EU climate aid promises fail to unlock U.N. deal in Doha

6 December 2012
By Sofia Mitra-Thakur
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EU commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard at the United Nations Climate Change (COP18) Conference in Doha

EU commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard at the United Nations Climate Change (COP18) Conference in Doha

European Union promises of rising aid to help developing countries tackle climate change this week failed to ease a stand-off at U.N. talks in Doha that green groups said were on the brink of disaster.

The two-week meeting, due to end on Friday, is deadlocked on modest goals such as aid and an extension of a existing U.N.-led plan to combat climate change into 2013.

The talks have agreed nothing that would curb rising world emissions of greenhouse gas emissions.

In one step, several EU nations announced extra cash to help the poor to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to more floods, heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels.

Typhoon Botha killed 332 people in the Philippines this week.

"We are actually giving more money next year and in 2014 than in the past two years," European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said.

National pledges by the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and the Commission in Doha totalled more than 6.85 billion euros (£5.5 billion) for the next two years - more than in 2011-12, she said.

Developing nations welcomed the promises but demanded a collective commitment, from nations including the United States, Australia and Japan, for a doubling of aid to $20 billion (£12 billion) a year in the period 2013-15 from $10 billion (£6.2 million) in 2010-12.

"We highly welcome the pledges that were made by some of the countries, but we think it has to be done within a framework," said Pa Ousman Jarju of Gambia, chair of the group of least developed nations.

Finance is a huge stumbling block at the meeting, with many developed countries reluctant to set new aid targets in light of their own financial difficulties at home.

The Doha meeting has had low ambitions from the start, and failure would be less spectacular than at a U.N. summit in 2009 when world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama failed to agree a new deal to combat climate change.

The current meeting has also been trying to work out a symbolic extension of the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol that binds about 35 rich nations to cut emissions by at least 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels during the period from 2008 to 2012.

A group of leading environmental groups - including Greenpeace, the WWF and Oxfam - said they were launching "an emergency call to governments to save Doha from disaster".

"This has been almost a laughable exercise," said Kumi Naidoo, the head of Greenpeace, who accused developed nations of failing to lay out more ambitious goals. 

World greenhouse gas emissions are set to rise 2.6 per cent in 2012.

Scientists also said the talks were out of line with the needed urgency. 

"We are not on track," Michel Jarraud, head of the World Meteorological Organisation, said.

"Scientific evidence is getting stronger. Climate change is happening before our eyes."

On aid, developing nations want a timetable to raise aid to $100 billion a year by 2020 promised at a summit in Copenhagen in 2009.

Developed nations also promised $10 billion a year for the years 2010-12 but set no goals for 2013-19.

Negotiators drafted texts to extend Kyoto, but left a difficult choice of options to be decided by ministers.

"We will as a community of nations adopt a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol tomorrow," Christiana Figueres, the U.N. climate chief, predicted to applause.

The European Union, Australia, Ukraine, Norway and Switzerland are the main backers of Kyoto which are willing to make further legally binding cuts in emissions beyond 2012 until 2020.

But they account for less than 15 per cent of world emissions. Russia, Japan and Canada have pulled out, saying it makes no sense to continue when big emerging nations led by China and India have no binding goals.

Kyoto backers see it as a blueprint to help unlock progress on a deal last year to work out by 2015 a new, global agreement to fight climate change that would enter into force in 2015.

Further information:

See E&T's blog on the climate talks

See E&T's debate on climate change

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