America and other industrialised countries are being warned they could prompt the collapse of next week’s Durban climate talks if they to try to escape their commitments to a $100bn climate aid fund.
The fund was supposed to be operating by 2013, but industrialised countries are accused of using the financial crisis and other differences over the fund as a pretext to avoid paying up.
“There is a crisis looming on the horizon and many countries in different areas of the world are, let’s say, less ambitious in how they can support the fight against climate change,” Brazil’s climate negotiator, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, told the Guardian.
“Some countries fear that due to the crisis some countries will rethink at least the rhythm of their contribution.”
The fund was agreed at last year’s climate summit in Cancun, with the goal of raising up to $100bn a year by 2020 to help the world’s poorest countries cope with climate change. It is seen as a crucial component to an eventual climate deal – the pay-off for an agreement by emerging economies to move to less polluting growth. China, India, Brazil and other countries are projected to produce the majority of future greenhouse gas emissions.
But the two final rounds of climate fund negotiations before the Durban conference, in Panama and South Africa, were contentious. America and Saudi Arabia want the World Bank to manage the fund. Developing countries want the United Nations in charge.
Some officials fear industrial countries are so preoccupied with a dispute over the management of the fund, they will fail to mobilise the actual funds.
And that could wreck the Durban climate summit, Figueiredo warned. “We cannot have an empty shell,” he said. “It is important to have the structure in place, but it is also important to have a clear commitment for funding.” The United Nations secretary general, Ban-ki Moon, has expressed his own concern that industrialised countries are not finding ways to come up with the $100bn a year.
The two blocs have also failed to resolve their differences over the sources of funding. Industrialised countries say most of the fund must come from the private sector – and that countries such as China and India should also chip in. “It certainly makes sense for that to happen,” the US state department climate envoy, Todd Stern, told reporters.
Developing countries, including Brazil, say poor countries need a more concrete level of commitment – from government, not just corporations.
“Some feel that certain countries are trying to outsource their responsibilities to the private sector, … so developing countries may also say that their reducing emissions may also be outsourced to private companies,” Figueiredo said.
In America’s case, domestic political considerations are also coming into play. A number of commentators have accused American negotiators of allowing Barack Obama’s re-election campaign to hold back a climate fund deal.
American contributions to the climate fund have also been hijacked by the torturous budget negotiations in Congress. Republicans have targeted nearly all spending on climate change – from weather satellites to the White House climate advisor.
In a recent blog post, Pa Ousman Jarju of Gambia, which currently leads the bloc of least developed countries, accused America of blocking a deal on the climate fund because officials were afraid of a political backlash in Congress, or of providing ammunition to Republicans ahead of the 2012 elections.
“‘Climate change’ and ‘multilateral’ (in the sense of sending taxpayers money abroad) are regarded as equally objectionable,” Jarju and his co-authors wrote. “Congress is not going to appropriate funding for it in the forseeable future.”
But they argued that American negotiators should back the fund anyway, so as not to hold up the rest of the world at Durban.
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- Emerging Economies Should Chip into Climate Fund (scientificamerican.com)
- U.S. Sets High Bar for Post-2020 Climate Accord, Stern Says (businessweek.com)
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- Climate aid dispute ‘would jeopardise Durban conference’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Talk point: What is at stake for poor countries in Durban talks? (guardian.co.uk)
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