ENVIORNMENT-EUROPE: No Money on the Table Yet

  • by David Cronin (brussels)
  • Inter Press Service

As part of preparations for a crucial round of talks due to culminate at a United Nations conference in Copenhagen in late 2009, the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has presented a new paper urging greater international coordination against global warming.

But while a draft of the plan suggested that up to 30 billion euros (39.7 billion dollars) should be made available to help poor countries adapt to water shortages and other effects of climate change, the figure has been erased from the final version.

Stavros Dimas, Europe's environment commissioner, said that firm financing pledges will be vital in order to clinch an agreement on fighting climate change in Copenhagen. 'No money, no deal,' he added.

Still, the lack of specific recommendations on funding in Dimas's plan has angered green and anti-poverty campaigners.

'The European Commission is proposing some loose commitment to additional public funding but there are no hard numbers,' said Tom Sharman from ActionAid. He said that the EU had been unwilling to signal that it would release fresh money at the latest round of international negotiations, held in Poznan, Poland, in late 2008, undermining the Union's self-declared position as a global leader in dealing with environmental problems.

'Europe's failure to take a stance on finance was a major cause of the stalemate in last year's climate change talks, and these proposals diminish rather than enhance Europe's position,' Sharman added.

The UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body overseeing the international talks, has estimated that between 23 billion and 54 billion euros will be needed by 2030 to help poor countries. Other studies have cited figures of between 100 billion and 200 billion dollars. Yet currently available facilities only include a fraction of such amounts.

A new analysis by the Institute for European Environmental Policy in Brussels tracks the progress that has been made since the EU undertook to raise 369 million dollars per year from 2005 onwards during a 2001 climate change conference in Bonn. The actual amount released by EU governments could be as low as 160 million dollars per year, the institute has calculated.

Oxfam voiced concern that the Copenhagen talks could end in failure, and claimed that the Commission is afraid to demand additional resources from EU member state governments. 'Unless developing countries see hard cash on the table, there is a real danger they will simply walk away,' said Elise Ford, head of the organisation's office in Brussels. 'It seems the Commission is pandering to member states' expected opposition to put money on the table - fuelled by their worries about the impact of the recession.'

Dimas nevertheless emphasised his optimism, describing the stance of Barack Obama, the new U.S. president, as 'enormously encouraging.' Whereas his predecessor George W. Bush rejected the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, Obama has identified environmental policy as one of his top priorities.

Dimas's paper, to be debated by leaders of the EU's governments at a summit in March, calls on the U.S. and the other main industrialised countries to form a market under which pollution licenses are traded by 2015. Revenue generated from these sales would be used to assist poor countries.

It also advocates reform of the clean development mechanism (CDM), an initiative undertaken as a result of the Kyoto accord. Designed to let rich countries avoid emission cuts at home by financing ecologically sound schemes abroad, the CDM has become mired in scandal. Factory owners in India and China have netted 4.7 billion dollars as part of an effort to prevent fluorinated gases, a significant contributor to global warming, being released into the environment. This sum dwarfed the actual cost of the operation.

The new plan reiterates the EU's earlier promise to bring its collective greenhouse gas output below 1990 levels by 20 percent by 2020. The Union has said it would be willing to increase that reduction target to 30 percent but only if other industrialised countries adopt the same goal.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has called on the EU to act bolder. 'Europe needs to stop anticipating what the rest of the world might do and concentrate on what Europe should do if it wants to reclaim the reputation of leading in the fight against climate change,' said WWF campaigner Kim Carstensen.

Meanwhile, Paul Magnette, Belgium's minister for energy and climate issues, has criticised the European Commission for placing greater emphasis on economic growth than on protecting the environment. He took issue with statements by José Manuel Barroso, the Commission's president, hinting that competitiveness should take precedence over ecological concerns.

'Over-exploitation to satisfy hard-headed growth and development logic has to be faced,' Magnette said. 'The commercial policy of the EU is too one-sided and generally does not take into account sustainable development.'

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service