SA hosts talks to map way for poor countries

South Africa and three other influential developing nations are meeting in Cape Town to map out a strategy to maximise the voices of poor countries.

India, Brazil, South Africa and China began to coalesce as a bloc at UN climate talks in December in Copenhagen. The group, known as Basic, is hosting a two-day high-level meeting which started yesterday.

The size of their economies means India and China can't be ignored, and South Africa and Brazil are good partners because of the standing they enjoy in their respective regions.

"Basic is an important group," said Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment, an independent Indian think tank. "But only if it is willing to be the voice of the voiceless."

Copenhagen ended with an agreement forged by the Basic countries, the EU and the US calling for reducing emissions to keep temperatures from rising. The non-binding agreement also calls on rich nations to spend billions to help poor nations develop clean energy and deal with drought and other impacts of climate change.

The Copenhagen negotiators had barely packed their bags before they began to hear sharp criticism of the compromise - even from those who had helped draft it. South Africa said Copenhagen's failure to produce a legally binding agreement was unacceptable.

Several nations complained that the industrialised world should have committed to deeper cuts in the emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Earlier this month, further talks underlined divisions between developing nations and the industrialised world.

Poor countries want those that grew rich off polluting industries to pay to help developing nations buy clean technology and cope with natural disasters such as droughts and floods. - Sapa-AP