UN climate talks progress on poor nation aid

A UN conference made progress on Friday towards agreeing a fund to help poor nations cope with the impacts of climate change, at the end of a two-week meeting overshadowed by fears about economic recession.

“I am very happy,” Richard Muyungi, chair of the board of the Adaptation Fund, told Reuters on the sidelines of the 189-nation talks of the plan to launch a fund to help the poor adapt to impacts of more landslides, droughts or rising seas.

The main sticking point about the fund at the December 1 to 12 talks—granting poor nations direct access to cash in the fund—was almost solved, he said. The fund could be worth $300-million a year by 2012.

Poor nations such as the Pacific island state of Tuvalu have accused rich nations of putting up too much red tape, saying it is a “survival fund” to help cope with rising seas that could wipe them off the map.

But the EU had said too easy access to cash could set a bad precedent in an economic downturn for a fund meant to help build flood barriers, develop drought-resistant crops or control disease-carrying mosquitoes.

“We also want to be secure about the credibility of the use of the money and the credibility of the projects,” said German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

European Union ministers at the Poznan talks expressed relief after EU leaders in Brussels agreed an historic pact to cut greenhouse gases by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020—after making concessions to east European states.

Cash to prepare for global warming will be raised mainly by a 2% levy on a system of UN green investments in developing nations—raising roughly €60-million ($79,60-million) for the fund so far.

The United Nations says tens of billions of dollars a year are likely to be needed by 2030 to cope with the impacts of climate change. Gabriel said possible ways to raise extra funds would be discussed next year.

Gore applause
Former US vice-president Al Gore won the biggest applause of the conference with a speech predicting a far more active US climate policy under president-elect Barack Obama after President George Bush.

He also said a new UN climate deal could be agreed, as planned, at a meeting in Copenhagen in late 2009 despite the recession.

“To those who are fearful that it is too difficult to conclude this process with a new treaty by the deadline that has been set ...
I say it can be done, it must be done,” he said.

He won a two-minute standing ovation after ending his speech by saying “Yes we can”—Obama’s election campaign slogan. Gore also said the world might have to consider far tighter targets to rein in global warming.

But there was controversy about scant progress in Poznan. Host Poland stuck to a proposal to package the results as a “Poznan Solidarity Partnership”, despite objections from some delegations that too little was achieved.

“Solidarity” resonates as the name of the Polish trade union that helped end communist rule in 1989.

EU delegates welcomed the EU pact in Brussels.

“All this puts Europe by far ahead of everybody else,” said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas. He reiterated that the EU would sign up for deeper cuts of 30% below 1990 levels in Copenhagen if other nations agreed.

“I mean it, I feel in a fighting mood, for the 30% in Copenhagen,” he said. The Poznan talks left the hard decision—how far each nation will curb greenhouse gas emissions—for 2009. - Reuters

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