EU says fulfils climate aid pledge, but is it new?

BRUSSELS Mon Nov 15, 2010 5:04pm EST

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European governments have fulfilled a promise to deliver 2.2 billion euros ($3 billion) to help poor countries tackle climate change, EU reports show, but critics say the money might have come from rebranding existing aid pledges.

At last year's Copenhagen climate summit, rich countries pledged $30 billion of "fast start finance" to help poorer countries adapt to climate change and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions during 2010-2012.

The move was largely designed to prove to poor countries that promises of climate aid were more than just rhetoric, so proof of delivery is seen as key for progress in the next round of climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, starting on November 29.

"The EU member states and the European Commission have confirmed 2.2 billion euros of fast-start finance in 2010, thereby remaining on track to meet its overall commitment of 7.2 billion across the 2010-12 fast start period," says a draft EU report seen by Reuters.

The projects include some that seek to help poor countries adapt to changing weather patterns, such as a German grant of 300,000 euros to help Mozambique build a flood warning system.

The Czech Republic also granted 400,000 euros to Ethiopia for projects to revitalize wells, increase water supplies and halt the erosion of soils.

Other projects focus on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, such as a 900,000 euro grant from Germany to Brazil to help recycle refrigerators in a way that does not release powerful planet-warming gases.

Others are more abstract, such as a 50,000 euro grant from Britain "to increase African voice and influence, through high-profile African figures, for a new international climate change deal."

Some development groups suspect, however, that EU countries might simply be recycling existing aid pledges already made under the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals.

"Europe has a chance to rebuild trust with poor countries at Cancun, but the draft EU report on short-term climate finance suggests they are attempting a cover-up," said Elise Ford, head of Oxfam's EU policy office in Brussels.

"Poor countries deserve to know whether EU cash for climate action is really new and fresh or whether it is just being repackaged from past aid promises," she added.

Four of the EU's 27 member countries have not delivered on their promises, the EU draft report says, without naming them.

But that would not be surprising, given that Europe is wrestling with its worst economic crisis in 80 years, and many countries have to make deep budget cuts at home.

(Reporting by Pete Harrison, editing by Jane Baird)

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