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CLIMATE CHANGE: Call for a Green Fund

Julio Godoy

ROME, Jun 12 2009 (IPS) - Environmental legislators from the 13 countries with the largest greenhouse gas emissions have called for the creation of an international green fund to be included in the Copenhagen protocol on climate change. The fund would provide developing countries with financial and technical resources to create a carbon-free economy.

This fund is urgently needed given the “substantial financial resources to be used” in large developing countries to reduce their greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, Stephen Byers, president of the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE), said at the opening ceremony of the group’s meeting in Rome Friday.

Byers, member of the British parliament, said industrialised countries must acknowledge “the large scale of financial transfers required (by) developing countries” to restructure their energy, transport, industrial, and agriculture sectors so as to reduce their GHG emissions and tackle climate change.

“We’re talking of important amounts of money here,” Byers told the assembly of more than 100 legislators and environmental experts attending the GLOBE forum. Byers urged the creation of a 2 billion dollars fund to help developing countries adjust to climate change.

The GLOBE meeting in Rome Friday and Saturday serves as preparation for environmental legislators of the 13 countries towards the summit of the eight most industrialised countries (G8) to take place in Italy next month.

The 13 countries represented at the Rome meeting are the eight most industrialised countries – the G8, formed by the U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and Russia – and the five developing countries with the largest GHG emissions (China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa).

The governments of these countries are presently negotiating a new international treaty on climate change, to substitute the Kyoto protocol on GHG reductions, which expires in 2012. As plans go, this new treaty should be ratified at the UN conference on climate change to take place in the Danish capital Copenhagen Dec. 7-18.

A round of negotiations towards the Copenhagen conference was held in the German city Bonn earlier this month, and new rounds of talks are scheduled for Aug. 10-14, again in Bonn, to be followed by a gathering in Bangkok Sep. 28-Oct. 9 and another meeting Nov. 2-16 in Barcelona.

Stefania Prestigiacomo, Italian minister for the environment, spoke at the Rome meeting of an “urgent need to share technology with low carbon content with developing countries, to satisfy these countries’ legitimate demand for energy and economic growth without aggravating the environmental equilibrium of the planet.”

To that end, she said “it is essential to create financial and legal mechanisms to provide for the development and transfer of this technology through a private-public joint venture. This is a key aspect to consider on the road to Copenhagen.”

José Luis Espinoza Piña, member of the Mexican senate and chair of the commission for the environment and natural resources at his country’s congress, called for the creation of “an international green binding fund, included in the legislation to be ratified in Copenhagen.”

The fund, he said, must be a “bold financial scheme supported by multilateralism, efficiency, and equity. (Its) performance (should) be regulated by contributions from all countries…and constructed around the idea of shared but differentiated responsibilities.”

According to Espinoza’s proposal, each country’s contribution to the fund should correspond to its carbon emissions per capita and to its gross domestic product.

In addition, Espinoza said, the fund should address activities that do not fit into the Kyoto protocol. Examples of such activities could be limiting production of methane, and replacing standard light bulbs with energy- saving ones.

Methane is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases. Over a 100-year period, methane is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Over the last two centuries, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled, largely due to human-related activities. Methane now accounts for 16 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities such as coal mining, natural gas and oil systems, land filling, and agriculture.

Under Espinoza’s proposal, the Green fund must also aim at restructuring entire industrial sectors in developing countries, such as oil and gas extracting industries, and cement and steel, which are characterised by high- energy consumption.

Byers acknowledged that, given the present financial crisis, and the efforts being made by governments of industrialised countries to stimulate their economies, “enormous amounts of money are being poured into the old sectors which caused global warming and climate change in the first place.” The present situation, he said, presents challenges in financing a new green fund to support developing countries.

Marine biologist Katherine Richardson from the University of Copenhagen said the need is immediate in developing countries.

“Climate change is unfair,” Richardson said. “Although climate change has been caused predominantly by industrialised countries, it is affecting mostly poor people in underdeveloped countries – precisely the people who carry the lesser responsibility in causing climate change.”

To reverse this unfairness, an effective, well-funded adaptation network is needed to support poor people to face climate change, Richardson added. “We have two challenges in this century – fight poverty and climate change. You cannot fight one without fighting the other.”

Financial support and technology transfer have been dubbed one of the “four essentials” issues to be resolved during the present international negotiations towards a Copenhagen protocol on climate change.

The other three essentials are how much industrialised countries would reduce their emissions by 2020; clarity on what developing countries would do to limit the growth of their emissions; and a “governance regime”.

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