UN Launches Climate Financing Group to Disburse Billions to World’s Poor

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced plans today to create a powerful new climate change entity that will help mobilize billions of dollars to help the poorest nations battle climate change.

In December, wealthy countries agreed to provide $30 billion in "fast-start" financing from 2010 to 2012 as part of the Copenhagen Accord, struck in the eleventh hour of the Denmark talks. They also agreed to a goal of ramping up that sum to $100 billion by 2020.

So far, none of the fast cash has been disbursed and country-level pledges remain vague.

The new Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, headed by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, will have 10 months to recommend new sources of finance, along with a mechanism to guide the handouts.

The effort could win poor countries’ trust in the run-up to global climate talks scheduled for December in Mexico.

"The advisory group’s work will help build momentum towards a successful negotiation of a comprehensive climate change agreement," Ban said.

The climate group will have equal representation from rich and poor countries. Other heads of state named to the group are Guyana President Sam Hinds and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Members will also include high-level officials from central banks and experts on public finance and development, the UN said.

The UN is "assembling the best experts from every part of the world," said Brown.

Zenawi said he is "optimistic" that the work of the advisory group "will make it possible for the developing world to join the developed world in Mexico for a final and binding treaty on climate change," assuming "the promises made on finance will be kept."

For most poor nations, the Denmark summit was a flop. It ended in a barebones voluntary accord with no overall emission targets and no legal power.

In lieu of the low-ambition result, "finance has become the crucial element of the Copenhagen Accord," Zenawi told reporters.

With billions being dangled in front of developing nations, around 50 poor states have agreed to formally associate with the accord, but that does not imply trust in the UN process.

"Even those who have welcomed the accord and its provisions on finance have nevertheless expressed a high degree of skepticism about the practicality of these provisions," Zenawi said.

"Such deeply felt skepticism is perhaps understandable given the many promises of financial assistance to the developed world that have not been kept."

Vague Cash Commitments

One main task of the advisory group is to raise resources in such a way "as not to put unnecessary pressure on the already overstretched budgets of the developed countries," Zenawi said. We will not "put undue pressure on the rich."

Currently, pledges coming from the world’s wealthiest states fall short of the accord goals, and some contain stringent conditions.

For example, Japan has pledged to add $15 billion over three years to the $30 billion pot of short-term funding, with a catch: Negotiators must first agree to a new climate treaty.

The European Union has said it will contribute roughly one-third of the total sum. Zenawi showered praise on the UK and the EU for "giving clear assurances" that they would pay their fair share of the money on time.

However, environmental groups have accused Europe of plucking that climate aid from previous development budgets and calling it new funding.

The Obama administration has said it supports the long-term target of providing $100 billion by 2020. On fast-start financing, the U.S. has so far committed $1 billion to fund efforts to stop forest loss in developing nations, part of a $3.5 billion plan hashed out with Australia, France, Japan, Norway and Britain.

Brown urged the U.S. to pony up billions more, saying the investment would deliver America and the world a "huge benefit."

"The technologies in countries like the United States can be leading technologies in developing a new way of resolving the problems of climate change," he said.

When asked if China, which is considered a developing country under UN criteria, would receive any of the funding, Brown said Beijing "does not expect to be one of the countries that benefits."

Zenawi said "China will not want a dime of it." The Ethiopian leader also said he had received "assurances" from India that it expects most of the money, particularly funds derived from public sources, to be focused on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable economies.


See also:

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Todd Stern: Next Few Weeks Critical for Copenhagen Accord

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Adapting and Mitigating Climate Change: A Deeply Nuanced Approach

Nations Threatened by Climate Change Call on Developed World to Give 1.5% of GDP