GENEVA (Reuters) - About 45 nations met on Thursday to seek ways to raise billions of dollars in aid to help the poor combat climate change as the United Nations warned them of a long haul to slow global warming.
Environment ministers and senior officials in Geneva were reviewing whether rich nations, hit by austerity cuts, are keeping a promise of $30 billion in “new and additional” climate aid for 2010-12 made at the U.N.’s Copenhagen summit.
“The funds are critical” to build trust between rich and poor damaged in Copenhagen, Christiana Figueres, the U.N.’s climate chief, told Reuters in an interview.
About 120 countries in Copenhagen also pledged to increase aid for developing nations to $100 billion aid a year from 2020, tapping sources such as carbon taxes or more costly plane tickets.
Figueres said cash could be a key to unlock progress on other climate problems, such as sharing clean technologies or protecting carbon-storing forests at the next meeting of environment ministers in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29-December 10.
Swiss Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger told the start of the two-day talks that “the regulation of the financial issues is a key precondition for the successful conclusion of the climate negotiations in Cancun.”
But Figueres predicted there would be no new global treaty to combat climate change in Cancun, even though she said that extreme weather such as floods in Pakistan or Russia’s heat wave were “warning bells” about the risks of inaction.
“I don’t think that governments are considering (a treaty) for Cancun,” she said. A year ago, many nations were hoping that the Copenhagen summit in December would be a “big bang” deal to help solve climate change.
But that didn’t happen and Figueres, head of the Bonn-based U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said it was more realistic to look for gradual progress in solving climate change, adding that there was no “magic bullet.”
Cancun could end up setting a new deadline for working out a more binding deal, perhaps by the end of 2012.
Figueres said it was vital that developed nations be able to point to $10 billion allocated to climate aid for 2010 by the time they meet in Cancun. But she urged developing nations to give leeway in judging if it was truly “new and additional” as agreed in Copenhagen.
She said that all nations’ 2010 budgets were agreed by national parliaments by the time of the December summit. “There are justifiable reasons to see why 100 percent of this allocation (in 2010) will not be additional,” she said.
The Netherlands plans to launch a new website on Friday to track climate promises.
An overview by Reuters shows that aid promises total $29.8 billion for 2010-12, but it is unclear how much is new. Japan, for instance, has pledged the most aid, at $15 billion, but much of that was decided several years ago.
Janos Pasztor, director of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s climate change support team, said experts were trying to balance competing interests to come up with ways of raising $100 billion a year from 2020.
“There are different combinations of these sources that can give you $100 billion or more,” he said, referring to ideas such as levies on carbon trading or plane fares. “But none of the sources on its own will be enough.”‘
Editing by Charles Dick