Mail and Guardian
International funding efforts to help poor nations cope with climate
change have been woeful, it emerged at this year’s big climate change
conference in Bali.
In a damning report released recently development agency Oxfam said that rich nations had donated only R469-million ($67-million) to a fund dedicated to adaptation. Oxfam estimates that the cost to help poor nations would be R350-billion ($50-billion) each year.
“The R469-million generated so far is less than what people in the United States spend on suntan lotion in one month,” said Charlotte Sterrett, author of the Oxfam report titled Financing Adaption. “It is a slap in the face for poor nations, given that developed countries will need at least $1,2-billion [R7,14-billion] each to meet just their most urgent adaptation needs.”
Top United Nations climate official Yvo de Boer agreed. “Oxfam called the spending on adaptation an insult. If it is an insult, it is a pretty big one. Not enough money has been spent on adaptation. If we don’t act now, it will be too late. We need resources now.”
Adaptation has emerged as a major sticking point at the conference, with the less developed part of the world lobbying hard for richer nations to pay for the “damage they have caused”.
African countries, such as Uganda, have pressed hard for developed countries, such as the US, Canada, Australia and European Union nations, to be held accountable and to pay for the natural disasters that have hit poor countries. “For us it is at the top of our agenda here,” a negotiator for a Southern African country told the Mail & Guardian. “My nation is already feeling the effects of climate change, yet our emissions are so low.”
The statistics back up his statement: total emissions for countries in Africa, excluding South Africa, are less than 3%.
“No matter how you spin the arrow of responsibility, it always ends up pointing at a handful of rich countries. They caused historical pollution and got rich in the process. They can afford to adapt at home [but] justice demands that they help the world’s poor countries cope as well,” said Kate Raworth, senior researcher for Oxfam.
“Future commitments to cut emissions are a must, but additional financing for adaptation cannot wait until 2012. Here in Bali delegates from dozens of poor countries will tell you that they need it now.”
The UN’s human development report, released last week, found that climate disasters are heavily concentrated in poor countries. About 260-million people were affected by climate disasters annually from 2000 to 2004, more than 98% of them in the developing world, the report said.
Oxfam said that if global greenhouse-gas emissions are not cut fast enough far more than R350-billion would be needed to help vulnerable nations. So far rich countries have been helping through the Least Developed Countries Fund, which is based on voluntary contributions from wealthy countries. Despite the multiple natural disasters this year, these countries increased their contribution for urgent adaptation needs by a mere R301-million ($43-million), which is not nearly enough to reach the $50-billion needed annually.
But only R182-million ($26-million) — the equivalent of one week’s worth of spending on flood defences in the United Kingdom — has been spent multilaterally for adaptation measures, which the development report noted is “very unlikely to provide the scale of adaptation finance needed on a voluntary basis”.
Despite this, compulsory adaptation taxes for rich nations are not on the table at the Bali conference. Instead the UN is hoping a special Adaptation Fund might be the goose that lays the golden egg. The fund was created under the Kyoto Protocol to generate the necessary funds to help vulnerable nations.
At last year’s climate change talks in Nairobi negotiators envisioned that the fund would be financed mainly through a 2% “adaptation levy”, which would be generated by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), linked to the carbon market, whereby businesses in developed nations fund clean energy projects in developing nations.
De Boer said that if the tax levy worked properly up to R2,1-billion ($300-million) could be generated annually between 2008 and 2012. “[Adaptation] will pay for itself then, without the need of taking money away from other development funds,” he said.
But Oxfam believed that a solution stretched beyond the CDM levy. “New finance should be agreed and deployed within the first commitment period, so that adequate funding is available for those who need it urgently,” the organisation said.
It suggested that the US and the EU contribute more than 75% of the finance needed, with 40% coming from the US and 30% from Europe. Japan, Canada, Australia and the Republic of Korea should contribute a further 20% of the finance, with Japan providing more than half of that.
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