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Climate change negotiations to open in Doha | Pacific Beat

Climate change negotiations to open in Doha

Climate change negotiations to open in Doha

Updated 26 November 2012, 12:28 AEDT

A recently published report by the International Institute for Environment and Development suggests wealthier nations need to cough up more of money they've promised to help smaller nations deal with climate change issues.

In 2009, industrialised nations pledged to provide developing countries with US$30 billion by the end of 2012.

So far, only US$23.6 billion of that money has been committed - and just 20 per cent of "fast-start" finance has been allocated to projects that will help poor nations adapt to a changing climate.

The issue is expected to be high on the agenda at the latest round of UN climate change negotiations, which open this week in Doha.

David Ciplet, Brown University in the US is on line now - he's also keeping his eye on this weeks latest round of intergovernmental climate-change negotiations, which begin this week in Doha.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: David Ciplet, Climate and Development Lab, Brown University, United States


CIPLET: We know that there are going to be some additional commitments that come in from a few parties in the last minutes in 2012. We've already just received additional figures from the United States, but in addition to the overall amount, there's concerns with whether or not this money is actually new, we call the new and additional, or whether it's just money that's taken from existing development projects, such as health and education. So there's concerns about the overall amounts, whether it's new money. We heard about in terms of whether there's enough money going to help countries adapt to climate change, so these are some of the issues that we've been following.
COUTTS: Well, what has the short form meant, whether it's new or old money. What's it meant to the nations that are waiting to receive it?
CIPLET: Well, I think it's becoming increasingly evident to people around the world that climate change is a reality right now. This is particularly true for the poorer countries, for the 48 least developed countries in the world. Their populations are five times more likely to die from climate-related disasters. And just an example of the shortcomings of this money, there's been planning for the most urgent needs in the 48 poorest countries in the world, that's taken place over a four or five year period to develop these plans and there's an estimate of $US3 billion needed overall to meet these most urgent needs in the 48 poorest countries. And of that funding, we've only seen $US500 million allocated for the least developed countries funds to meet these programs and this a small amount of money in the grand scheme of things, for the amount of progress and the amount of good this money can do. So we hope that Doha for the next negotiations we'll see more money going towards adaptations and to the most vulnerable and making sure this money actually reaches the projects it needs to reach on the ground.
COUTTS: Well, what needs to be change in terms of climate finance in order to address climate change responsibly moving forward?
CIPLET: I think the biggest issues going to be that we're just are finishing right now what's called the Fast Start finance period, which is between 2010 and 2012 and wealthy countries promised that they were going to scale up climate finance to $US100 billion a year by 2020. Now that might still not be enough to meet the problem, but it's a good start and we need to get there. So we're right now starting with what's called the Scale Up period, which is between now and 2020 and so far, we haven't seen any real moves by wealthy countries to make new promises during this period and to show that they're actually taking this issue seriously and are going to indeed increase the funding in this coming year. And this is critical for progress in negotiations moving forward and as I mentioned, it's critical for people in impacted on the ground that are suffering right now from famines, and from other climate-related disasters. So I think there's a lot of hope going into Doha that we do see new public finance commitments that these will be grants and that we'll see more adequate finance moving forward.
COUTTS: Well, less than half of the Fast Start finance is in the form of grants. The rest is loans, which means that poor countries must repay with interest the costs of adapting to a problem that they haven't caused. Well, that's a double-edged sword, of course, but how many of these countries will be in the position to actually pay it back and the interest?
CIPLET: I think that's a key issue here that when we're talking about particularly adapting to climate change, these are countries that are facing problems right now and often times they're already heavily indebted and have plenty of loans that they're trying to repay already. So we really need to see that moving towards this $US100 billion figure a year, there needs to be public money, it needs to be grant money. We need to make sure that, particularly for meeting adaptation needs, that countries are able to use this money and it doesn't further indebt them, because a lot of these countries aren't in the position to repay these loans and being hit by climate disasters has multiple impacts on economies. They can make it hard to meet basic human needs in terms of food and health and education and we need to make sure that we can still meet the development goals that we set forward.
COUTTS: I'm speaking with David Ciplet, of Brown University in the United States, co-author of a report into where the money has actually gone, how much has been spent and how much is still to come for climate change development for the small island states. 
When you were looking into this report, only two of the ten donors that you assessed were delivering their fair share of climate finance based on their ability to pay and how much they contributed to climate change through emitting greenhouse gases in recent decades. Norway was performing the best. But what reasons did you find for these various countries - and I asked the outset why not, but individually, the countries did you get an answer?
CIPLET: We haven't done answers yet, and that's something that we'd like to hear in Doha is not only why we haven't seen countries step up to contribute their fair share, but we want to know more specifically how they're going to improve on this in the future. I think the key is collectively that finance is adequate coming from wealthy countries and I think part of that needs to happen with taxpayers and in wealthy countries that are starting to see the impacts of climate change and they care about this issue and see that this is an issue of fairness in the world.
COUTTS: Are there mitigating circumstances though with the way the world's economy is at the moment, the nations perhaps aren't able to contribute?
CIPLET: Sure. I mean an argument that we often hear is that that wealthy countries are in hard times now because of the global recession. And I think it's important to point out that this is an issue of political will and it's an issue of priorities. At the same time, that we've seen roughly $US1.5 billion a year spent on adaptation, which is a very small amount, that at the same time we've seen low estimates of $US400 billion a year that are being used for fossil fuel subsidies by wealthy countries. So wealthy countries are funding the main culprits of climate change. The fossil fuel industry has hundreds of times more funding than countries that are hardest hit by climate change and wealthy countries have promised that they're going to phase out fossil fuel subsidies as part of the G20 talks, but we've yet to see progress on this issue. And what we'd like to see is these countries reprioritise how they use these funds and divesting and phasing out of these fossil fuel subsidies and using that money instead to support climate change adaptation and litigation and I think this would be a win-win, not for the fossil fuel industry, but I think for the common good that this would be a really important reallocation of how we money.
COUTTS: And what would you expect to be seeing from this latest round of intergovernmental climate change negotiations this week in Doha?
CIPLET: I think a few things that we'd like to see move forward is one, we'd like to see concrete commitment from now, from 2012 until 2020 of how much funding will be provided for adaptation and mitigation and we'd like to see that promises be made specifically in terms of grant funding and as you mentioned, it is important that there's money available for countries to carry out adaptation and mitigation programs without having to repay these loans with interest.
In addition, we need to see more transparency. It's still very difficult to figure out where this money is going, how much money is actually reaching projects on the ground, and this is important for taxpayers in wealthy countries as it is for people who are suffering impact in developing countries. We need to know where this money is going and that it's being used effectively.
We also need to have progress in terms of adaptation and making sure that that we are supporting the needs of the most vulnerable countries and I think something they could really have a major impact in Doha is if the most urgent needs in the least developed countries was fully funded coming out of Doha and that commitment is what we need and that's a $US3 billion commitment and I think that would build a lot of goodwill moving forward.
And then on the mitigation issue, which is the major issue we need to be moving into real action before 2020, which is well before 2020. 2020 is now the benchmark of when action would begin and we know that's way too late. We need to start taking action right now and I think Australia has recently shown some leadership on that. We know the European Union is showing some leadership and we need some other countries in the world to step up and really take some immediate actions and real commitments responsibly moving forward.

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