EU seeks billions immediately for poor

Says aid will build trust before global climate summit

By Pete Harrison and Johan Ahlander
Reuters / July 26, 2009

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BRUSSELS - Rich countries should immediately mobilize billions of dollars in development aid to the poorest nations to win their trust in the run-up to global climate talks in Copenhagen, a draft European Union report said.

Nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development should also fulfill their existing commitments on overseas aid, which would more than double those aid flows to poor nations to around $280 billion annually by 2015, it added.

The recommendations are made in a draft report by the European Commission and Sweden, which holds the EU’s six-month presidency.

“We stand ready to deliver the upfront financing, and we have the mandate needed,’’ Andreas Carlgren, Sweden’s environment minister, said at a news briefing.

Climate talks are scheduled for December in Copenhagen. Prospects of a deal have been boosted by fresh engagement by China and the United States.

But the EU is worried that an agreement might not be reached because of a gap in trust between poor countries and the rich, industrialized states they blame for causing climate change.

The report said clarifying and increasing the global contribution to “adaptation funding’’ between now and 2012 could contribute to trust-building with the least developed countries.

“A specific EU commitment is desirable before Copenhagen,’’ said the report, which will be finalized in coming weeks. Rich countries should immediately mobilize $1 billion to 2 billion to assist vulnerable, low-income countries, it added.

Britain’s energy and climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, said he thought that there was a role for short-term actions in the run-up to Copenhagen as a way to build confidence, but that it should in no way substitute efforts to secure longer-term financing.

“It’s not a substitute for the bigger prize,’’ he told journalists at the end of meetings with his European counterparts.

“Unless we come out of Copenhagen with a long-term financing arrangement, we’re not going to get the steps we need from developing countries and we’re not going to be able to say that this is the kind of agreement we need.’’

Germany’s state secretary for the environment, Matthias Machnig, said delegates had discussed upfront financing for research projects for developing countries.

“For me it is crucial that the money is there for projects as of 2013. There is a debate to do something from 2010 to 2013,’’ he told reporters.

Jean-Louis Borloo, the French ecology minister, said Friday that rich nations would need to scale up their commitments, implying that poor nations would need around $200 billion annually by 2020.

“It’s an absolute disgrace to leave Africa in the greatest insecurity,’’ he added. The Swedish report singled out Africa for help in developing renewable energy.

And it said OECD countries should live up to existing commitments of 0.7 percent of national income for overseas aid, compared with an average of 0.3 percent currently.

“In absolute terms, this would mean moving from around $120 billion in 2008 to around $280 billion by 2015,’’ it added.

Any funds to help poor nations deal with climate change should come on top of current aid payments, said the report.

But Oxfam International said climate funds should come on top of the $280 billion commitments, rather than the $120 billion that is actually paid.

“The big flows of money after Copenhagen should be on top of that 0.7 percent,’’ said Tim Gore, Oxfam climate campaigner. “We mustn’t divert funds that would otherwise be spent on schools and hospitals.’’