Talks on climate deal heat up over bill for global warming

The trillion-dollar question of who should pay for global warming is coming to a head in talks on an international climate pact, as developing countries worry they won't get enough money to tackle the problem.

Bonn: The trillion-dollar question of who should pay for global warming is coming to a head in talks on an international climate pact, as developing countries worry they won't get enough money to tackle the problem.

With just five weeks left before a UN climate summit in Paris, developing countries closed ranks at weeklong talks that ended today in Bonn and called on wealthy nations to make firm financial commitments to help them fight and adapt to climate change.

The Paris summit "will be judged by what is contained in the core agreement on finance. For us, that will be the yardstick for success," said Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa, who chairs a developing country bloc of 134 countries.

In testy exchanges with the Algerian and US diplomats leading the climate talks, Mxakato-Diseko complained that a draft deal they produced was "lopsided" in favor of developed countries. She even drew an analogy to apartheid.

Western delegates said they were disappointed by the characterisation of the talks as a rich-poor struggle over responsibilities to address climate change.

"We strongly oppose that division," Netherlands climate envoy Michel Rentenaar told The Associated Press. "If there is a division, it's perhaps between those who want an ambitious accord and those who don't."

The slow pace in Bonn contrasted with the momentum outside the UN talks. Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy economies this year endorsed "deep cuts" in climate-warming greenhouse gases, top polluters China and the US deepened their cooperation on climate issues and Pope Francis called fighting climate change a moral imperative.

Yet delegates said it wasn't surprising that negotiations on the Paris agreement would get stuck on money, always a stumbling block in the UN talks, and that it probably would be one of the last issues to get untangled.

The Paris deal is likely to have some provisions on financing projects to fight global warming for poor countries. The question is how specific they will be.

"Some people just want to plant a few seeds and some want the rosebush in full bloom," said Alden Meyer, an observer of the talks from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Developed countries have agreed to boost the flow of climate finance to USD 100 billion annually by 2020, but are reluctant to make firm commitments beyond that, partly because of budget uncertainties. They also want to expand the pool of donors to include China and other emerging economies.

European Union negotiator Sarah Blau said that was already happening outside the negotiations, pointing to a recent U.S.-China announcement where Beijing pledged $3.1 billion in climate finance to poor countries. The U.N. Talks, she said, are "somehow detached from what's happening really on the ground." 

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