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Pacific Islands Criticise Stalled Climate Financing

Beatrice Paez

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 14 2010 (IPS) - Despite the creation of a High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing (AGF), a group of hard-hit Pacific islands is expressing doubt that aid will be delivered in a timely manner.

“The Pacific SIDS (Small Island Developing States) bear almost no responsibility for the onset of climate change, yet we are suffering the consequences today…Climate change is a man-made disaster and redress for the damage being done to our islands is long overdue,” said Ambassador Marlene Moses of Nauru.

The advisory group has been tasked with the responsibility of designing innovative ways to mobilise new and additional financial resources from private and public sources to bring into force commitments made at the climate conference in Copenhagen last year.

World leaders pledged 100 billion dollars per year by 2020, in addition to 30 billion dollars up to 2012. The funds, which have yet to be raised, will be delivered to developing countries for mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Known as one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change, the Pacific SIDS face threats to food security, water security and territorial integrity.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, co-chair of the AGF, expressed optimism at a briefing Tuesday that there were enough potential sources waiting to be tapped into. “It’s possible to say today that the discussion, the deliberations has shown that there are many, different possible sources of finance…The problem is whether they are politically viable,” he said.

His co-chair, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, explained to reporters that incentives for the private sector to invest in green technologies would be one of the mechanisms used to build binding commitments from these sources. The group will also be taking cues from the practices employed by multilateral development banks, he added.

The Pacific SIDS, which includes countries such as Nauru, Palau, Samoa, and Tonga, claim that due to the bureaucratic red tape and without direct access to the AGF, their region might not receive proportionate funding.

They also charge that the funding promised alone would not be enough to contain and reduce the effects, citing the World Bank’s report that it would cost 75 to 100 billion dollars per year for the period 2010 to 2050 for initiatives directed at adaptation.

Ambassador Stuart Beck of Palau told IPS that it was unlikely the private sector would be responsive and that the funds would be received in a timely manner. “We’re not really sanguine about the delivery here. They’re nice words, but when you get on the ground it’s difficult to build business models that make a whole lot of sense,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon emphasised that a top priority of the group would be to enhance confidence and trust between the developed and developing countries in the delivery of aid. “Climate change is not going away. The risks – and costs – of inaction grow each year. The more we delay, the more we will have to pay, in lost opportunities, resources and lives,” he said.

While a majority of the urban population of the Pacific SIDS is dependent on foreign imports for their daily supply of food, staples such as yams, taro, sweet potatoes and bananas are still cultivated locally. Aside from the threat of rising sea levels, climate change is projected to have a devastating impact on the production of these crops, due to prolonged variations in the arrival of rainfall.

Central to the livelihood of Fiji’s population are its coral reefs, marine systems and fisheries, which provide income, employment and foreign exchange.

Initiatives have been launched to prevent and adapt to the changing landscape. But without sustained financing from external sources, these states would not be able to effectively address the threat of food security, said Ambassador Moses, the Permanent Representative of Nauru to the U.N.

The AGF, formed in February this year, will submit its final recommendations to the secretary-general in October, a few weeks before the next U.N. climate summit in November to be held in Cancun, Mexico.

It has also come under fire for its gender breakdown – 19 of the 20 members are male.

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