Poor accuse rich of meanness in U.N. climate fight

POZNAN, Poland (Reuters) - Developing nations accused the rich of meanness on Saturday at the end of U.N. climate talks that launched only a tiny fund to help poor countries cope with droughts, floods and rising seas.

A woman gives money to a Greenpeace activist dressed as a homeless polar bear who was trying to hitch hike to Copenhagen, in Poznan, where U.N. climate talks were held, December 12, 2008. Host Poland stuck to a proposal to agree a "Solidarity Partnership" at the end of U.N. climate talks on Friday despite criticism by many nations that progress was too scant to merit a sweeping title. The new climate treaty will be adopted in Copenhagen at a meeting from Nov. 30-Dec. 11, 2009. REUTERS/Nick Cobbing/Handout

They said the size of the Adaptation Fund -- worth just $80 million -- was a bad omen at the halfway mark of two years of negotiations on a new treaty to fight global warming designed to be agreed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.

“We are so sad and so disappointed,” Colombian Environment Minister Juan Lozano said of the December 1-12 talks, which went on into the early hours of Saturday and have been overshadowed by worries that global economic woes are drying up donor cash.

“The human side of climate change is the suffering of our orphans and our victims and that was not considered here. It’s a bad signal on the road to Copenhagen,” said Lozano.

“I must say that this is one of the saddest moments I have witnessed in all these years,” Indian representative Prodipto Ghosh told delegates at the 189-nation talks, adding he had attended U.N. climate meetings for 12 years.

Several other nations including Brazil, Costa Rica and Maldives made similar remarks.

Many delegates expressed hopes that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama would adopt more aggressive climate policies.

Environment ministers at the talks in Poland set rules for the Adaptation Fund, which is meant to help poor nations build flood defenses, develop drought-resistant crops, or produce storm warnings.

Polish Environment Minister Maciej Nowicki, the host, said the launch of the fund was the biggest achievement of Poznan. The fund, which can start paying out cash in 2009, has just $80 million but could rise to $300 million a year by 2012.

Related Coverage


U.N. projections are that poor nations will need tens of billions of dollars a year by 2030 to cope with climate change. Poland spent 24 million euros ($31.84 million) just to host the December 1-12 conference.

Developing nations accused the rich of blocking agreement in Poznan on a wider funding mechanism that could raise about $2 billion a year. The issue was delayed until 2009.

Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said the talks achieved all they had set out to do but acknowledged there was “some bitterness.”

“Half the work (for Copenhagen) hasn’t been done,” he said.

Still, he said Poznan had achieved a main task of reviewing progress toward a sweeping new global climate treaty in Copenhagen in December 2009 to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Environmentalists disagreed.

“We are desperately disappointed with the progress here,” said Stephanie Tunmore of the Greenpeace environmental group. “The stocktaking bit wasn’t difficult: ‘What did we do in 2008? Not much’.”

Slideshow ( 19 images )

Environmentalists accused Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand of blocking progress and failing to set ambitious new goals to cut emissions. By contrast, countries including Mexico, China and South Africa laid out ideas to curb rising emissions.

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said talks were on track. “Everyone said the fight against climate change is consistent with tackling the economic crisis,” he said.

European Union ministers in Poznan expressed relief after EU leaders in Brussels agreed a pact on Friday to cut greenhouse gases by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 -- after making costly concessions to east European countries.

Under the Adaptation Fund, cash is raised by a 2 percent levy on a U.N. system of projects to cut greenhouse gas emissions in poor nations. The levy has raised 60 million euros ($80 million) so far.

(Additional reporting by Anna Mudeva, Megan Rowling and Alister Doyle)

-- For Reuters latest environment blogs click on:

Editing by Michael Roddy and Ralph Gowling