Major economies focus on finance at climate meeting

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Representatives from the world's biggest polluters sought to make progress on short-term financing to help developing countries adapt to global warming at a meeting hosted by the United States, US President Barack Obama's top climate negotiator said.

The Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate included presentations by the United States and other developed countries on what they would do to make good on financing outlined in the Copenhagen Accord resulting from last year's UN climate meeting in Denmark.

"There is an appreciation by everybody in the room it is important to make good on that commitment," US climate envoy Todd Stern said of the two-day meeting, which ended on Monday.

The Copenhagen Accord outlined funds approaching $30 billion for 2010 to 2012 to help developing countries adapt to global warming and mitigate its potential effects, like floods, droughts and stronger storms.

It also outlined longer-term financing by developed countries of $100 billion a year by 2020. Talks on that are being held by a separate UN panel headed by Britain and Ethiopia.

Legal agreement elusive

After Monday's meeting, Stern told reporters that participants from the forum's 17 economies - including China and India, European Union countries and Russia - had a broad-ranging talk on what can be done at the annual UN climate meeting to be held in Cancún, Mexico, late this year.

Stern said a binding agreement to cut emissions may not be possible in Mexico, but that progress can still be made on many issues. "There's still considerable support for the notion of a legal agreement [...] but I think that people are also quite cognisant of the notion that it might or might not happen."

He cautioned that hopes for progress can at times be too high, saying there was "a good appreciation and a sound appreciation that we don't want to let expectations far outstrip what can be done" in Cancún.

The US is the only industrialised nation outside the existing Kyoto Protocol, the UN plan obliging them to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of at least 5% below 1990 levels during the period 2008-12.

A compromise US climate bill led by Senators John Kerry, a Democrat, Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Joe Lieberman, an independent, is set to be unveiled on 26 April. It faces an uncertain future amid opposition from lawmakers from states with economies heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

At Monday's meeting, the US issued a document to participants that said its climate-related appropriations for 2010 total $1.3 billion and that the Obama administration has requested $1.9 billion for fiscal year 2011.

The funds include support for the US administration's pledge to provide $1 billion for the UN program Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

Stern said there was progress on six issues at the meeting including mitigation, transparency, financing, technology, forests and adaptation.

It was the sixth meeting of the group since Obama launched the talks last year, and Michael Froman, deputy White House national security adviser, said the participants considered holding another meeting later this summer.

Representatives from some countries had to attend the conference via video conferencing because of cancelled flights resulting from the volcanic eruption in Iceland. Participants from Colombia, Denmark and Yemen attended the meeting.

(EurActiv with Reuters.)

  • Second half of 2010: Two additional UN meetings.
  • 29 Nov.–10 Dec.: UN climate conference in Cancún, Mexico.
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  • UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):Homepage