Campaigners urge transparency on climate aid

26 Apr 2010 17:08:00 GMT
Written by: Megan Rowling

A signboard with the message "There is no planet B" is  hung in a tree during a rally outside the UN Climate Change Conference  in Copenhagen in this photo taken December 12, 2009. REUTERS/Christian  Charisius
A signboard with the message “There is no planet B” is hung in a tree during a rally outside the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in this photo taken December 12, 2009. REUTERS/Christian Charisius


LONDON (AlertNet) – A lack of transparency over rich countries’ pledges to help poor nations deal with climate change means much of the cash promised is being diverted from development aid commitments, campaigners say. In the Copenhagen Accord, struck at December’s U.N. climate summit, developed countries agreed to provide poorer nations with “new and additional resources” of about $30 billion by 2012 to help them limit their emissions and adapt to a warmer world. But the pact, backed by some 120 nations, does not specify what funds count towards the 2012 pledge, known as “fast start”. The World Resources Institute says donors had announced nearly $24 billion in “fast start” funds by the beginning of March, to be spread over three years, plus $3.5 billion for a forest preservation scheme. But researchers say cash-strapped governments plan to divert some of the money from existing official development assistance (ODA) budgets rather than find new cash. “There is a lot of slippery language around ‘new and additional’,” said Rob Bailey, a policy advisor on climate change for Oxfam. Most governments also expect the climate change aid to count towards a separate U.N. target for donors to give 0.7 percent of their gross national income for overseas development. In 2009, the 23 member countries of the Development Assistance Committee in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development allocated just 0.31 percent between them. “Climate finance can be a very convenient way of getting them to those targets if they are allowed to count it as ODA,” said Bailey. “There’s a nice consensus among donor governments that they’ll count this stuff towards their ODA commitments, and no one is looking to break it.” The British government has said publicly it will provide “some climate finance” on top of its 0.7 percent international development commitment, but only from 2013. Ed Miliband, energy and climate minister, told reporters last month there was “a pretty clear understanding” that fast start funding would not be additional to ODA pledges. ON TOP OF DEVELOPMENT AID But poorer nations say “fast start” climate funding should come on top of other development aid because climate change is adding to the human and financial cost of disasters, and making their social and economic development more expensive. Quamrul Chowdhury, a negotiator for Bangladesh at U.N. climate talks, says using climate finance to fulfil development aid promises will be damaging to his country, which is already struggling to cope with rising sea levels and frequent floods. “If (“fast start” funding) is not new and additional, and it is not over and above ODA, our whole development will be paralysed, and how can (we meet) our goals for anti-poverty, education and healthcare programmes?” he said. “We really want a major ramp-up of financial support, and also we want urgent and immediate adaptation finance.” That sentiment was echoed by Bruno Sekoli of Lesotho, who chairs the group of poorest countries at the U.N. talks. “We want to believe, because we trust our partners, that their commitments will be along this line,” Sekoli said. “When that time comes, and we realise it is not new and additional, then I think it will be a major issue.” Aid agencies agree there is overlap between development activities and measures needed to help poor countries become more resilient to the extreme weather and higher seas global warming is expected to bring. But climate change requires more and bigger interventions, such as building sea walls and protecting roads from flash floods. A study from the World Bank puts the costs of adapting to climate change in developing countries at $75 billion to $100 billion per year up to 2050. Campaigners are urging donors to be more transparent about exactly what they are counting as climate finance, where it comes from, and the channels used to deliver it. The European Union plans to report on its member states’ “fast start” funding before the next round of climate talks taking place in Bonn in June, although countries have yet to agree a common definition. The bloc has promised 2.4 billion euros ($3.2 billion) each year from 2010-2012. Jamie Drummond, executive director of anti-poverty group ONE, urged donors to be honest. “We know that the money (donors are) saying is for climate is already money taken from development. It’s a fact,” Drummond told AlertNet. “They should be criticised for it, and then we need to move on to things we can change.”

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