Fresh From the Pan African Climate Change Meeting in Benin I

From Benin West Africa –Decision Making Support for Managing Climate Change in Africa

Brad Brown

When NAACP Climate Justice Initiative Director Jacqui Paterson asked if I would blog from the Pan African Climate Change meeting I was going I readily agreed.  Although it is my first time blogging real time from an event, I agreed with her that as the impacts of climate change in the US disproportionately impact the African American community, as Africa is the continent with its population most severely at risk and as small island states such as those in the Caribbean the most endangered,the NAACP needs to be aware and involved.

Flying overnight from Miami to Paris and then after await six hours south to Cotonou Benin  the impacts of colonialism are clear, Miami is closer to Africa then it is to Europe and a direct flight would have taken  less than half the time.    Having traveled internationally for almost 40 years I can remember when calling to the US from Europe was difficult thus I am always impressed by the ability today to meet  my responsibilities as a Branch Vice President and Political Action Committee Chair via internet while waiting in the Paris Airport.

On arriving in Cotonou we were met on the tarmac by a delegation led by the Deputy Minister (Secretary in US ) of Environment ( a good friend) and a car which whisked us away to the VIP lounge where they took our passports, immigration papers and baggage claim checks to handle all of those tasks for us.  Benin television was there and we were interviewed on the importance of this Pan African workshop on climate change, water resources and coastal zone management.

This is an exciting workshop which follows on the Copenhagen negotiations which dealt with how to manage energy so as to slow climate change and to provide resources for lower income countries to address climate change issues.  Here in Cotonou about 200 scientists, managers and policy makers from around the coast of Africa will grapple with the challenges on the ground for dealing with climate change impacts on people of the region.   It is a forum to celebrate African achievements in science and to help those achievements be more effectively utilized in policy.  It is a time to shift from traditional concepts of capacity building for Africa to capacity empowerment of Africa.  It is a momentous challenge and I feel privileged and honored to be invited to attend and present a paper and chair to working group sessions.

As always happens at meetings it is often the side efforts that are important.  Dr Jimmy Adegoke co-chair of this meeting, although from Nigeria and still doing climate work there, is currently the Chair of the Geoscience  Department  of  the University of Missouri at Kansas City.  His Vice President is on the local planning committee for the upcoming NAACP convention and has asked him to put together something on climate change during that period.  He had hesitated as it would mean he would have to fly back from Nigeria for the convention and then return to Nigeria.  As a result of our discussions he will make the trip and I will help him on the effort.

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