning entire villages in the Ogaden”
“The research, largely carried out between September and December 2007, was further supplemented with satellite imagery that confirmed the burning of some villages. In chilling accounts, witnesses and victims described to Human Rights Watch nightly beatings with the barrel of a gun, public executions, and the burning of entire villages.”
Africa is a continent of environmental heroes such as the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai who just a week ago [10/20/2009] called on world leaders to provide leadership to combat climate change. Dr. Maathai is the founder of the Green Belt Movement to fight deforestation and environmental degradation in Kenya and around the world.
African Union’s decision of selecting Dr. Maathai’s nemesis [Meles Zenawi] as the “climate ambassador of Africa” is beyond the pale, and it is a disgrace for the entire continent of Africa. Therefore, it is high time that African Union leaders correct their mistake and reward Africa by replacing Meles with a worthy representative.