Copenhagen climate accord faces $30 billion aid test

OSLO (Reuters) - Rich nations are pledging almost $30 billion in aid from 2010-12 to help the poor combat climate change in an early test of last month’s “Copenhagen Accord” that is vague about conditions and who gets cash.

Delegates applaud as the Copenhagen accord is adopted after an all-night plenary meeting at the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen December 19, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Strong

Donors will probably have to decide for themselves how to spend money in 2010 since there is no mechanism to guide handouts. A “Copenhagen Green Climate Fund,” also planned by last month’s low-ambition summit, does not yet exist.

“The expectation is that donor countries will deliver through existing bilateral and multilateral channels of their own choosing,” Elliot Diringer of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change said of the fast-track funds.

“There are some legal hiccups created by the accord not being a (U.N.) instrument,” said Gordon Shepherd, director of international policy at the WWF environmental group. But he said a flow of funds could help build trust between rich and poor.

The Copenhagen Accord, worked out by top emitters led by China and the United States, aims to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times. It did not win formal backing as a U.N. pact after opposition from seeral developing nations including Venezuela and Sudan.

Supporters are now due to sign up by January 31.

Aid pledges for 2010-12 include about $15 billion by Japan and 7.3 billion euros ($10.32 billion) by the European Union.

The United States has more than $1 billion for climate aid in 2010 is a leading donor in a 2010-12 plan worth $3.5 billion with Australia, France, Japan, Norway and Britain to slow deforestation. Many of the offers have conditions attached.

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In New Delhi on Sunday, China, India, Brazil and South Africa said the release of $10 billion in 2010 would show the rich countries’ commitment to help. They promised to submit their own climate action plans to the United Nations by January 31.

In Tokyo, a senior official said Japan was ready to contribute from 2010. Exact spending would be decided later.

“Japan will insist countries...step up their acknowledgement to the Copenhagen Accord as Japan is ready to play its own part,” a senior Japanese official said. A climate change law will be submitted to Japan’s parliament by early March.

The European Commission plans to lay out spending options in a report to 27 EU members. That is unlikely until the new commission takes office on February 9 at the earliest.

“The European Commission doesn’t have a specific fast track fund, but we have aid programmes and bilateral programmes where money might be made available,” spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said. Most EU cash comes direct from national governments.

U.S. Deputy special climate envoy Jonathan Pershing said on January 13: “It’s not an open-ended promise that there is money on the table and you do nothing and it comes rolling in. There are actions that have to be taken.”

Norway said it wanted the $3.5 billion forest carbon plan to be coordinated as far as possible by all donors. “How this will be done is not yet clear,” lead negotiator Audun Rosland said.

The Accord says the fast-track funds should be balanced between helping poor nations cut emissions and adapt to climate change such as floods, droughts, disease and rising sea levels.

It says priority for adaptation should go to the “most vulnerable developing countries, such as the least developed countries, small island developing states and Africa.”

But some could get a disproportionate share if all donors decide their own programmes. The United Nations wants donors to channel cash through existing international funds.

In the longer term, there is also a huge gap between the $10 billion a year start-up cash and a goal of $100 billion a year in aid from 2020 set by the accord.

(With reporting by Richard Cowan in Washington, Risa Maeda in Tokyo, Pete Harrison in Brussels; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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