A stand-off over how many billions of dollars wealthy countries should stump up to help poorer nations cope with climate change over the next three years is prompting concern that fresh UN climate negotiations may be headed for collapse.
The talks in the Qatari capital of Doha are entering their final five days. But they risk collapse, according to some negotiators, unless developed countries formally agree to pledge as much as $60bn in fresh funding by 2015.
If the negotiators fail to reach an agreement in Doha, some say it could unravel the fragile accord wrung out at the last minute at last year’s UN talks in Durban, South Africa, to finalise a new global climate pact by 2015 that would enter force by 2020.
Such warnings are often seen as negotiating stances rather than real threats at this stage of the annual two-week climate talks. But some veteran negotiators said they were unsure if the Qatari hosts of this year’s talks were doing enough to pull negotiators together to iron out a compromise.
Others said developing countries’ funding calls should not be dismissed.
“These are not idle threats, these are serious demands,” said Tim Gore of Oxfam, an experienced observer of the UN talks. “Developing countries are determined this year they won’t leave without knowing that finance levels will go up and not down from 2013.”
Wealthy countries agreed at the 2009 UN climate talks in Copenhagen that they would mobilise $100bn a year by 2020 to help poor countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
To prove it, they agreed to put up $30bn over the three years from 2010 to 2012 in what was known as “fast start finance”.
Some studies suggest countries have kept their word on this initial batch of funding. But poorer countries, especially island states most vulnerable to being swamped by rising sea levels, are worried money will start dwindling from next year, rather than getting scaled up to meet the $100bn-a-year pledge by 2020.
A negotiating group of developing countries known as the G77 and China want the Doha meeting to formally agree that industrialised countries produce extra funds totalling $60bn by 2015 to keep financing on track.
Getting some agreement at Doha was a “make or break” issue, according to negotiators from the Alliance of Small Island States, while Pakistan warned the failure to decide on a financing road map could risk the collapse of the talks.
The US and other wealthy countries have assured poorer nations they should not be concerned funding will suddenly dwindle, and it was well understood the need for extra money was enormous.
However, these countries argue there is no need for a formal decision on scaling up funding to be made at this year’s talks.
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