3 September 2009: The EU talks finance as well as targets

The EU is prepared to push for funding to help developing countries control emissions and deal with the effects of climate change, according to the current chairman of the Environment Council, Swedish Environment Minister, Andreas Carlgren. However, in return, it expects national climate plans and “advanced developing countries” will have to deliver more than less advanced ones. For example, China is expected to cut emissions by up to a third compared to business-as-usual (see EurActiv: EU pressures emerging economies to act on climate).

However, China will demand financial help from the industrialised countries in Copenhagen and it should be given it. Although it is now the largest producer of greenhouse emissions, its historical contribution is only 7% (see Pew Centre on Global Climate Change: Cumulative CO2 Emissions), and a significant proportion of its current emissions are from manufacturing products for American, European and Japanese consumers. A new Chinese study has put the cost of reducing China’s greenhouse gases to $438 billion a year for the next 20 years and the EU, US and Japan will all have to contribute.

The newly-elected Japanese government has much more ambitious plans on climate than the one it replaces. The previous government proposed only an 8% reduction (from 1990 levels) by 2020 – the new one promises 25%. However, one of the Democratic Party of Japan’s manifesto promises was to reduce petrol taxes and another was to halt any increase in sales taxes. Therefore, Japan’s ability to provide resources for its own low carbon transition – as well as China’s, India’s and so on – will be very challenging.

Money is also needed to protect existing forests. One option being considered is the inclusion of the forest sector in carbon markets. The European Commission has said that it will assess this by 2020. However, if greater protection has not been funded, there will not be many forests left by then! The German Environment Ministry has published a report recently stating that investing US$45bn (€32bn) in protected areas globally could secure nature-based services worth US$5 trillion (€3.5 trillion) a year (see ENDS Europe: EU to reveal its thinking on climate financing). One would hope that this is a rate of return good enough to convince even the most hard-headed economist!

The Copenhagen Summit is unlikely to lead to dramatic new global targets or time tables. However, it could – and must – make significant progress on providing investment for low-carbon energy, low-carbon agriculture and forest protection.


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