U.N. talks split on aid to help poor cope with warming

POZNAN, Poland Wed Dec 10, 2008 3:11pm EST

A woman cries as she flees from her damaged house in Palopo, Indonesia, November 5, 2008. REUTERS/Yusuf Ahmad

A woman cries as she flees from her damaged house in Palopo, Indonesia, November 5, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Yusuf Ahmad

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POZNAN, Poland (Reuters) - U.N. climate negotiators tried on Wednesday to break the deadlock over controlling planned payouts from a new fund to help poor nations adapt to floods, droughts and rising seas.

The 189-nation talks split between rich and poor countries over the Adaptation Fund -- due to start in 2009 -- which could grow to about $300 million a year by 2012 to help developing nations cope with global warming.

Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said that the fund was "close to finalization" but that the standoff would have to be resolved by about 100 environment ministers attending the meeting on Thursday and Friday.

"On the whole things are looking pretty good," he told a news conference of overall progress at the talks in Poznan, Poland, in reviewing work toward a new U.N. climate treaty meant to be decided in Copenhagen in late 2009.

De Boer wants the fund to start payments next year, in a decision he says would be a "cornerstone" of the Poznan meeting.

Adapting to climate change -- for instance by strengthening sea defenses or developing drought-resistant crops -- is likely to cost tens of billions of dollars a year by 2030, he said.

But economic recession is testing the willingness of many nations to launch costly new projects to fight climate change, or push ahead with ever deeper greenhouse gas cuts as part of a the planned Copenhagen pact.

Separately, indigenous peoples accused the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand of blocking a reference to their "rights" to land in a text about a need to safeguard tropical forests under a new climate pact.

It merely spoke of a need to involve them in projects.

TREES

"We demand an immediate suspension of all ... initiatives (to slow deforestation) and carbon market schemes in indigenous peoples territories until indigenous peoples' rights are fully recognized, protected and promoted," a forum grouping indigenous peoples said in a statement.

Trees soak up carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, as they grow. The new pact may pay out credits to slow burning of forests to clear land for farming, which generates about 20 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted by human activities.

And the talks did not agree how to govern payouts to protect forests -- that could also rise to total tens of billions of dollars per year -- leaving the issue for Copenhagen.

Under the Adaptation Fund, developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America want quick access to any funds for adaptation, to be generated by a two percent tax on investments in clean energy projects in developing nations.

The World Bank, which is trustee of the Adaptation Fund and where rich donor governments have a dominant voice, says it wants to ensure proper oversight of payouts.

"Our role is ... to ensure there is a good process in place so the fund itself can feel sure its funds are going to their intended purposes," Katherine Sierra, the World Bank's vice president for sustainable development, told Reuters.

Also on Wednesday, China accused some nations of backing away from promises to help the poor to fight climate change.

"The only conclusion many people like me are drawing is that some (rich) countries are preparing for the great escape from Copenhagen," China's climate ambassador Yu Qingtai told Reuters.

-- For Reuters latest environment blogs click on: blogs.reuters.com/environment/

(Editing by Louise Ireland and Mark Trevelyan)

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