13 june 2011

US criticised over climate change stance at UN talks

FRANK McDONALD, Environment Editor Irish Times

Mon, Jun 13, 2011

AS TWO new reports warned that agriculture and food production is likely to be severely hit by global warming, the latest round of United Nations climate talks in Bonn is making little or no progress in dealing with substantive issues.

“Some say that we are discussing the agenda and getting bogged down with procedural matters,” said Argentina’s ambassador, Jorge Argüello. “Make no mistake: this is not a procedural negotiation. The negotiations are highly political . . .” He said the Bonn talks, which continue until Friday, would determine “what remains on the negotiating table” in the run-up to December’s UN climate change summit in Durban, South Africa. “We cannot go home empty-handed”, he warned.

Mr Argüello, chairman of the G77 group of 134 developing countries to which China is also affiliated, said: “What is at stake is the chance for Durban to mean we get back on track in order to preserve the environment.”

He noted that the agreement reached at last year’s UN climate summit in Cancún, Mexico, was “to continue to work on the pending issues, some of which are key for progress this year – not just for developing countries but for the majority of the parties”.

In a veiled reference to the United States and others, Mr Argüello said developing countries were faced in Bonn with “inflexibility from some parties who are determined to prejudge the results of Durban without even the chance for a dialogue on the substance.” He said all 194 parties involved in the talks had made commitments at the 2007 summit in Bali, Indonesia, but some parties “are now trying to preclude any chance of completing the negotiations from the start, by going back on those commitments.”

However, there was a “real will from the G77 and China to complete the mandate we have and to extend the international climate regime for the next five years, including a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol” after it expires at the end of 2012.

Ilana Solomon, climate expert with ActionAid, said the US delegation in Bonn “refuses to discuss” concrete ways of raising money to help poor countries cope with climate change, and this risked turning the much-anticipated “Green Climate Fund” into an “empty vault”.

She said it was “simply unacceptable” for the US to backtrack on secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s commitment at the Copenhagen summit in 2009 to work with others to raise $100 billion (€69.7 billion) a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020.

At Cancún, developed countries, including the US, reaffirmed their commitment to this goal.

“Now, however, the US is saying that it is not prepared to talk about how to generate that finance within the ongoing UN process,” Ms Solomon said.

She said there were “multiple ways” to generate adequate and sustainable public financing for climate change”, including taxing financial transactions, aviation and shipping, using International Monetary Fund special drawing rights or “redirecting” fossil fuel subsidies.

According to CIDSE, an international network of Catholic aid agencies (including Trócaire), a tax of just 0.05 per cent on international financial transactions would raise as much as €465 billion a year that could be used to “finance the fight against climate change”.

In a report issued last week, the Brussels-based organisation said such a tax “would mainly impact on short-term trading, which has no added value for the real economy, and contribute to the stabilisation of financial markets by reducing speculation”. Network’s president Chris Bain said it would “generate substantial amounts of money to help fill the climate fund and finance other global challenges, without requiring additional sacrifices from the taxpayer”. Thus, there was “no excuse for procrastination”.

But the necessary political will was lacking, he said. “Countries like Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg are supportive, while many others, including the UK, the US and the Netherlands, are still unwilling to consider taxing financial transactions.”

Meanwhile, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said climate change “will significantly impact agriculture by increasing water demand, limiting crop productivity and reducing water availability in areas where irrigation is most needed”. A separate report by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research predicted tropical regions are likely to be worst hit, with widespread famine in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, areas where millions already lack enough food.

Oxfam’s climate adviser Tim Gore said global warming could “devastate our future food supply”. Calling on those involved in the Bonn talks to take notice, he said: “We need less talk and more action if a warming world is to feed itself.”

© 2011 The Irish Times

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