In Doha, developing nations demand help to fight climate change

DOHA -- Developed nations industrialized, then realized the harm. New emissions guidelines threaten emerging economies' success. Will one help the other?
Written by Betwa Sharma, Correspondent

DOHA, Qatar -- At the United Nations climate change talks here, developing countries demanded that the developed world raise money from 2013 to 2015 to help them combat the consequences of climate change through 2020.

The annual U.N. talks from Nov 26 to Dec 8, attended by 194 nations, ended with no such pledge. Instead, the discussion on “mid-term” finance was pushed to next year.

A handful of European nations made individual commitments. United Kingdom and Germany, for instance, announced climate finance assistance of over $2 billion each. But activists noted that individual pledges outside the U.N. process were not a substitute for a collective agreement.

Climate change funds presently fall into two categories. Fast-start finance comprises of $30 billion from 2010 and 2012.  Developed countries say that they exceeded this target by almost $3 million.

Developing countries, however, accuse developed countries of re-branding official development aid as climate money.

Under long-term finance, developed countries have agreed to raise $100 billion annually to be used after 2020.

At Doha, developing countries expressed concern about the gap in funds from 2013 to 2020 since fast-start finance ends this year. They asked rich countries for a “mid-term” pledge of $60 billion for this period to be raised by 2015.

The talks in Doha, however, ended without a road-map to raise money. Jonathan Pershing, a senior negotiator from the United States, only said that finance after 2012 “will not fall of a cliff.”

Developing countries want this money to cope with climate change-induced problems like droughts, floods, pest attacks as well as extreme weather events that cause massive displacement of people and loss of property.

Tim Gore, a climate finance expert from the United Kingdom-based Oxfam, warned of a “looming climate fiscal cliff.”

The developed world’s reluctance to adopt a mid-term funding plan is seen as a combination of budgetary constraints and lack of political will. Analysts also point out that negotiators from developing countries don’t have a bargaining chip that could compel developed countries into giving them money.

During the climate talks, developing countries also asked developed countries to show higher ambition in their carbon dioxide emission cuts.

The climate talks ended with a low carbon reduction commitments. Only a handful of countries and the European Union, representing 15 percent of the world’s emissions, signed up to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding treaty on climate change. They set an overall target of reducing carbon emissions by 18 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

Developed countries like Russia, Japan, Canada and New Zealand, which believe that emerging economies like China and India should also reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, have not taken emission cuts under the Kyoto Protocol.

The United States, not a party to the treaty, has not increased its current ambition level of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels- approximately four percent from 1990 levels.

The United Nations Inter-governmental Panel, a scientific body, has noted that emissions cuts of 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels are needed to limit the global average temperature rise to two degrees Celsius.  The decision in Doha includes a provision for developed countries to increase their emission-reduction targets by 2014 to match these higher estimates.

Global warming is being linked to the increasing intensity of extreme weather events around the world – most lately Hurricane Sandy in the United States that left over 100 people dead in the northeast region and caused damages of $ 50 billion.

During the talks in Doha, Philippines was hit by Typhoon Bopha, which has killed more than 700 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

“We refuse to make this a way of life,” said Nadarev “Yeb” Sano, the Philippines head of delegation said at the conference while emotionally appealing for action.

Negotiators also agreed to begin work on a new climate agreement from next year. The drafting of this treaty, which will apply to all countries, is to be completed by 2015 and adopted by 2020. Obligations under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol only applied to developed countries.

Financial needs of poor nations give developed countries leverage in the talks. Some observers see the delay in giving money as a tactic by developed countries to secure more commitments from developing countries for the new climate treaty being drafted over the next three years.

In view of the China and India’s growth trajectories, questions are often raised at climate conferences about whether large emerging economies need aid from developed countries. Both countries did not take money from the fast-start fund of $30 billion.

Still, India’s economic progress is not clubbed together with China’s growth.“India is a different country with millions of people living in desperate poverty,” said Gore from Oxfam. “It needs international assistance for low carbon development and adaptation.”

Speaking at the conference, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon placed the financial burden of climate change on developed nations.

“Developed countries must give their clear indications that scaled-up climate financing will flow after 2012, and that it will be commensurate to the goal of mobilizing $100 billion dollars a year by 2020 from public and private funding,” he said.

Photo: Sally Shatz

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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