13 Dec 2008

Rich nations slammed over climate change stance

5:11 pm on 13 December 2008

The United Nations climate summit in Poland has ended with delegates taking very different views on how much it has achieved.

While Western delegates said progress had been encouraging, environment groups said rich countries had not shown enough ambition.

And developing nations were angry that more money was not put forward to protect against climate impacts.

The meeting is the halfway point on a two-year process aimed at reaching a deal in Copenhagen by the end of 2009.

As envisaged at last year's conference in Bali, that agreement is supposed to have two major elements.

One is an expanded Kyoto Protocol-style deal committing industrialised countries to deeper emission cuts in the mid-term, perhaps by 2020, and the other is a longer-term agreement encompassing all countries.

"The conference enabled us to make real progress on every topic on the Bali roadmap," said Martin Bursik, Environment Minister of the Czech Republic, which assumes the EU presidency in January.

"All the elements exist for us to reach an efficient and equitable agreement in Copenhagen."

Tim Jones of the World Development Movement summed up the feelings of many groups campaigning for environmental protection and poverty alleviation.

"There has been disappointingly little progress on the agreement reached last year in Bali," he said.

"Yet again the rich countries, who carry the historical responsibility for climate change, have failed to offer sufficient cuts."

There was also disappointment that the energy and climate deal reached by EU heads of state in Brussels had been watered down at the last minute.

The BBC reports that the only concrete decision of any major significance concerned the management of the Adaptation Fund, which gathers money to help poorer countries protect their societies and economies against the impacts of climate change.

Developing countries lobbied for easier access to the money, and they won the day.

The money comes from a 2% levy on carbon trading under the UN Clean Development Mechanism, which aims to fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.

The decision means that adaptation money can begin to flow at some point next year.

But there is general acknowledgment that the current level of funds - about $60m - is far lower than will be needed.

To bridge the gap, developing countries wanted greatly to expand the levy to cover other kinds of carbon trade. This would have multiplied the amount of money going into the fund by at least an order of magnitude.

Industrialised nations could not support this, viewing a deal on this kind of financing as something that should form part of a more comprehensive Copenhagen package.

'Road paved with good intentions'

But many developing countries expressed their anger.

"It is not clear how a 'strong political signal' can be sent by not paying for pollution that you have caused," said Pakistan's delegate Faruukh Khan.

"We would have hoped that our partners would have taken this necessary step on the road to Copenhagen; but unfortunately the road to Copenhagen is being paved with good intentions."