Doha: The biggest humanitarian challenge which our world is facing right now is Climate change. To deal with this crisis and to chart out plausible measures to avert the impending crisis, 200 countries will meet in Qatar for annual talks starting tomorrow. The focus will be on discussing slowing global warming; one of the main challenges will be raising climate aid for poor countries at a time when budgets are strained by financial turmoil.
Nearly USD 30 billion in grants and loans promised in 2009 have been delivered by the rich nations but their commitments expire this year. And a Green Climate Fund designed to channel up to USD 100 billion annually to poor countries has yet to begin operating.
Tim Gore of the British charity Oxfam said developing countries, including island nations for whom rising sea levels pose a threat to their existence, stand before a "climate fiscal cliff."
Talking to The Associated Press he said "So what we need for those countries in the next two weeks are firm commitments from rich countries to keep giving money to help them to adapt to climate change,"
Creating a structure for climate financing has so far been one of the few tangible outcomes of the two-decade-old UN climate talks, which have failed in their main purpose: reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet, melting ice caps, glaciers and permafrost, shifting weather patterns and raising sea levels.
Kyoto Protocol which was the only only binding treaty to limit such emissions, expires this year.So the most urgent task by environment ministers and climate officials meeting in the Qatari capital is to agree on an extension.
But only the European Union and a few other countries are willing to join a second commitment period with new emissions targets. And the EU`s chief negotiator, Artur Runge-Metzger, admitted that such a small group is not going to make a big difference in the fight against climate change.
"I think we cover at most 14 per cent of global emissions," he said.
Kyoto was rejected by US because it didn`t cover rapidly growing economies such as China and India. Some hope for stronger commitments from US delegates in Doha as work begins on drafting a new global treaty that would also apply to developing countries including China, the world`s top carbon emitter.
That treaty is supposed to be adopted in 2015 and take effect five years later.
The rich- poor divide is deepened by the controversial Climate financing issue and that has hampered the UN climate talks since their launch in 1992. Critics of the UN process see the climate negotiations as a cover for attempts to redistribute wealth.