EU climate funding threatened

BRUSSELS Thu Mar 4, 2010 6:28pm EST

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a news conference in Brussels November 19, 2009 on the Copenhagen climate conference. REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a news conference in Brussels November 19, 2009 on the Copenhagen climate conference.

Credit: Reuters/Sebastien Pirlet

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's development chief may be forced to name and shame France, Germany and Italy for not living up to their aid commitments, contributing to a roughly $17 billion funding gap this year.

Andris Piebalgs warned in January he would clearly identify EU countries that failed to meet their aid commitments.

"In 2010, the EU aid disbursements are likely to further grow to approximately 54-55 billion euros ($74-75 billion)," a leaked EU document seen by Reuters shows. "Many member states will most probably not reach their... aid targets. A gap of 12-13 billion euros remains."

The paper did not name France, Germany or Italy, but an OECD report last month said they were among the EU's worst performers.

The paper also warned the shortfall threatens the EU's standing in climate talks, which this year aim to build on the weak accord reached in Copenhagen in December.

"There is a risk of conflict with new financial commitments the EU has taken in the framework of the Copenhagen accord," warns the paper.

The EU has pledged to urgently channel 7.3 billion euros in "climate aid" to poor countries over three years to help them cut emissions from industry and tackle climate impacts on crops.

That would plug a gap until a global climate deal is struck for the years after 2013.

The paper on overseas aid praises five countries -- Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands -- for overachieving, while Britain and Spain are named as key players to help make up the shortfall.

Anti-poverty group Oxfam said the EU needed a radical new plan that made aid pledges legally binding and set timetables.

"These targets are not just numbers," said Oxfam's Elise Ford. "This money is about mothers and babies in poor countries getting health care, about children going to school."

Under the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, the European Union has committed to handing over 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) for development assistance.

A U.N. conference in New York in September will assess progress in 2010, by which time EU countries are supposed to have reached an interim target of 0.56 percent of GNI. But they are falling short at around 0.46 percent.

(Reporting by Pete Harrison; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Photo

California's historic drought

With reservoirs at record lows, California is in the midst of the worst drought in decades.  Slideshow