Greenhouse Funds Gloom Hangs over G20 Climate Talks

March 14, 2008

Rich nations must come up with billions in new money to help poor countries fight global warming and not just repackage development aid to score diplomatic points, environmentalists at a meeting of top polluters said on Friday.

The three-day Japan meeting gathers 20 of the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases and includes rich nations the United States and other G8 states as well as rapidly developing China, India and Brazil.

Funding schemes for clean energy projects and helping poor nations adapt to droughts, rising seas and more intense storms will be a major theme.

But even as the talks were about to start, environmentalists spoke about poor nations’ disillusionment about the management and lack of consultation about the funds, a key element in the global fight against climate change.

“What seems to be happening is that you have three announcements from Japan, Britain and the U.S. that have now been combined into a World Bank special strategic climate fund,” said Jennifer Morgan of environmental institute E3G. But she said the multi-billion dollar scheme did not appear to have much new money, had left developing countries out of negotiations on how the money would be used until very recently, and had quite a number of conditions attached.

“It’s been used by the Bush administration to promote their own major emitters’ meeting process,” Morgan said, referring to separate U.S. talks with big polluters outside U.N. discussions seeking a global pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol. “It is not creating a very good mood going into the G20,” said Morgan.

U.N.-led talks in Bali in December launched two years of negotiations on a successor to Kyoto, whose first phase ends in 2012 and so far binds only rich nations to make emissions cuts. Bali’s final draft called for more financial resources and investment for developing nations, which demand rich countries cut their own emissions and pay for costly clean energy projects.

Japan announced this year a $10 billion package to support developing countries’ fight against climate change. U.S. President George W. Bush has pledged $2 billion for a clean technology fund, while Britain has pledged 800 million pounds ($1.6 billion) for a separate scheme.

Britain has since asked the World Bank to administer its money and has teamed up with Japan and the United States. It is not clear how much of the Japanese and U.S. money would eventually go towards the World Bank clean technology fund.

But Morgan said only the money from Britain appeared to be new and she described the Japanese money as recycled development aid. Congress has not yet approved Bush’s $2 billion.

The U.N. said in a report last year that the cost of returning greenhouse gas emissions to present levels by 2030 would be about $200 billion annually, through measures such as investing in energy efficiency and low-carbon renewable energy.

“Even if these funds by the Japanese, the U.S. and Britain represented real, new money that totals about $14 billion over the next five years, or about one percent of the need,” Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists told the briefing.

Ailun Yang of Greenpeace China said Beijing needed to do more to tackle global warming and that rich countries should cooperate. “Climate change requires developing countries and developed countries to work in ways we have never done before,” she said, adding China must balance development and protection for the environment. “If China fails, we will see the biggest environmental disaster in human history.”

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