6 december 2009

Oxfam attacks "cannibalization" of aid for climate

By Pete Harrison Scientific American December 6, 2009

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam attacked European politicians on Sunday for "cannibalizing" existing development aid budgets and repackaging them as part of a deal to fight climate change.

The day before leaders meet in Copenhagen to negotiate a new deal to combat climate-warming emissions, Oxfam said it had found evidence that exposed "undercover accounting" in some rich nations' pledges to help poor nations tackle the climate threat.

Finance has emerged as one of the key obstacles in the talks to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N.'s main tool for dealing with global warming which expires in 2012.

Developing nations want billions a year to help them adapt to a problem they say was initially caused by industrialized countries as they built up their economies, fuelling them with fossil fuels.

The European Union says poor countries will need around 100 billion euros ($151 billion) a year by 2020, of which as much as half would come from the public purse globally.


But it has also proposed up to $10 billion a year of "fast start" funding in the three years before any Copenhagen deal kicks in. The United States has embraced the idea of early funding, but has been less forthcoming on long-term aid.

"The financial support -- short or long term -- is probably the most important bargaining chip that developed countries have at their disposal when seeking a comprehensive global agreement," said an informal paper by Sweden, which holds the EU presidency until the end of this year.

"For fast-start actions, existing funds should be used," added the document, seen by Reuters.

Oxfam said the mention of using existing funds showed politicians were considering doing what the aid group fears most -- taking money that has already been earmarked for schools and hospitals and presenting it as new money to tackle climate change.

Such funds might be used to develop drought resistant crops, build dams to control dwindling water supplies, or levies to guard against floods.

"We have been watching global negotiations over climate finance for months, and it now seems clear that pledges of fast-start money will involve cannibalizing existing promises of overseas aid," said Oxfam campaigner Tim Gore.

"This undercover accounting is an attempt to win the support of developing countries for a deal in Copenhagen, which distracts attention from the big long-term commitments of real money that poor countries need," he added.

Oxfam estimates that poor countries need to be given $200 billion a year of new public finance by 2020 -- on top of existing aid pledges -- a figure way higher than the EU's estimate of 22-50 billion euros.

The document is called "Structure and Elements of a Copenhagen Outcome" and was circulated among EU climate experts on Thursday.

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