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Emerging world looks for climate cash at G20

by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Sept 21, 2009
A week of climate talks comes to a head in the upcoming G20 summit in Pittsburgh, where emerging powers will press rich nations for major funding to combat global warming and its impact.

Negotiations ahead of the UN climate showdown in Copenhagen in December are at a critical stage and observers are looking desperately to the US gatherings to provide momentum.

Efforts to build the coveted post-2012 treaty on climate change are hamstrung by a classic dilemma -- who moves first. Most countries have staked out positions and are waiting for others to make pledges.

Emerging countries universally agree that money is a key sticking point, with rich economies expected to find funds to help poorer nations buy clean technology and cope with increased droughts, floods and rising seas.

Saleemul Huq, senior fellow in the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), believes the G20 summit that starts Thursday is a chance for rich players to put a figure on their largesse.

"Money is the glue that holds everything together. With no money and no glue, everything falls apart," he told AFP from London.

"In the G20, it's an opportunity for the rich countries to give an indication of how much money they are prepared to put on the table. That offer has to be out there before Copenhagen, to unlock the process."

India and China, the world's most populous nations, have said they are prepared to do their bit to fight climate change, but expect the financial burden to fall elsewhere.

"The Chinese and Indians have honed a very good double act at the G20," said Huq. "They say, 'let's see the colour of your money before we offer anything'."

So far, the money picture is hazy, for there is no consensus on how much money is needed, nor how it should be raised.

The G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, in July tasked rich country finance ministers with reporting back at Pittsburgh with figures.

Britain and the EU have suggested that developing countries would require annual funding of 100-150 billion dollars by the year 2020, while South Africa has estimated 200-400 billion dollars.

"We want them (the rich countries) to support the process and agree that they should give money," the deputy director general of the South African environment ministry, Joanne Yawitch, told AFP.

Emissions from rich countries are historically to blame for today's warming, but tomorrow's pollution will come overwhelmingly from the populous developing giants.

The poorer nations are unwilling to accept binding emissions targets that could slow their emergence from poverty, but rich countries want some sort of commitment -- which might be induced with enough cash, some analysts believe.

"The most important (thing for emerging countries) is avoiding constraints on growth and poverty reduction," Michael Spence, a respected economist and Nobel laureate, told AFP.

He believes attempts to pressure emerging giants into binding targets will backfire and result in deadlock.

"They view acceptance of long-term targets as very risky for good reason. We and they don't know what the costs of these targets will turn out to be," he said.

India, apparently fearful of being cast in the role of intransigent polluter, said on Thursday it was willing to set its own non-binding targets.

"We are in a position to quantify these reductions into a broadly indicative number that can be shared with the rest of the world," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told the Indian Express in an interview.

China, by some estimates the world's biggest carbon polluter, has also stuck firmly to its central argument, explained by Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of the National Reform and Development Commission, in a briefing last week.

"Climate change is caused by the long-term emissions of developed countries in the course of industrialisation," Xie, China's point man on climate change, said.

"First, developed countries should make deep cuts in emissions. Second, developed countries should make good on their commitments to provide financial, technical and capacity building support to developing countries."

G20 nation and emerging giant Brazil is seen as a more flexible partner for the rich world. Environment Minister Carlos Minc told AFP last week that the country wanted to be a "bridge" between the two camps.

Before Pittsburgh, a series of important meetings will enable major players and regional blocs to sound each other out.

A ministerial-level gathering of the world's 17 largest carbon polluters took place in Washington last Thursday and Friday; poor small-island states are to host a meeting in New York on Monday; and on Tuesday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will stage a summit at UN headquarters.


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