Climate Talks Schism Who Pays For Climate Change
November 20, 2013

UN Climate Change Talks Met With Discord On Who Pays The Bill

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Whether it is being caused by human activity or not – climate change has ignited a heated debate between representatives of rich and poor countries at this week’s UN climate summit in Warsaw, Poland.

At the meeting, developing nations are calling for more affluent countries to accept greater responsibility for climate change and pay for any incurred damages accordingly. Poorer countries argued that rich nations have built up their economies are the expense of lower greenhouse gas levels and therefore, should be taking more of the lead in combating climate change.

“They must know how much they are actually responsible ... for the essential problem of climate change,” said Brazilian negotiator Raphael Azeredo, according to the Associated Press.

For their part, more affluent countries have expressed the idea that picking up a larger share of the climate change burden would be costly and make them legally liable for future natural disasters.

At the meeting, Brazil representatives proposed the creation of a formula to determine historical blame, in an attempt to frame talks on a new global climate deal in 2015. However, rich countries balked at the idea – saying current and future emissions must not be discounted so readily.

"I think we will find a resolution," American climate envoy Todd Stern told reporters. Earlier this week, Stern said focusing heavily on historical practices "seems to us as very partial and not very accurate.”

Despite the recent devastation seen in the Philippines from Typhoon Haiyan, more affluent countries signaled that they are hesitant to foot the bill for major disasters, instead focusing on boosting growth in their own stagnant economies.

"We cannot have a system where there will be automatic compensation whenever severe weather events are happening at one place or other around the planet," said the European Union's climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard.

Another related and contentious issue at the UN summit is climate finance, or the funds set aside to assist developing nations in reducing emissions and adjust to a changing climate. Affluent nations have pledged to raise the allotment to $100 billion a year by 2020 for emerging economies, up from $10 billion annually from 2010 to 2012.

In Warsaw, Japan pledged $16 billion over three years and on Wednesday – Norway, Britain and the US also pledged $280 million to maintain the world's forests. However, conservation groups asserted these funds are not new sources of revenue and there is ambiguity on how and when new money will reach its destination.

"We see no roadmap for finance, only repackaged old money or money redirected from other budgets," Dipti Bhatnagar at Friends of the Earth International told Reuters.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency has said that $1 trillion a year of further investment is necessary until 2020 for the energy sector to transition to and deliver cleaner sources of energy.

"Much of the action is going to happen at the domestic level," said Jane Wilkinson, director of the Climate Policy Initiative, which has reported that global climate spending fell one percent last year as an economic slowdown took its toll.

Citing the damage from Typhoon Haiyan, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said rich countries that “are supposed to be taking leadership are now backtracking.”

“That’s quite disappointing. We have to take urgent action,” he added.