Member State ministers want to assist developing countries with climate protection – but are waiting for the USA before they say how

March 6, 2009

Translation Gwendolyn Albert

Long-term aims are important for the consistency of policies in the area of climate protection, but the absence of medium-range aims is now holding back progress in the international negotiations on a new post-Kyoto agreement. Had Barack Obama made it to the White House just a few months earlier than he did, the negotiations as a whole might be much further along. On Monday, Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursík told a meeting of the European Council of Member State environment ministers that the impassiveness of the American position is preventing forward movement. Climate change and the EU position on the Copenhagen conference were the main topics of the meeting.

Since the Poznan conference, the EU has primarily been grappling with the question of financing the future emissions reduction regime and adapting to climate change. According to Commission calculations, it is necessary to work globally, in accordance with the IPCC recommendations, and to invest EUR 175 billion into climate change annually until 2020, more than half of that amount in developing countries. However, the Czech EU presidency does not want to make a specific proposal for the EU’s financial contribution until the other developed countries – primarily the USA – also submit their medium range obligations for emissions reduction. According to Martin Bursík, setting the contribution in advance would disadvantage the EU during the negotiations. Monday’s Council requested that the other developed countries first declare their own emissions reductions targets. The Czech EU presidency says the money can only be discussed once the targets are known. 

Commissioner Dimas has supported the Czech EU presidency’s approach. In his view, it was not the Council’s task to adopt a final EU position or specific financial obligations, but to send the world the good news that the EU is willing to accede to an ambitious post-Kyoto agreement. However, the conference in Copenhagen is just around the corner, and as Commissioner Dimas correctly pointed out:  No money, no treaty.

Environmental organizations are therefore advocating for EU Member States to present the concrete amount of money they will provide to the developing countries as aid and to move the negotiations forward instead of merely publishing academic estimates of costs and damages. Positive signals from the USA should be sufficient for such a decision to be taken.

The ball is now in the court of the finance ministers, who will discuss financial questions on 10 March. The connections between poverty, development and climate protection measures should also be evaluated by the Member State ministers for development cooperation. It is a clear-cut success of the Czech EU presidency that these three ministries have been brought to the same negotiating table.

Member State ministers for development cooperation should clearly prevent existing development aid from being presented as already “green” or as something which needs just a few additions to be ready. The money for reducing emissions and adaptation must come on top of the official development aid and must be clearly separate from it. The aims of development aid and aid for climate protection, however, are indeed related. The questions of poverty and development can be answered through aid by supporting the development of decentralized energy networks and renewable resources, particularly in far-flung rural areas. More than one and a half billion people continue to lack access to electricity, while two and a half billion people continue to use traditional biomass for cooking. Money for climate protection can assist in this area as well. 

The only specific numbers to appear in the Council’s conclusions were for the general need for investment into adaptation in developing countries, estimated at between EUR 23 and 54 billion annually until 2030. The Council was not able to reach agreement on a financing mechanism for distributing the money to the developing countries. It will probably be a combination of a cap-and-trade system with the provision of additional financing from public budgets.

Environmental organizations are therefore asking the Member State finance ministers and heads of government (who will meet at the spring summit on 19 - 20 March) to provide specific amounts for aid to developing countries. By 2020, the industrially developed states should, according to their own estimates, be contributing EUR 40 billion to the development of clean energy, EUR 30 billion to forest protection and at least EUR 40 billion to aid for developing states harmed by global climate change. The EU should contribute at least one-third of these sums, i.e., roughly EUR 35 billion.

The first round of negotiations on the EU position towards the international talks will be completed by the March summit of EU heads of state, but the negotiations will still be ongoing. Czech Environment Minister Bursík, his Swedish colleague Carlgren and Commissioner Dimas are preparing joint official visits to Japan and the USA. Barack Obama’s April visit will be the first opportunity for the Czech EU presidency to officially negotiate with the American president on the US obligations to reducing emissions and introducing emissions trading. In June, the Framework Agreement working groups should present their first draft of the text of the Copenhagen agreement. Perhaps the American position will be clearer by then and the EU will decide to take more energetic steps.

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