It is time to make good on pledges to help poor nations battle climate change.
In just nine months from now, international negotiators will meet in Copenhagen to try and hammer out a new, more muscular version of the Kyoto Protocol to advance the fight against global warming beginning in 2013.
The timetable to attain this much-needed global treaty on escalating greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) was always going to be tight and good faith and transparent cooperation is needed to successfully conclude the deal.
So it is more than troubling to read a recent analysis in The Guardian showing that less than 10% of the aid promised by wealthy nations to help poorer countries deal with climate change has actually been received.
The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) believes far too much is at risk at the upcoming UN climate change talks to allow politicians from the developed world to abandon or delay their promises.
Indeed, as The Guardian notes “The world’s richest countries have together pledged nearly $18bn in the last seven years, but despite world leaders’ rhetoric that the finance is vital, less than $0.9bn has been disbursed and long delays are plaguing many funds.”
The newspaper goes on to report this inaction is causing diplomats and climate negotiators to warn a new global agreement on climate change is at risk if rich nations don’t quickly distribute the pledged money.
“It’s a scandal,” The Guardian quotes Bernarditas Muller of the Phillippines, the chief negotiator for the G77 and China group of developing countries, as saying. “The amount the developed countries have provided is peanuts. It is poisoning the UN negotiations. What [the rich countries] offer to the poorest is derisory, the equivalent of one banker’s bonus. It’s an insult to people who are already experiencing increasing extreme events.”
In more diplomatic terms, perhaps, Yvo de Boer, the person responsible for the climate change discussions, concurs.
“I recognise the frustration,” de Boer was quoted as saying. “Contributions to funds have been disappointingly low and the least developed countries have received very little. Without significant finance you will not get developing country engagement [in negotiations]. Funding is key to unlocking an outcome for the talks.”
So once again the same old political game of forgetful promises is underway. It is easy to pledge aid money and just as easy to get a positive headline for doing so.
Yet the situation the world now finds itself in is not the sort of match that vote-hungry politicians usually engage in.
For a long time now science has shown that global warming is occurring and has to be dealt with. We must drastically reduce the level of GHGs, especially those associated with CO₂ from burning fossil fuels. And we must do it quickly if humankind as we know it is to survive another century.
Yes, the future in scary and the global financial crisis is deepening. Those are precisely the reasons, however, for policy makers, especially ones from the developed world which created most of our current atmospheric mess, to rapidly embrace a new green revolution.
This revolution, EWEA believes, is attainable. The technology to mitigate global warming is already proven. Wind power and other renewables are at the vanguard of this global transformation. Increasing amounts of green electricity from wind power can help the global economy through the creation of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new jobs and billions in investments. The embattled environment is also a winner since there are no carbon emissions from electricity generated by wind power.
But time is running out and if December’s talks in Copenhagen are to be successful, the very first step is for rich nations to immediately give poorer countries the aid money that has already been pledged.