Big business in Marrakech: fertiliser industry and finance dominate COP22

by ATTAC/CADTM Maroc, GRAIN | 8 Nov 2016


(Photo: The North African Post)

Africa will be centre-stage at this year’s Conference of Parties on climate change (COP 22) in Marrakech. According to the Moroccan steering committee, this is the “African COP”. The event will feature an “Africa Pavilion”, with activities supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)—institutions that work to create favourable conditions for corporate investments in Africa.

Thus, in Africa (and globally), the debate on climate change is captured by banks and corporations—the very institutions that, through their relentless pursuit of profit above all else, are the main drivers of global climate change.

The themes they have chosen to highlight in this space are telling: climate financing, technology transfer, agricultural industrialisation and adaptation. Make no mistake, alternative strategies that can significantly lower our greenhouse gas emissions—ways of living and producing that fall outside these business-oriented parameters—will not be discussed.

Quite the contrary: on display will be the abysmal gap between the reality of peasant communities in Africa and around the world on one hand, and the blindness of our policymakers to this reality on the other. The latter continue to focus almost exclusively on “technology” as the solution, even when many of the technologies they promote have been shown to actually worsen climate change and destroy the planet.

The AfDB in particular, while supporting this “African COP”, is quite far from understanding the climate emergency facing African farmers. Its agricultural development strategy focuses on promoting the use of fertilisers,[1] which pollute the soil, contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and increase global energy use.  

The president of the AfDB has declared himself to be in line with the CEO of OCP (Office Chérifien des Phosphates), a key player in the global fertiliser trade that mines Morocco’s phosphate reserves—the largest in the world.

OCP, which uses methods developed by Monsanto and aims to “advance a real green revolution on the continent”[2] recently established a new factory, the “Africa Fertilizer Complex” to supply the African market. Meanwhile, the European Union has moved to block imports of Moroccan fertiliser due to unacceptably high levels of cadmium.[3]

The multinationals of the fertiliser sector—which worsen the climate and reap enormous profits from global food crises—are now promoting their interests in the climate negotiations. They are positioning themselves as a solution to the climate crisis using a number of mechanisms including “climate smart agriculture”, the REDD+ programme and the Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA) initiative. The AAA was created to access resources from the UNFCCC’s Green Climate Fund, which aims to support climate change adaptation in African agriculture using private funds.

This initiative, however, which 27 African countries have signed on to, will not serve the interests of African peasants.[4] Rather, it will undermine peasant agriculture and food sovereignty on the continent. This despite the fact that industrial agriculture is responsible for a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions while peasant agriculture and local markets cool the planet.[5]

COP22, like the previous meeting in Paris, is setting the stage for the private sector to benefit from so-called “green finance”. This will be the focus of a “Climate Finance Day” to be held in Casablanca.

Gérard Mestrallet, head of the French energy multinational ENGIE stated that 70 per cent of the investments needed to curb climate change would have to come from private sources. Indeed, the energy sector (both in renewables and fossil fuels) is a strong draw for private investors. And Morocco is no exception.

Mestrallet called on foreign investors to fund his new solar mega-project as well as new coal and gas projects (while not ruling out the possibility of adding nuclear power to the mix). He is positioning himself to conquer new markets in Africa, in part through an agreement between the Moroccan company Nareva (a subsidiary of SNI) and the French company ENGIE, which will target Egypt, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana and Cameroon. The company plans to establish coal plants in Ivory Coast, where it has encountered strong resistance, including an online petition.[6]

Unfortunately, Marrakech will be nothing more than a celebration of these false solutions. Banks such as Société Générale—which long ago began sponsoring climate meetings, especially among corporations in the industrial agriculture and energy sectors—are already on the scene.

It’s the poor, however, who are on the front lines of climate change and feel its impacts on their daily lives. African peasants are forced to migrate when their lands are devastated by climate catastrophes. They are also targeted by the false solutions promoted by corporations and governments at these international climate meetings.

This debate belongs to the people, not the corporations! The people hold the real solutions!

Rabat/Accra, 26 of October 2016


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