The involvement of Africa in stopping climate change is far more than symbolic. In fact, it is among the regions which will suffer its consequences the most unless we act now. The international community is trying to limit global warming at a 2° Celsius average; yet, for some regions in Africa this will mean up to 3-4 degrees which could have catastrophic implications for areas which are already close to a breaking point.
Not many people know that I have an African-born daughter; my wife gave birth to her while we were posted in Zimbabwe back in the early 90s. This is one of the reasons why the Commission's meeting with the African Union last week was so special to me. It brought up some warm memories of a fascinating continent, rich with culture, and with tremendous potential.
Like every year, Commissioners of both the EU and the African Union discussed where we can enforce our partnerships on issues like peace and security, democracy and human rights, sustainable development, and climate change. For me personally, these annual meetings are a chance to see how much has been done since I worked on these issues as a young Slovak diplomat in Zimbabwe 23 years ago. And to encourage our European partnership with Africa further!
As part of our talks, I had a fascinating conversation with Tumusiime Rhoda Peace who serves as the African Union's Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture. I was also fortunate to hold a bilateral meeting with an inspiring lady, Dr Elahm Mahmoud Ahmed Ibrahim who serves as the African Union's Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy. This was a unique opportunity for us to speak about the commitment of both our continents to fighting climate change and global warming.
I told Commissioner Ibrahim about the EU's ambitions to be a global leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to assist any other parts of the world in that context. I also told her about my intentions to travel to Africa in the coming months to discuss this precise topic with some national leaders. Commissioner Ibrahim shared with me what is done on the African side and was especially interested in the way in which we tackle climate change at a European level; a regional approach that she might want to implement in the African Union.
The involvement of Africa in fighting climate change is far more than symbolic. In fact, it is among the regions which will suffer its consequences the most unless we act now. The international community is trying to limit global warming at a 2° Celsius average; yet, for some regions in Africa this will mean up to 3-4 degrees which could have catastrophic implications for areas which are already close to a breaking point. I sometimes joke that when I moved from Zimbabwe to Canada I went from a temperature of +40° to -40°. For some people these extreme temperatures are not funny, they are a question of life or death.
That is why the EU is coming to the UN's COP21 conference at the end of the year with very ambitious objectives and we are using our diplomatic channels to encourage other governments to do the same. As the French government will host the conference and preside the negociations, I spoke on the phone last week with Minister Ségolène Royal to discuss how we reinforce each other's efforts to bring everyone on board. Long-lasting diplomatic relations of EU Member States with Africa, like in the case of France, will definitely be helpful to reinforce our common European voice.
Acting now to fight climate change is not a privilege, it's an obligation. It's our moral responsibility to leave behind a world which is safe and sustainable. My African-born daughter is my reminder how this applies to our children here in Europe just as much as it does in Africa or anywhere else on this planet.