UN chief ‘signals delay on climate financial aid’

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon suggested that a deal on climate change in Copenhagen might not include a figure on financial aid for developing countries, according to a report on Wednesday.

Ban told the Financial Times that countries could sign a deal at the Copenhagen summit without a firm commitment from developed nations on long-term financing for poorer ones to combat global warming.

“We can start next year discussing this matter,” Ban was quoted saying, while stressing the importance of financial support.

“I’m not quite sure [we can get a long-term figure] … I don’t think the exact number itself should be all of this Copenhagen deal.

“There are many important issues.

“If they are not able to agree this time at Copenhagen, then there needs to be some initial arrangement [on financing],” he said.

The summit goal is to agree an outline deal of national pledges to curb carbon emissions that cause global warming and set up a mechanism to provide billions of dollars for poorer countries in the firing line of climate change.

But deep divisions remain over how to pay the bill.

Bitter wrangling
Negotiators in Copenhagen have just three days left to broker one of the most ambitious yet complex deals in human history, but days of bitter wrangling between key players have provoked grim warnings of failure.

China and the United States — the world’s two biggest carbon polluters — have brushed aside European calls for concessions on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the thorniest issue of all at the UN talks.

The summit aims to secure national pledges to curb the heat-trapping carbon gases wreaking havoc with Earth’s climate system, and set up a mechanism to provide billions of dollars for poor countries facing worsening drought, flood, storms and rising seas.

Ban told world leaders at the opening of the full ministerial session on Tuesday they faced a “defining moment in history”.

“We know what we must do. We know what the world expects. Our job here and now is to seal the deal, a deal in our common interest.”

Talks were moving too slowly, he warned, making it difficult for the leaders to reach agreement in the remaining days.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said sealing a deal was going to be “very difficult” with many issues to be resolved.

Former US vice-president and environmental activist Al Gore called for world leaders to meet in Mexico City in July to complete the process.

But reflecting the deadlock, a new draft text gave no figures for a long-term goal of reducing emissions, a peak for emissions, an intended limit to warming, nor on financing for poor countries exposed to climate change.

These core questions were farmed out to small parties of ministers, charged with brokering a consensus by Friday when about 120 heads of state and government are to reach an outline political deal.

Any Copenhagen pact would be fleshed out next year in further talks, culminating in a treaty that would take effect from 2013.

Conference chairperson Connie Hedegaard of Denmark said success was still within reach.

But she added: “We can’t risk failure. No one here can carry that responsibility. That means that the keyword for the next two days must be compromise.”

But both China and the US appeared in little mood to move on the key issue of emissions.

US President Barack Obama has offered to cut US carbon emissions by 17% by 2020 over a 2005 benchmark, a figure that aligns with legislation put before the US Congress.

The offer by the US, the world’s second biggest polluter after China, has been widely criticised by other parties as inadequate.

“I am not anticipating any change in the mitigation commitment,” said US chief delegate Todd Stern, explaining that it was tied to legislation currently before Congress.

Beijing’s climate ambassador said China’s voluntary plan for braking the forecast growth in its emissions was not open to negotiation.

“We announced those targets, we don’t intend to put them up for discussion,” Yu Qingtai told reporters.

China also said on Wednesday it was opposed to “carbon tariffs” being imposed on the developing world, an idea floated in Europe and the US.

Europe, which has already pledged to reduce emissions by 20% by 2020 in comparison with 1990 and offered to go to 30% if others follow suit, said the big polluters had to relent on cuts.

“There are two countries in the world representing half the emissions of the world, and that’s the United States and China,” said Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, representing the 27-nation European Union.

European powerhouse Germany likewise pointed the finger.

“Both want to keep every option open up to the last hours of the conference … We don’t have much time left,” said its environment minister Norbert Roettgen.

EU leaders last week agreed a package of €7,2-billion in aid to help developing countries tackle global warming.

But the Group of 77 developing nations — actually a caucus of 130 states that includes China — said the proposal failed to address the issue of setting up long-term financing mechanisms. — AFP

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