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CLIMATE CHANGE: U.N. to Mobilise Funds for Developing Nations

Daniel Stahl

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 15 2010 (IPS) - After countries failed to reach a binding agreement on greenhouse gas emissions at the crucial Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen last December, the United Nations moving forward to enforce a pledge to help developing countries cope with the worst impacts.

The launch of the Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing follows the Copenhagen Accord, the final agreement of last year’s meet, part of which states that 100 billion dollars per year will be needed to help developing countries with adaption and mitigation efforts.

Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, and his counterpart from Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, are co-chairing the group.

“We must take forward now some of the elements of the agreement,” Brown told reporters.

The goal, he said, is to “get the approaching 30-billion-dollar figure for fast start finance for 2010 to 2012 flowing now, to help developing countries immediately tackle and adapt to climate change.”

The figure is then supposed increase and reach 100 billion dollars annually by 2020.

Meeting a Jan. 31 deadline that was also part of the Copenhagen Accord, 62 countries have so far formally submitted to the United Nations their national targets to limit greenhouse gases by 2020. Together, those countries account for more than 80 percent of global emissions from energy use.

“Already we can see that, if promises are met, the accord will lead to the peaking of global emissions by or before 2020 and make it possible for us to hold the trajectory of global temperature to two degrees Celsius,” Brown concluded from those submissions.

One of the main tasks of the newly formed task-force will be to make sure that these promises are met and the funds governments pledged really will flow. But the money should not come only “from taxpayer revenues”, Brown said. The group will be looking into “innovative financing mechanisms”, he stated.

Two of many possible mechanisms to be investigated have long been floated in policy circles. One is a financial transaction tax, of which Brown is an advocate.

That proposed tax would be used for a number of development initiatives. “But it actually happens to also raise resources for a lot of global goals, like dealing with climate change,” Keya Chatterjee, director of the U.S. World Wildlife Fund’s Climate Change Programme.

Another idea would be to divert the money now spent on subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, Chatterjee said. The G20 bloc of large economies agreed in September 2009 to phase out such subsidies, but have not given any specific timetable.

Chatterjee welcomed the launch of the new high-level fundraising group.

“It’s definitively a step forward,” she told IPS. “And really, there isn’t a lot of choice here. It’s just a question of are we going to invest now, at relatively modest amounts, or we going to invest huge amounts of money in the future?”

Developing countries require money in order to cope with the impacts of climate change and in order to prepare for the tasks to come. “These investments are going to save enormous future costs,” Chatterjee explained to IPS.

One example is the worldwide loss of biodiversity. Each year, an estimated 1.5 to 3 trillion Euros is lost due to damage to the planet’s ecological services, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) declared on Wednesday.

Another example is natural disasters such as hurricanes, whose frequency and severity is expected to grow in coming years. “If we help countries prepare for the impacts of climate change now, we don’t then have to spend as many resources responding to disasters. We know it’s very expensive to respond to disasters on an ad hoc basis,” Chatterjee told IPS.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to announce all the members of the advisory panel shortly. Other heads of state will include Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

The panel is also supposed to include high-level officials from ministries and central banks, as well as experts on public finance, development and related issues, Ban told reporters at the launch on Feb. 12.

“There will be an even balance between developing and developed countries,” he said.

One important aspect of the group will be transparency within the U.N. system, Chatterjee told IPS. She expects civil society to be well integrated in the work of the task force.

“There’s a real lack of trust” due to pledges that have gone unmet in the last several years, she said, adding that the new advisory panel has an opportunity to rebuild that trust.

Asked whether China would receive any of the money the advisory group will raise, Ban stated that “the Chinese said that they would see this money be used, supported for other developing countries.”

The first report from the advisory group is expected at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in May in Bonn, Germany. The group then will present its final recommendations before the next Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the UNFCCC in Mexico in December.

For that meeting, the goal still is “a legally binding outcome,” Brown said.

To date, the Kyoto Protocol remains the world’s only legally binding agreement on climate change. It requires 37 wealthy nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, but asks for no commitments from developing countries.

In contrast, the Copenhagen Accord does not mention hard targets for the developed countries and is seen by critics to be lowering the bar in climate negotiations when scientists warn that the climate is changing more rapidly than previous estimates suggested.

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