15 december 2009

Climate deal in balance over aid

By Fiona Harvey in Copenhagen, Financial Times December 15 2009

The chief of the United Nations has conceded that a deal in Copenhagen on climate change might not include promised financial aid for developing countries, an admission that will infuriate poorer nations and potentially scupper a broad-based agreement.

Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN, told the Financial Times in an interview that countries could sign a deal at Copenhagen without a firm commitment from developed nations on long-term financing for poorer countries to combat global warming. “We can start next year discussing this matter,” Mr Ban said. Developing countries have long insisted that any Copenhagen deal must include assurances that they would receive finance flows of at least $100bn a year by 2020.

“I’m not quite sure [we can get a long-term financing number] . . . I don’t think the exact number itself should be all of this Copenhagen deal. There are many important issues,” he said. “If they are not able to agree this time at Copenhagen, then there needs to be some initial arrangement [on financing].”

Coming on the eve of the arrival of most of the expected 115-odd national leaders in Copenhagen, Mr Ban’s comments may trigger more disruptions in negotiations, with only three days left to conclude an agreement. But Mr Ban urged poor countries to sign a deal in any case. “For the common good, all countries should participate,” he said.

“This is a time when common sense, compromise and partnership should prevail.”

In the meantime, he pointed to the discussions of “fast start” financing of $10bn a year for the next three years for developing countries. That should become available to poor countries with “immediate operational effect”, he said. “That is a good start.”

Financial assistance from the rich to the poor world has long been regarded as one of the four elements essential for a deal at Copenhagen. However, Mr Ban recalibrated that expectation: “One of the four elements was financial support, not just long-term [financing].”

For most poor countries, the “fast start” financing is only a minor part of the assistance they have been demanding.

A small group of developing countries has been obstructing the talks, by introducing last-minute changes to draft texts of an agreement and calling for harder positions than most other countries are prepared to take. The core aim of the talks has been to limit warming to no more than 2 degrees celsius above so-called pre-industrial levels, in line with scientific advice. But some nations have now called for an agreement that would limit global temperature rises to no more than 1 degree, which most regard as impossible.

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