Ex-climate chief calls for private sector seat at UN talks

Yvo De Boer 2008_Picnik.jpg

Yvo de Boer, the former UN climate chief, has called for the private sector to participate in international negotiations about the financing of the yearly $100 billion Green Climate Fund. He spoke to EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.

"We're in need of some kind of consultative mechanism to help bring private sector perspectives into this debate," De Boer told EURACTIV. 

"If private sector finance is a significant part of the solution, then it should also have a significant say in how that solution is designed," he said.

Such a move would change the way climate talks are conducted – and probably stir up a hornet's nest of opposition from countries in the developing world.

On 8 April, the European Commission called for the private sector to bankroll most of the funds agreed at last December's Cancún summit to help the developing world to avoid – and adapt to – the effects of climate change.

An interim committee made up of government officials is now designing the fund, and De Boer said it would be "beneficial" if the private sector's current observer status in the process could be upgraded to allow "more direct input and advice" from banks, pension funds and energy investors, through a new mechanism.

But a consensus in the 'Global South' holds that Western aid should come primarily from public sources. Oxfam condemned the EU's move to include private finance in the Green Climate Fund as "just clever accounting" and "wrong".

De Boer anticipated "some resistance from developing countries" but maintained that "to cut off your nose to spite your face and say we have to keep the private sector out of the discussion would, in the end, be to the detriment of developing countries".

Instead of a single Green Climate Fund, De Boer proposed a network of different public and private finance bodies.

"We should be thinking about a family of financial institutions that combine their different expertise and financial roles to achieve climate change goals more effectively," he said.

It was "a little odd" that financial institutions currently had no place at the table designing the Green Fund, in his view. "[It] doesn't make any sense to me," he added.

De Boer was executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) until the failure of the Copenhagen Summit in December 2009.

Two months later he announced his resignation to spend more time with his family, and work as a climate consultant to international accountancy firm KPMG.

In a wide-ranging interview, De Boer also said that he believed that revenues raised from the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) should be used to cut CO2 emissions further.

"At the moment it is undeniably true that power companies in Europe have made windfall profits as a result of the way in which the ETS is designed," he admitted.

In Phase I of the EU ETS, power companies are estimated to have accrued windfalls of around €19 billion, and in Phase II, these could soar to as much as €71 billion.

"I believe that the primary purpose of revenue generated in this way should be to further reduce emissions," De Boer said.

"Part of the challenge in moving forward is to make sure that financial resources are used in a way that contributes to the solution."

His biggest concern, though, was the effect that faltering commitments to emissions reductions among developed nations could have on an already lagging carbon market. 

"We also need adequate demand, which is created by ambitious industrialised country reduction targets," he explained. But this was not happening.

As things stood, the only "meaningful" carbon markets were in Japan and the EU, De Boer said.

Yvo de Boer was speaking to EURACTIV's Arthur Neslen.

To read the interview in full, please click here

The 'Copenhagen Accord', agreed in the Danish capital in December 2009, included a pledge by developed countries to raise $100 billion per year by 2020 to help poor countries fight climate change and adapt to its inevitable consequences.

Meeting the following year in Cancún, the 190 nations involved in the UN talks made progress on the establishment of a Green Climate Fund to deliver climate cash to developing countries.

The fund will be governed by a board of 24 members, on which developed and developing countries will be equally represented.

  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate ChangeUNFCCC


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