Poland blocks EU climate funding decision

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EU finance ministers yesterday (20 October) failed to agree on funding climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, due to Poland and Eastern European countries’ concerns that they would end up paying more than they can afford.

Instead, the ministers decided to defer decisions on concrete figures for the EU’s contribution to a post-Kyoto climate treaty until the European summit next week. This got the ‘climate super week’ – which was to see two ministerial meetings agree the EU’s position for the UN climate conference in Copenhagen – off to a bad start.

Swedish Finance Minister Andreas Borg described the outcome of the Council as “disappointing” and complained of “a lack of commitment by certain member states”. 

“However, the components of an agreement were on the table and with more pragmatism from certain capitals, we will resolve these issues and the EU will drive the climate process forward,” he said.

The talks stalled on the issue of internal burden-sharing. Poland headed a coalition of Central and Eastern European countries that have argued over the past months that any decision on funding should come after the EU has decided how much each member state will have to pay.

The Swedish EU Presidency had hoped that the Council would produce conclusions with concrete figures on upfront EU financing until 2013 as well as the yearly contributions necessary until 2020. It was supported by a number of countries including the UK, the Netherlands and Denmark.

But they failed to reassure Eastern member states, which are worried that they will end up paying a disproportionate share compared to their wealth.

In September, the European Commission said that the total climate aid needs would climb to €100 billion annually by 2020 (EURACTIV 11/09/09). It suggested that the EU pay €2-15 billion of this, and earmark €5-7 billion to fast-track financing to pay for the transition period from the Kyoto Protocol, between 2010 and 2013.

EU leaders now have these crucial decisions on their hands as they meet next week in Brussels. Other aspects of the global deal are also being debated today by environment ministers.

Parliament calls for €30bn

In the meantime, MEPs called on EU heads of state and government to show leadership in the international negotiations by committing at least €30 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries cut emissions and adapt to the inevitable consequences of climate change. 

The European Parliament’s environment committee yesterday (20 October) voted overwhelmingly in favour of a draft resolution that urged the negotiators in Copenhagen to agree a collective emission-reduction target for developed countries at the high end of the 25-40% range by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. 

Developing countries, for their part, should limit emissions growth to 15-30% below business as usual, it said.

Moreover, these targets should be reviewed every five years against the latest scientific developments, MEPs said. This will be necessary to ensure that global warming does not exceed 2°C, considered to be the threshold after which climate change will be catastrophic.

Lawmakers argued that both financing and targets to slash emissions would have to be subject to a tougher compliance regime than under the Kyoto Protocol. This should include an early warning mechanism and penalties, they said.

EU employers' organisation BusinessEurope argued that the EU finance ministers' failure to agree on climate funding would not be the biggest impediment to an agreement in Copenhagen. "We're much more worried about the commitment by the US and China. We think the EU already has strong targets," said Folker Franz, senior adviser at BusinessEurope.

NGOs, however, slammed the decision, warning that the EU's procrastination would jeopardise a deal with other countries in Copenhagen.

WWF  expressed its disappointment that even prolonged discussions couldn't produce conclusions on funding for developing countries. It said that environment ministers and the European Council would now have to agree on a "strong common position". 

"Without this strong common position, EU leadership at the Copenhagen climate talks in December will not be credible, endangering the outcome of the talks," said Jason Anderson, head of European climate and energy policy at WWF.

Friends of the Earth Europe argued that the EU must stop stalling on funding and show that it is "serious about ending the stalemate in the international negotiations". "To keep hopes alive of a just global agreement on climate change Europe must provide its fair share of the finances needed," said Sonja Meister, climate campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe.

Greenpeace called on the EU heads of state and government to step up to the plate with binding commitments to emissions cuts and a contribution to climate action in the developing world. "Climate funding for developing nations is a make-or-break issue for a global climate agreement. Instead of laying the foundations of a global climate agreement, finance ministers have only brought the catastrophic effects of climate change one step closer," said Greenpeace EU's Joris den Blanken.

Oxfam blamed "classic internal EU bickering" of blocking progress. "After the decisions on last year's Climate Package, this is déjà vu – with Poland and Germany again taking the EU to the brink before an agreement is found. But this year, such brinkmanship is a serious risk to a fair and safe outcome to the Copenhagen climate summit, on which the fate of millions of poor people around the world depends," said Elise Ford, head of Oxfam International's EU office.

Green MEPs Satu Hassi (Finland) and Bas Eickhout (Netherlands) said the finance ministers' meeting was another "shameful farce". 

"Instead of making a clear commitment on climate financing, the EU is still dealing in postponed promises and IOUs. The buck must stop at next week's summit of EU leaders," they said. "For the EU to take a fair share of the responsibility, it must contribute at least €30 billion per annum by 2020 – as voted yesterday in the EU Parliament's environment committee – in addition to overseas development aid and separate from annual budgetary procedures."

Leftist MEPs called for solidarity with the developing world on climate change.

MEP Bairbre de Brún (GUE/NGL, Ireland) pointed out developing countries are not responsible for climate change but suffer the worst consequences. "One of the most important yardsticks in assessing any agreement in Copenhagen will be how it helps developing countries tackle climate change. There is no time to lose - international action must be ambitious or we will face disaster," she said.

MEP Kartika Liotard (GUE/NGL, Netherlands) criticised the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol, saying that it was "not working properly as it finances projects in order to emit even more CO2".

MEP João Ferreira (GUE/NGL, Protugal) criticised the EU's focus on market solutions in the fight against climate change. "The main tool put forward by the EU is the carbon market but I think this will only stand in the way of a paradigm shift in our thinking. The ETS (emissions trading scheme) didn't reduce emissions. Our focus is too market based," he said.

MEP Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL, Portugal) argued that the EU's credibility on fundamental issues requires that financing be looked at. "There are estimates that say we need €120bn per annum to give to developing countries to help them fight climate change so we need serious resources and courage to take on these problems," she said.

Environmental health groups expressed dismay that the health impact of climate change has not been recognised by the European Parliament, despite the tabling of several amendements on the subject. 

Healthcare Withouth Harm and the Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL) said climate change could reverse progress made in reaching the public health elements of the Millennium Development Goals. 

 

The global community is currently engaged in negotiations to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

The first United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Bonn (29 March–8 April) launched negotiations for a draft agreement in view of the final conference in Copenhagen later this year (EURACTIV 09/04/09).

The draft negotiating text, prepared ahead of June's second round of climate talks, revealed a divide between rich and poor countries. Developing nations are asking their industrialised counterparts to commit to sizeable CO2 reductions and to offer financial aid to help poor nations with their efforts. But developed countries have not made any firm commitments on funding, and only the EU has taken on a firm CO2 reduction target, which nevertheless fails to meet the developing world's demands (EURACTIV 29/04/09).

In the meantime, the negotiating text has ballooned to hundreds of pages as all parties have reacted with amendments. Little progress was made at the June talks on financing for developing countries to mitigate and adapt to global warming (EURACTIV 15/06/09), while an informal round in August barely even raised these issues (EURACTIV 18/08/09).

At the sidelines of a G8 meeting in Italy on 9 July, the Major Economies Forum, comprising 17 countries that are accountable for 75% of global emissions, agreed for the first time to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius but failed to come up with targets (EURACTIV 10/07/09).

In an attempt to break the deadlock, the European Commission presented on 10 September a blueprint for international climate funding (EURACTIV 11/09/09). It suggested that the EU's share of climate mitigation and adaptation aid for developing countries could be in the range of 2-15 billion euros a year.

  • 21 Oct.: Environment Council.
  • 29-30 Oct.: EU summit.
  • 2-7 Nov.: UN negotiations in Barcelona.
  • 7-18 Dec.: UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen.

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