September 24, 2009
Preliminary Climate Talks Stumble Over Available Finances for Developing Nations
As climate negotiations in Copenhagen rapidly approach, it seems the road is paved with good intentions - and potholes. While wealthy nations, like the United States and the EU, are willing to provide financial and technology aid to developing nations, at this point such countries have a will but not a way to offer the predicted $100 billion annually by 2020 to ensure that developing nations build their economies on efficient and clean energy technologies.
As recent New York Times coverage points out, the challenge of backing up commitments with actual money has proven a "blind spot" in preliminary talks:
"But to date there is no concrete strategy to raise such huge sums. There is not even agreement about which nations should pay or in what proportion...
Perhaps even more troublesome, the United Nations Adaptation Fund, which officially began operating in 2008 to help poor countries finance projects to blunt the effects of global warming, remains an empty shell, largely because rich nations have failed to come through with the donations they promised. The fund now holds about $18 million, a tiny fraction of what it was supposed to have, according to fund officials."
While even more cliches about unsubstantiated claims come to mind, this situation could create a serious negotiating challenge come December. Regardless of willingness, developing countries absolutely need the support of richer nations if the world will ever realize a clean energy future and mitigate the effects of climate change.
In the United States, a significant portion of funding is planned to come from revenues created by the auctioning of emissions permits under the cap-and-trade system set up by the House-passed climate bill, whose Senate sibling is awaiting Congressional debate. Although this is one possible approach, international delegates have still neglected to delineate how much each country is responsible for contributing, and with less than $2 billion per year dedicated from the House climate bill, it seems unlikely the U.S. plan would actually produce enough money to cover what developing nations perceive as it's fair share of international adaptation and clean technology obligations.
Other uncertainties include: whether funds should be taken from other forms of support - a suggestion that is not popular among developing nations who rely on many different types of aid - and which countries should actually receive aid, a question that is particularly poignant given China's exponential growth in recent years and rapid ascent to world economic leadership.
Developed nations are indeed obligated to make commitments to developing nations, who will require support in order to build economies based on energy efficient and clean energy technologies as well as adapt to the impacts of climate change. These commitments, however, should not simply be made without viable proposals and actionable strategies to ensure the developing nations actually see the promised funds. The success of climate talks in Copenhagen rest on myriad negotiations among interests, but ultimately there will be no global action until delegates switch their focus from empty commitments, whether it be to funding promises or emissions targets and timetables, and look to create sound strategy that makes clean energy abundant and cheap, for developed and developing nations, alike.