Greenpeace activists from twenty European countries urged ministers not to exit the building without putting money on the table to help developing countries, but little was decided. The Economic and Financial Affairs Council, however, only reiterated the EU's readiness to "contribute its fair share".
Concerns have been raised that the conspicuous absence of formal EU proposals on climate financing show lack of commitment on behalf of the bloc's governments to reaching an ambitious new international climate agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol (EurActiv 10/03/09). The Netherlands called on the ministers to set a deadline for July, but did not receive enough backing for the move. All eyes are now on next week's European summit.
Ministers strongly emphasised the role of private funding, describing it as "the main source of the necessary investment". Public finance would complement this, "leveraging private investments" and encouraging further effort, they said.
More progress had been expected on different financing options after the Environment Council passed the ball to finance ministers last week (EurActiv 03/03/09). But instead, ministers yesterday focused on existing financial instruments, arguing that new instruments should only be considered where they are clearly needed and after a rigorous assessment of their added value.
In line with the Environment Council, finance ministers advocated improving the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and other market-based instruments, such as emissions trading schemes.
Ministers were heavily criticised by environmental NGOs for shifting the responsibility to the private sector. According to Greenpeace, they should have proposed concrete public financial support for climate action, instead of making an "empty promise for investments from the private sector, which they can neither predict nor control".
The role of the Clean Development Mechanism in delivering financial flows from the EU to developing countries and integrating these in the carbon trading market was also contested. "The Clean Development Mechanism is inherently unfair and is based on the failure of industrialised countries to achieve necessary emissions reduction targets at home," Esther Bollendorff, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, argued. She added that buying credits abroad would not offer any incentive for Europeans to develop technologies to deliver steeper emission cuts.
Disappointed environmentalists arrested
While the talks were going on, hundreds of Greenpeace demonstrators locked themselves to the gates outside the entrance of the Council building. Chanting "save the climate, bail out the planet," they tried to send a message to the finance ministers that there was no coming out of the meeting room without a commitment to contributing €35 billion a year to help the developing world to tackle climate change.
The protest finished two hours later, when the Belgian police removed the last green activists. According to Greenpeace, more than 300 were arrested, while five were injured, suffering from broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and minor injuries. All were released later the same evening without charges.
"The world's leading climate scientists are meeting now in Copenhagen and telling the world that climate change is coming much faster and in a much more devastating power than they have previously thought. Our finance ministers [are] putting money on the table to bail out banks and their managers and not for the real threats, that is, climate change and deforestation," Thomas Henningsen, Greenpeace campaigner told Euronews.