Nomadic cattle-owners are especially vulnerable to climate change
Ministers from 10 African countries have met in Ethiopia to try to agree a common position on climate change, months before a crucial UN meeting.
They were expected to renew demands for billions of dollars in compensation for Africa because of damage caused by global warming.
And they are likely to ask rich nations to cut emissions by 40% by 2012.
African nations are among the lightest polluters but analysts say they will suffer the most from climate change.
BBC science reporter Matt McGrath says the move to agree a common negotiating platform for Africa recognises the continent's failure to make its voice heard on the debate.
After Monday's meeting, one official told AFP news agency the final decision on how much compensation Africa will demand would be made at a special meeting in Libya on Saturday.
"The proposition is that it has to be an amount significant enough to lead to rapid, sustainable development and industrialisation of developing countries, in particular Africa," said Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudan's deputy UN representative.
Before the meeting Kenya's environment secretary, Alice Kaudia, told the BBC that the continent had to learn from other countries' mistakes.
"One single country will not solve its environmental problems on its own, it will need partners, and that's why it's very important that there's that unified common position," she said.
"The development of Africa should not go alongside the same mistakes that the developed world already made - to have these high emissions that are now affecting the whole world."
One of the documents prepared for the meeting refers to the "dismal co-ordination" of the African negotiation process.
So far, delegations from individual countries have had limited success in making the case that Africa needs special help to cope with climate change.
The "representatives and experts" of African Union (AU) leaders - who include environment and agriculture ministers from the 10 countries - are meeting in Addis Ababa under Libyan chairmanship in an attempt to change this.
Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said all African leaders should support the AU's efforts to form a clear message.
But she said Africa too had its responsibilities.
"We are all hoping we will develop and attain a higher quality of life, so there has to be a very serious commitment on the part of Africa that we will not be opting for development patterns that will reverse whatever other countries are trying to do," she said.
Delegates from powerhouses South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya were among those attending the AU conference.
HAVE YOUR SAY
We're all suffering at the moment, we all have obligations to the environment, we all need to take more responsibility. Why is Africa, yet again, a special case?
They discussed a suggestion that developed countries should cut emissions by at least 40% by 2020, and that richer nations should provide $67bn (£40bn) a year to help the least well-off cope with rising temperatures.
They also attempted to agree a set of key ideas in order to help national delegations to the UN negotiations in Copenhagen this December to present a co-ordinated position.
The Copenhagen conference will try to negotiate a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, elements of which expire in 2012.
Correspondents say the US, China, India and the EU will have the greatest sway at the UN conference.
But African leaders will be hoping that by speaking with one voice at Copenhagen, their negotiating position can be significantly enhanced.