Global Policy Forum

EU Set to Double Climate Aid for Development Countries to 2 billion euros


By Damian Carrington, Andrew Sparrow and agencies

December 11, 2009

EU nations are set to commit more than €2bn (£1.8bn) a year to help poorer countries cope with global warming, the leaders of Britain and France indicated today as they sought to bolster UN climate talks in Copenhagen.

The UK prime minister, Gordon Brown, and president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, said their two countries would contribute the bulk of that sum and were trying to persuade smaller members of the 27-state European Union to pledge more.

EU leaders failed on Thursday to come up with a firm figure for the fund, an embarrassing setback for a bloc that has seen itself as a trailblazer in the fight against global warming. Smaller eastern European states are reluctant to donate as they struggle with public sector debt and rising unemployment in the wake of the financial crisis.

The climate aid is intended to go towards a global $10bn (£6bn) annual fund for short-term help to poor countries, particularly in Africa. It would begin in January and run for three years, when any new climate treaty emerging from Copenhagen would come into force.

"There are few moments in history when nations are summoned to common decisions that will reshape the lives of men and women potentially for generations to come," Brown said.

He said the Copenhagen talks should pave the way to an ambitious and legally binding global treaty within six months.

The money would help poorer countries build coastal protection, modify or shift crops threatened by drought, build water supplies and irrigation systems, preserve forests, improve healthcare to deal with diseases spread by global warming, and move from fossil fuel to low-carbon energy systems, such as solar and wind power.

At the Commonwealth summit in Trinidad last month, Brown said the UK would contribute £800m to the three-year Copenhagen launch fund. Today's announcement will almost double that contribution. He left open the possibility of increasing that to £1.5bn if that helped to clinch a deal in Copenhagen next week.

The prime minister's spokesman in London said the money would come from the Department for International Development's existing budget and that the £1.5bn contribution would take Britain over the United Nations target that says countries should spend 0.7% of national income on international aid.

France will contribute €1.26bn over the next three years but it was unclear whether it could go higher at Copenhagen.

Germany, the most powerful economy in the EU, has not given any specific figure, but is expected to pay about 20% of the EU total.

The $10bn-a-year in short-term funds pales in comparison to the huge stimulus packages and bank bailouts paid by many governments in the wake of the global financial meltdown. But those economic woes are a big reason why many in Europe are reluctant to pay in even to a small global climate fund.

Brown said Europe will also pay its "fair share" of the much heavier long-term costs, estimated at at least $100bn a year after 2020.

Brown and Sarkozy also said they were hoping to get all EU members to agree to reduce carbon emissions by 30% from 1990 levels by 2020.

Two years ago, the EU was ahead of the pack when it pledged to cut 20% of emissions from 1990 levels by 2020 and to increase that to 30% if other big polluters made similar promises. Japan and Russia have now outpaced Europe with 25% cuts. The US is promising a 4% reduction from 1990 levels.

At Thursday's talks, 17 of the EU's 27 members came up with offers of money for the short-term fund but fell short of the targets leaders were seeking. Activists accused EU leaders of ceding their leadership role and are concerned that much of the money will be diverted from existing aid budgets.

"Many EU members have a track record of repackaging or re-announcing existing aid commitments. This appears to be the case here too. Real leadership on climate change requires real money and the EU is clearly failing here," said ActionAid's EU expert, Anne-Catherine Claude.


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