Climate Change  Secretary Chris Huhne

UK allocates more than �1billion to overseas climate fund

More than £1 billion has been allocated in funding to help poor countries cope with climate change, the government has said.

Speaking at the latest round of climate talks in Durban, South Africa, Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said the "fast start" funding included money to help the most vulnerable people in Africa.

The announcement comes as countries attempt to establish a "green climate fund" at the Durban talks, to channel billions of pounds to poor countries as part of a pledge to provide a total £64 billion a year in climate finance by 2020.

At the chaotic climate talks in Copenhagen two years ago countries including the UK committed to an initial £6.4 billion a year for three years to support efforts by developing countries to cope with climate change, with a long-term plan to scale up to the 100 billion dollars by the end of the decade.

In total the UK has pledged £3.4 billion in climate finance, with £2.9 billion announced by the coalition government for this spending review period.

Its promised fast start funding totals £1.5 billion.

Projects being supported by the UK's fast start cash include stimulating private investment to provide low-cost, green technology such as solar panels and irrigation schemes in East Africa and building water pipelines in Namibia.

"We are looking for practical outcomes on the ground that help build the resilience of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world," said Huhne.

Negotiators at the climate talks are under pressure to make progress on establishing the green climate fund, and to agree sources of cash for the scheme.

Mr Huhne said the UK was "fully committed to the green fund", and supported the proposals the committee set up to design the scheme.

The climate fund is one of a number of issues being debated at the negotiations, where the central focus is the EU's bid to get a roadmap towards a global legally binding climate deal that covers all major polluters in return for signing up to a second set of emissions cuts under the existing Kyoto climate treaty.

Asked if he had concerns that the establishment of the fund could be held hostage by the rest of the negotiations, Mr Huhne said many countries were arguing for the need to make progress in a range of areas including a new climate deal and the green fund.

"We have to proceed in parallel, but while it's early stages, I'm hopeful we will get a deal that satisfies everyone," he said.

He also said that levies on emissions from aviation and shipping were the most likely areas to provide early finance for the green fund.

Aid agency Tearfund's director of advocacy Paul Cook welcomed the announcement that £1 billion had been allocated, with a focus on helping Africa adapt to climate change.

"People living in Africa are on the on the front lines of the climate crisis," he said.

"Efforts to help them adapt to climate change and develop on a low-carbon path must be adequately financed."

He raised concerns that the money for climate finance was not "new money", but came from the existing overseas development aid budget.

"While in Durban the UK government must now push for other countries to make commitments for long-term finance, so that the green fund, once established, does not remain empty," he added.

Oxfam's head of climate change policy advocacy Tim Gore said the UK had shown real leadership in sticking to its commitment to provide development aid totalling 0.7 per cent of GDP and in being one of the biggest contributors of climate finance.

"The critical question for the UK at this conference isn't to rely on past glories, it needs to look at how we get to big, scaled-up revenues."

He said the talks presented an opportunity to exploit new and innovative sources of finance such as money from levies on aviation and shipping.

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