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CLIMATE SCIENCE
Sceptical green urges smart billions to fight warming

Climate: Website tracks Copenhagen pledges
Geneva (AFP) Sept 3, 2010 - Six rich economies joined a website unveiled here Friday detailing pledges in short-term aid they made at last December's climate summit, a move aimed at restoring damaged trust with developing countries. The portal www.faststartfinance.org showed that Britain, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Norway had so far allocated the equivalent of 3.2 billion dollars in climate funds. Twenty-seven poorer countries are named as beneficiaries, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Morocco and the Philippines. Details of the projects and the timescale of funding were not given. A sixth donor, Germany, said it had promised 1.26 billion euros (1.61 billion dollars), but has yet to say how the money would be allotted.

"It will give trust that promises are being kept," Dutch Environment Minister Tineke Huizinga, who conceived the project, told reporters. "I expect in the months to come much more countries will sign in the website." The announcement was made on the sidelines of an informal meeting on climate finance in Geneva, gathering more than 40 countries. The US representative at the talks, Todd Stern, said Washington would contribute to the site with a "very detailed document" setting out its estimates of country-by-country undertakings.

"From the very beginning of the year, we have been very much focussed on the visibility of fast-start financing," he said. The commitments are part of an overall package of 30 billion dollars that rich countries declared in "fast-start" aid for 2010, 2011 and 2012 at the Copenhagen summit to help the poor tackle global warming and its impacts. The money was seen as a show of good faith in the troubled negotiations under the banner of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In the long term, according to a parallel but sketchier pledge made in Copenhagen, rich countries have promised to mobilise jointly 100 billion dollars a year by 2020. But the infighting that marred Copenhagen left scars of mistrust among developing countries.

Poorer nations are keeping a watchful eye on the fast-track finances, insisting that donors honour the Copenhagen vow that funding be "new and additional." Suspicions are high that a big chunk of the money will come from development aid or other budgets, thus damaging poverty alleviation in order to fulfill a political commitment. "This initiative is a step in the right direction, but the question of additional funds is essential if trust is to be rebuilt," Romain Benicchio, Oxfam's policy advisor, told AFP. Huizinga acknowledged that the information was provided by donor countries and the new portal "will not answer that particular debate" about additional sources. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres endorsed the scheme.

She said agreeing on finance was a "golden key" to unlock success at the UNFCCC's upcoming conference in Cancun, Mexico. The November 29-December 10 parlay aims at reviving negotiations with an eye to sealing the elusive climate treaty a year later. Figueres on Thursday pleaded for tolerance if money disbursed in 2010 came in part from existing budgets, given that the promises were made at the end of 2009. "It would be understandable if not all 100 percent of the 10 billion for this year to be new and additional because those budgets have already been set," she said. The Copenhagen Accord declared developed countries were committed "to provide new and additional resources... approaching 30 billion dollars" for 2010-2012. This included forestry and investments through international institutions. Allocations for tackling emissions of greenhouse gases and for coping with the effects of climate change would be "balanced."
by Staff Writers
Copenhagen (AFP) Sept 5, 2010
Bjoern Lomborg, the bad boy of the climate debate who has rejected for years "alarmist" prophecies from environmentalists, stresses in a new book the need to invest billions to fight global warming.

In "Smart Solutions to Climate Change," Lomborg lashes out at current policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions but also highlights the need to spend 100 billion dollars a year on intelligent research and green technologies.

By spending billions in a smart way, the world could essentially resolve the climate change problem by the end of this century, insists Lomborg, who edited the new book containing proposals from 28 economists -- including three Nobel laureates -- gathered ahead of last year's climate summit in Copenhagen.

This may seem like an about-turn by the self-proclaimed sceptical environmentalist who had earlier said reducing greenhouse gas emissions should not be a priority as long as there are problems like poverty and famine.

But the 45-year-old Dane, with his mop of blond hair and boyish grin, insists he has not shifted positions.

"I am saying what I have always said: that the climate is a real and important, man-made problem, but that we are handling it badly," he told AFP.

Lomborg insists he has never been opposed to fighting climate change, but only to narrowly focused, inefficient projects aimed at lowering carbon dioxide emissions.

So why the sudden increased emphasis on the need for investment?

"Now that the international community has decided to invest massive amounts of money in the fight against climate change -- much more than in the past. I have to take a position in this new situation," he says.

"The international community has decided to spend huge amounts to fight global warming, but with very little hope of actually cooling down the planet," he charges, pointing out that "this is why I suggest using the money in a smarter way to protect the environment."

The author of the 2001 book "The Sceptical Environmentalist," who has figured on Time Magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people, maintains he is still a sceptic "towards current solutions aimed at reducing CO2 emissions, and sceptical of those who exaggerate the threat and create a wind of panic."

The preferred "green" policies of today's world leaders, he laments, are like "slashing a sword in the water."

The European Union for instance "dedicates 250 billion dollars (209 billion euros) each year" towards cutting its member states' CO2 output by 20 percent over the next decade.

The result however, Lombor estimates, will only be "a temperature reduction of 0.05 degrees (Celsius) by the end of the century."

Another example of misused funds, according to the Dane, can be found in Germany, which "has invested enormous amounts in solar energy -- some 75 billion dollars -- which is more than any other country."

This, he says, "will slow global warming by a mere seven hours by the end of the 20th century."

"It would be more prudent to spend these funds on development of more powerful solar panels that are less expensive to use than fossil fuels," he insists.

Research and development are pet themes for Lomborg, who is also set to present a new documentary at the Toronto Film Festival this month: "Cool It."

The film, he says, is a kind of sequel to Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," involving a lot of travel around the globe to meet people working on new, innovative green energy projects.

Instead of just focusing on reducing emissions, the world should "invest in research and development of green technologies aimed at making them less expensive and accessible to all, and thereby replace (polluting) fossil fuels," he says.

The answer to the planet's woes, Lomborg insists, is to find creative and efficient solutions, like a proposal supported by most of the economists in his new book for a carbon tax that "corresponds to the damages (the gas) causes to the climate: five euros per tonne of CO2."

Doing so, he claims, "would be enough to raise 250 billion dollars around the world to finance research and development of new technologies, and to solve the world's other problems like famine, poverty and third world diseases."

In any case, Lomborg points out that the problem of climate change cannot be "solved until the big CO2 emitting countries, headed by the United States, China and India, transition from oil and coal to renewable energy."

"And this will not happen until we have developed much more efficient solutions at the disposal of everyone because they are less expensive," he says.

earlier related report
Greater clarity on climate finance at 46-nation forum
Geneva (AFP) Sept 3, 2010 - Forty-six countries gained a clearer view on Friday of what it may take to secure a deal worth hundreds of billions of dollars in climate aid, an issue that threatens hopes for a treaty on global warming.

A two-day informal meeting of the biggest players in the world climate haggle indicated growing support for a "Green Fund" to help dispense up to 100 billion dollars annually by 2020, said several of those attending.

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa said it was possible the fund could be okayed by the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December.

"We are hoping that we can make a very formal decision regarding the establishment of the fund and at the same time decide on how to make this fund be able to channel resources immediately, because there is this sense of urgency," Espinosa told reporters.

Her optimism was dampened, though, by the United States.

It warned that it expected quid pro quos on other big climate issues -- notably curbs on greenhouse gases and monitoring of national pledges -- before the Green Fund could get underway.

"This has to be part of a package," US climate envoy Todd Stern said.

"That doesn't mean that you can't negotiate quite far down the road on this... (but) all of those key elements have to move, not just one or two."

The Geneva meeting aimed at restoring badly-damaged trust and focussing on pragmatism after the near-disaster of the Copenhagen climate summit last December.

That gathering was supposed to have sealed an accord to ratchet up cuts in heat-trapping fossil-fuel gases from 2012 and stump up billions of dollars in help to climate-vulnerable countries.

Driven to the brink by nitpicking and fingerpointing, the summit yielded a desperately crafted, last-minute document, the Copenhagen Accord.

It set a goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), but did not specify by which date, and opened up a register of voluntary pledges on emissions cuts.

Rich countries also promised to mobilise up to 100 billion dollars in climate aid annually by 2020.

The Geneva talks, gathering the major rich economies, emerging giants and countries representative of the developing world, aimed at swapping ideas on who should administer the money and how it should be supervised.

"We debated openly, often outside of our traditional negotiating positions and explored the issues together," said Swiss Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger, who co-hosted the meeting with Mexico's Espinosa.

"In this way, we increased our understanding of the problems and the possible solutions."

UNFCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres described the event as "a very, very helpful discussion," while French climate ambassador Brice Lalonde said the outcome was "very concrete."

"Many proposals have been made. It's now up to negotiators to take these ideas and sort them out and bring them into the overall discussions," he told AFP.

Greenpeace's climate spokesman, Wendel Trio, said time was running out for agreeing how the money would be raised.

"Without concrete progress on this issue it seems very unlikely that a lot of progress can be made in general in Cancun," Trio said in an email.

"We urge governments to at least agree on the operationalisation of the climate fund as well as agree on a continuation of the process to get agreement on innovative sources for climate funding."

A panel of experts mandated by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is looking at the range of funding options, including carbon taxes and levies on airline targets. It meets for the final time in Addis Ababa on October 12 and will deliver its report "by October 30," said panel member Janos Pasztor.

The shock of Copenhagen's near-fiasco has caused expectations for a climate treaty to be dialled down.

At best, say experts, Cancun will deliver good progress on finance, technology transfer, preventing deforestation and encouraging skills-building in poor countries.

Even then, agreement in these areas will still be contingent on a deal on emissions controls and the legal status of the future treaty.

That headache could be left to next year, meaning that the treaty would be completed at the end of 2011 at the earliest.



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