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Poorer Nations Demand More Aid to Deal with Climate Change

Negotiations at climate talks indicate $100 billion a year is not nearly enough
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Flickr/Damian Gadal

Money took center stage in Doha, Qatar, yesterday as vulnerable countries declared that $100 billion annually by 2020 is insufficient to protect them from the impacts of climate change.

Speaking on the second day of U.N. climate change negotiations, diplomats from Malawi and Zimbabwe demanded more transparency from developed countries claiming to deliver money. And, they said, a clear blueprint for ramping up aid between 2013 and 2020 is a must.

"This climate finance road map will be required. ... It is a precondition for any successful outcome in Doha," said Evans Njewa of Malawi, who is coordinating finance issues for least-developed nations.

Developed countries say they have fulfilled an obligation to deliver $30 billion to poor nations over the past three years. Meanwhile, countries are building up a Green Climate Fund to deliver the next promise: about $100 billion annually in public and private dollars for climate aid.

But those middle years remain undefined, and some activists say they fear countries will fall off the climate finance cliff without formal obligations to provide a steady increase of money throughout the decade.

Meanwhile, Njewa said, "The $100 billion pledge from the Copenhagen Accord is not adequate." Rather, he said, vulnerable nations need about $600 billion annually, or 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product of industrialized nations.

"We are being very conservative," said David Kaluba, chief economist for Zambia's Ministry of Finance. He said vulnerable countries, most of which are dependent on rain-fed agriculture and lack internal capacity to adapt, face enormous challenges.

"One hundred billion is very minimum compared to the task that is ahead of us, and mind you, climate change is not an issue of the future," he said.

Earlier this week, the United States announced it had delivered $7.5 billion in both grants, development and export financing from 2010 through 2012. Japan says it has delivered $17.4 billion.

'Enormous' efforts may not be enough
But developing country negotiators say they have misgivings about whether rich countries have actually honored their collective pledges. According to the U.K.-based International Institute for Environment and Development, countries fell far short of the goal, delivering $23.6 billion.

And American environmental groups say U.S. aid for clean energy through the Export-Import Bank has been undermined by the nearly $10 billion that went through that agency to support fossil fuels.

"The Obama administration is in Doha right now saying that we are making 'enormous' efforts to reduce emissions, and yet at the same time, an agency directly under the control of the president has now set a new record for fossil fuel subsidies," said Justin Guay, coal campaigner for the Sierra Club.

"I think it speaks volumes to the administration's doublespeak on climate change," he said. "On the one hand, they are supporting increased investment in clean energy, which is very important and which we certainly welcome. But at the same time, they are directly financing the problem."

The discussion came amid the opening of debate yesterday over what a possible new treaty to be signed by 2015 and take effect in 2020 might look like. An agreement in Durban, South Africa, last year to launch a process toward this new treaty outlined a new way of fighting climate change in which all emitters, not just rich industrialized nations, would take legal obligations.

That notion appeared to hit a rhetorical wall, though, as country after country demanded that there be no "rewriting" of the U.N. climate convention, which calls for "common but differentiated responsibilities" among nations.

"The Durban Platform is by no means a process to negotiate a new regime, nor to renegotiate, rewrite or reinterpret the convention or its principles," said China's lead negotiator, Su Wei.

Concerns about catastrophic warming
He and diplomats from other countries pointed to another worrisome gap -- between the emissions pledges countries have made up to 2020 and what scientists say is needed to avoid catastrophic warming.

Nehru's negotiator said a work plan to lay out ways to increase ambition before 2020 is "one of the central elements of a package" and "an absolute red line" for small island nations.

"It is the only reason we were able to join a consensus on a mandate that would not see a new protocol in effect until 2020," he said, calling for a comprehensive schedule for parties to identify cost-effective policies and measures to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

State Department Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing said Monday that the United States is on a path toward meeting its Copenhagen target of cutting emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels this decade. But he also said the United States and other countries are unlikely to change their 2020 targets.

Australia, speaking for a U.N. coalition of countries that includes the United States, called for countries to get to work on a 2020 agreement applicable to all emitters. Saying that a new way of framing responsibility "signaled to the world that we would no longer let divisions between parties get in the way of our goal," the Australian negotiator said Doha must deliver a clear plan for the following year's work.

"We cannot afford to take a backwards step," he said.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500

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