Africa has a "golden opportunity" in UN climate talks to ensure that the world's poorest continent gets help to cope with global warming, the head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat said on Tuesday.
Yvo de Boer said Africa was still lagging in attracting investments in green technology to help slow rising greenhouse gases and in getting help to adapt to the effects of droughts, floods, rising seas and less predictable rains.
Speaking during 160-nation August 21-27 climate talks in Accra, de Boer urged African nations to insist on their interests regarding a new UN climate treaty due to be agreed by the end of 2009 in Copenhagen.
"I really tried to emphasise here that this process up to Copenhagen is a golden opportunity for African countries to make sure that the next regime does meet their needs in a much better way," he said.
"They need to formulate what is essential to them to act, both to limit emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change," he said.
"Africa has to know what's to the liking of Africa."
African nations are among those that have done least to stoke climate change, blamed mainly on emissions of gases from burning fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution, and yet is among the continents most vulnerable to a changing climate.
A UN Climate Panel report last year, for instance, projected that up to 250-million people in Africa would be living in areas of stress on water supplies by 2020.
And China, India and Brazil have attracted far more investments than Africa under a UN project that lets rich nations invest in developing world projects to cut greenhouse gases - such as wind farms or destruction of industrial gases - and claim credits back home.
"Africa is still not profiting from the instruments we have," de Boer said.
But a separate UN report on Tuesday said things may be changing - clean energy projects were emerging in nations including Mali, Mozambique and Madagascar. In Kenya, for instance, one project involved a geothermal scheme.
De Boer said the Accra meeting had made progress in defining how to help slow tropical deforestation - a source of up to almost 20 percent of greenhouse gases from human activities.
"Countries have developed a better understanding here of how they want to deal with deforestation, how they want to reward people for forest conservation," he said.
And there was a feeling that sectoral targets, such as goals for maximum emissions from producing a tonne of aluminium, steel or cement, were useful within nations but not as part of a binding international system.
"I think there's a strong sentiment in the room, especially among developing countries, that a decision to address a sector is something you decide at the national level," he said.
"It's not something that you could or should try to impose at the international level," he said. Many poor nations fear that sectoral targets are a prelude for trade barriers on less efficient industries.