Rich Nations Renege on Promised Climate Change Aid

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By David AdamFrom The Guardian, November 24, 2007A group of rich countries including Britain has broken a promise to pay more than a billion dollars to help the developing world cope with the effects of climate change. The group agreed in 2001 to pay $1.2bn (£600m) to help poor and vulnerable countries predict and plan for the effects of global warming, as well as fund flood defenses, conservation and thousands of other projects. But new figures show less than £90m of the promised money has been delivered. Britain has so far paid just £10m.

The disclosure comes after Gordon Brown said this week that industrialized countries must do more to help the developing world adapt to a changed climate, and two weeks before countries meet in Bali to begin negotiations on a new global deal to regulate emissions which is expected to stress the need for all countries to adapt.

Andrew Pendleton, climate change policy analyst at Christian Aid, said: “This represents a broken promise on a massive scale and on quite a cynical scale as well. Promising funds for adaptation is exactly the kind of incentive the rich countries will offer at Bali to bring the developing world on board a new climate deal. This is the signal we are seeing on all fronts, that the developed countries are unwilling to fulfill their moral and legal commitments.”

Under the terms of the climate adaptation agreement, made at a UN meeting in Bonn in 2001, the EU, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and New Zealand said they would jointly pay developing countries $410m (£200m) each year from 2005 to 2008. They called on other countries to donate as well. The money was supposed to compensate developing countries for the severe effects over the coming decades of global warming, which is largely caused by carbon emissions from the developed world.

The vast majority of the promised money was expected to be channeled through funds run by an organization called the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in Washington DC, which was to distribute it through programs run by the World Bank and United Nations. But accounts presented to a GEF council meeting last week show that only $177m (£86m) had been paid into the funds by September 30 this year, much less than the $1.2bn due by the end of 2007 under the Bonn agreement. Another $106m (£51m) has been pledged to the GEF by specific countries, but not yet paid. Britain has pledged to pay another £10m over the next three years, which makes it among the largest donors, but still below its promised level of commitment.

Saleem Huq, head of the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, said Britain should have paid between a fifth and a quarter of the £600m promised to date, based on past contributions to international aid. He said: “Most people in the climate change debate focus on how to cut emissions and how to bring the US, China and India into an agreement. The impact of climate change on poor countries, and the responsibilities of rich countries to help them, gets much less attention.” The Department for International Development insisted Britain’s share was closer to £30m a year, and that it had “fully met its commitments”. It said Britain had given an extra £100m since 2005 to climate change work in the developing world through routes outside the GEF, such as bilateral aid given directly to poor countries.

Huq said this money cannot be counted towards the Bonn agreement because it was part of general overseas aid. “The Bonn agreement is clear that the money paid to help developing countries cope with climate change must be additional. Just counting overseas development aid as money for climate change adaptation cuts no ice and is double counting.”

Christian Aid said climate change was already having a devastating impact on poor communities around the world. A report from the charity today says people from Bolivia and Bangladesh to Mali and Tajikistan are being affected. It says: “It is the rural poor who are the most exposed. In many countries, they were struggling with droughts, floods and hurricanes even before climate change started to bite. Now their problems are intensifying.”