Call for climate financing system

Next month’s COP17 climate talks are likely to turn into a political battlefield, according to Bernarditas Muller, the chief negotiator for the G77 developing countries. But she is adamant that “Durban will not be the burial ground of the Kyoto Protocol”.

Muller was speaking last Friday at a climate-justice seminar in Johannesburg, organised by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa and the World Alliance for Citizen Participation. “Poor countries have so much to lose if we don’t get this right,” said Muller, who fears that any chance of a deal in Durban will be undermined by the reluctance of rich countries to assist poorer nations to adapt to the demands of climate change.

Muller challenges the notion that poor countries are blocking the current dialogue because they refuse to compromise, pointing out that compromise should be a two-way process. “There is no way developing countries could be blocking the process. We want a fulfilment of [rich nations’] commitment to provide the financial resources,” she said.

The Durban climate talks, which will bring together nearly 200 nations, is expected to produce, at the very minimum, a political declaration. Some still hope for a binding international treaty, though the ­likelihood is fast receding. Climate-change activists will also try to use the meeting to push for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol — an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — which expires in 2012.

But Muller believes developed countries will do their best in Durban to dodge any existing commitments, because they now realise how hard it will be for them to meet their ­promised targets. “They want to get rid of legally binding commitments. They want new ones which [will allow them to] continue their wasteful lifestyles.”

Muller told last week’s audience that she was “very concerned” about the lack of transparency in the negotiation process, especially as poorer countries were the “most vulnerable victims” of climate disasters and were most in need of aid from wealthier nations, which she accused of “denying their historical responsibilities”. Those who negotiate on behalf of poor countries face a tough task, said Muller, citing the example of how G77 countries have fared in the run-up to COP17.

The G77 group is a loose coalition of so-called “developing nations”. Founded in 1964, it now comprises 131 members. “Before they [richer nations] give you money, you must prove that it will not be wasted. If you look good, you might get more. It depends on the choice of the donor,” Muller said.

She called on the G77 countries to empower themselves in the run-up to COP17 by getting more involved and enhancing their understanding of global economic and social trends. “Adaptation alone is not the solution, because adaptation does not generate revenue. It is unbankable.”

For Muller it all comes down to the lack of an “effective climate financing system”. When there is no money, there is no capacity to participate. “Right now, we don’t even know how we are going to pay for those high hotel costs in Durban,” she said.

Melita Steele, campaigner for Greenpeace South Africa, called on civil-society organisations to present a “united front” in Durban next month. “The struggle for environmental justice unites us all,” she said.

Steele urged the South African government to ensure an “enabling environment” at COP17 and not suppress the voices and views of civil-society representatives. “Time is not on our side,” she warned. “It is not enough just to talk about climate change.”

For the latest COP17 news and special features view our special report.

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