Sunday, 20 December 2009

ONE: Creative thinking urgently needed to tap alternative sources of climate finance

An agreement of $10bn a year in fast track financing for the next three years and $100bn a year by 2020 for poor countries to cope with climate change must come over and above existing aid promises, Africa advocacy group ONE said after the Copenhagen climate summit. Currently these sums will largely be subtracted from promised resources to help these same countries fight poverty. But climate change is putting additional stress on poor countries – which is why they need additional funds to cope with it – on top of existing and promised aid levels,” said Jamie Drummond, Executive Director of ONE UK.

“Promises of aid made by the G8 in Gleneagles in 2005 must not be lost in Copenhagen. Without a clear commitment that these climate funds are additional, the dollar amounts are next to meaningless. This debate over ‘additionality’ might seem arcane, but within the details lie billions of dollars - and very real impacts on millions of lives,” Drummond said. “Without this additionality, Copenhagen adds up to nothing. It is not clear how a cap on two degrees will be achieved, but it is very clear that much more can and must be done, including harnessing the potential of African and other developing countries to be renewable energy hubs and help capture carbon through growing trees."

ONE supports the African proposal for an interim target of $50bn by 2015 on top of existing and promised aid to help the poorest countries – many of them in Africa – with pressing adaptation needs. The Copenhagen Accord mentions a High Level Panel to assess how alternative sources of funding can contribute to raising genuinely additional funds. ONE says this urgent High Level Task Force should be convened immediately and with links to the highest political level to look into alternative sources of climate finance to complement additional public funding from rich countries. These sources could include: revenue from aviation and shipping, international auctioning of emissions allowances, a financial transactions tax and the proposal to use the IMF’s own currency, known as Special Drawing Rights. ONE also highlighted the need for accountability and transparency for these new funds.

Betrayal or breakthrough?

More at The Real News

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Copenhagen Accord: Triumph of spin over substance

The ‘climate deal’ presented in Copenhagen (>>> Copenhagen Accord) is a triumph of spin over substance says Oxfam International. The deal provides no confidence that catastrophic climate change will be averted or that poor countries will be given the money they need to adapt as temperatures rise. Leaders have also put off agreeing a legally binding deal until the end of 2010. Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International said: “This deal barely papers over the huge differences between countries which have plagued these talks for two years.

The document recognizes the need to keep warming below 2° but does not commit to do so. The deal promises $100bn a year in climate cash for poor countries by 2020. This is an aspirational goal not a commitment – poor countries will have no confidence that they will receive the money they need to reduce their emissions and adapt to a changing climate. $100bn is only half the money needed. The shortfall could mean that health workers in South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa will not get the $1.5bn they need each year to prevent climate induced deaths from malaria and diarrhoea. There are no assurances that the $100bn will be additional to existing aid commitments. This means aid for education and health care could be diverted to pay for flood defenses. The $100bn will not all be public money. Unless climate cash comes from public sources, there are no guarantees that it will reach the right people, in the right places, at the right time.

Global temperature rises will be kept below 2° C, the Accord says. In reality the absence of any emissions reductions targets means there is no guarantee warming will be kept below 2°. Climate science is clear on the need for deep emissions cuts by 2020. Specific targets are essential. Shorbanu Khatun, a climate migrant at the summit with Oxfam said: “I came all the way from a displaced persons camp on the flooded coast of Bangladesh to see justice done for the 45,000 people made homeless by cyclone Aila. How do I tell them their misery has fallen on deaf ears?”

Friday, 18 December 2009

Copenhagen Accord: The financial side

Guest commentary by Liane Schalatek

It is ironic, really.

The question about financial transfers from the industrialized to the developing countries – one of the most contentious issues throughout the two weeks’ negotiations in the Bella Center – might be one issue area, where a final Copenhagen declaration could show a clear way forward — albeit in an otherwise weak and watered down political statement by Head of States, a sad remnant of the earlier, grander vision of a comprehensive “Copenhagen Deal”.

Finally, concrete numbers — the most to be expected for a future “Copenhagen Climate Fund” — are on the table. And while they are not as grandios as hoped for, they will, if collected and tranferred speedily, go a long way to improve the lives and livelihoods of men and women in the devleoping world as well as the world’s climate. Over the next three years, industrialized countries commit to transfer some $30 billion in short-term financing to developing countries. Most of these funds over the next three years would probably be delivered through existing (climate) financing mechanisms, including at the multilateral development banks and the GEF. (A reminder: It took seven years from COP decision to the start of operations of the new Adapation Fund). By 2020, a “Copenhagen Climate Fund” under the direct authority of the UNFCCC would then collect some $100 billion per year by 2020.

This at least, is what a three-page outline document for a political declaration, the result of a “green room”-type meeting of 30 countries came up with after a long night of negotiations early Friday morning. But it seems also the outline of what is politically possible as a financing framework, with its baselines seemingly holding throughout the high-level segment of the negotiations and the statements by Obama, Merkel, Lula & Co.

While US President Obama disappointed all those who had expected he would pull a financial trump card out of his sleeve and top the announcement that US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had made on Thursday, Brazil’s President Silva da Lula surprised pleasantly by indicating that as an emerging economy his country might contribute to providing financial transfers to the poorest and most climatically exposed countries. An interesting side note: in his comments, President Lula’s explicitly warned of putting new climate funding under the control of the World Bank….

As encouraging as these stated intentions sound, a lot of the details are still missing. For example, it remains unclear how much the United States would contribute to such a Fund in the long-term. And nowbody knows how much the US are willing to cough up for the most urgent adaptation and mitigation action in developing countries in next three years. In contrast, the EU and Japan had both put their financial cards already on the table, promising $10 billion (EU) and $15 billon respectively from 2010-2012.

On the sources of financing, there is likewise ambiguity — but that might be a blessing in disguise. While the G30 draft outcome document lists private (carbon-markets) and public bilateral and multilateral sources, it also leaves room for “alternative sources of financing. This opens the door for the development of innovative tax instruments (for air or maritime travel or financial transactions a la Tobin), which a suggested high level panel under the COP could explore. Using (global or regional) sin taxes would go a long way to secure the truly additional and predictable revenue source that the developing countries are holding out for.

(Originally published in: Klima der Gerechtigkeit)

Leaked UN report: What Copenhagen pledges mean for future temperatures

Catholic CIDSE network and Caritas Internationalis say that the leak late yesterday of a UN report that proved that there is a significant gap between developed country rhetoric and their emission reduction commitments to date. They fall far short of what is required to prevent climate catastrophe in the future setting an unparalleled challenge to rich countries on the last day of the climate talks.

The internal UN report, dated 15 December, was never meant to be circulated. However, it merely confirms what many voices, civil society and developing countries most prominently, have been stating for months; rich countries fail to walk the talk on emission reductions, as their concrete commitments do not match with their expressed political will to tackle climate change. The report asserts that current developed country pledges would result in a further warming of the earth’s average temperature of 3° C, whilst developed countries continue to claim to be committed to limiting this rise to 2°.

“1° may not sound like very much to someone on the street, but the difference between 2° and 3° for developing countries is counted in hundreds of thousands of lost lives. In fact the most vulnerable countries are calling for 1.5° to be the limit,” said Anika Schroeder of German CIDSE member Misereor. “Developed countries claim to be committed to avoiding dangerous climate change in the future; this report reaffirms that they can no longer deny the science, and must now match these claims with adequate binding commitments.”

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Thousands in Copenhagen to demand system change

At the end of the first week of the climate talks at Copenhagen, thousands of activists from the Climate Justice Action and Climate Justice Now! networks are joining the climate march under the banner of “System Change Not Climate Change” to denounce the climate negotiations as a predictable failure. The protesters are demanding radical changes in economic and political systems in order to address the climate crisis. The coming together of the Climate Justice Action and Climate Justice Now! is an unprecedented coalition of social movements, NGOs and grassroots climate activists from around the world to demand alternatives to the failed market solutions being pushed by governments and big business.

The ‘System Change’ contingent has been tipped as the largest and loudest section in the march and includes people from 50 different countries. It will include a flat bed truck broadcasting music and speeches from prominent activists from the global south.

Josie Riffaud from La Via Campesina a global coalition of peasant movements, said: “We’ve seen this week in Copenhagen that governments are turning the climate chaos into commodities. Farmers – men and women - are taking to the streets today because we are so outraged by the ineffective targets and false solutions such as agrofuels being peddled by business lobbyists and governments that listen to them.” Lidy Nacpil from the Jubilee South Coalition said: “All week we have heard a string of excuses from northern countries to make adequate reparations for the ecological crisis that they have caused. We are taking to the streets to demand that the ecological debt is repaid to the people of the South.”

Lars Fredikssen, an activist from Climate Justice Action said: “At the root of the climate crisis is an economic and political system that puts profit above people and the long term sustainability of this planet. Unless we address these root causes, climate change will devastate people around the world. These talks are a predictable failure and that’s why we will be taking action next week to create a People’s Assembly. We want the voices of ordinary people who are already being affected by climate change to be heard and listened to.”

Both networks will continue to work together on 16 December, where they are planning to bring the energy from the streets into the Centre where the talks are being held. A massive People’s Assembly will take place when thousands are expected to march to the Bella Centre to expose the false solutions and to propose positive alternatives and at the same time, hundreds of people inside the talks are expected to walk-out and join.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Spanish EU presidency 2010: Intermón Oxfam calls for tax justice

Intermón Oxfam has published a policy paper which outlines specific policy benchmarks for the Spanish government to push at the EU level during its presidency, starting on January 2010. These include the following:

* To support and defend within the G20 and prior to the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings, the setting up of a multilateral and automatic information exchange models;
* To support the inclusion of a Finantial Transaction Tax at the International level and to include during 2010, at least in the Euro-zone, a Currency Transaction Tax of 0,005% to finance ODA;
* To promote a reform in the International Accounting Standard Board (IASB) governance in order to increase its accountability and the political control from the EU and from the National Authorities;
* To ensure that the coming IFRS 8 review (in 2010) becomes the opportunity to bind Multinational Corporations (MNCs) to submit, in the annual report, their accounting information on country by country (C-B-C) basis and to ensure that the already engaged procedure for a new IASB norm for the Extractive Industries (replacing the current IFRS 6) will include a compulsory C-B-C reporting requirement for MNCs;
* To support the introduction of C-B-C reporting as a compulsory requirement for MNCs of all sectors through the Directive 2004/109/EC (TOD Directive) review, that will probably take place during the first half of 2010.

The full report (in Spanish only) is available >>> here.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

$200bn – the price of success in Copenhagen

Rich countries could set off a chain reaction that leads to success in Copenhagen if they put forward at least $200bn per year in new public funds to help poor countries reduce their emissions and adapt to a changing climate. Big developing countries such as China have signalled that they are willing to increase – and formalize – already significant pledges to reduce emissions if rich countries provide the necessary support. This, in turn, could help rich country leaders overcome domestic barriers to more ambitious targets. And it could secure the support of the world’s poorest countries that need help to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

President Obama has already set the wheels in motion by agreeing to join other world leaders on 18 December and by announcing that the US is ready to pay its fair share towards the ‘fast start’ fund. Rich countries have said they are willing to put forward $10bn a year between 2010 and 2013 to help vulnerable countries tackle climate change. The European Union must now build on the US move by putting forward its share of the $200bn a year needed in the long term – and pushing for the US to do the same. In October the EU said that a global fund worth up to €50bn ($74bn) per year is needed to help poor countries tackle climate change but stopped short of saying how much it will contribute.

But Oxfam warned that climate finance must be new. Many rich countries still plan to use money from existing aid commitments to meet their climate obligations. Antonio Hill, Senior climate change advisor for Oxfam International said: “The price of success in Copenhagen is $200bn. $200bn could trigger off a chain reaction that delivers more ambitious emissions reductions and helps the world’s poorest people adapt to a changing climate. We need to see this figure sparkling overhead in Christmas lights by the end of the Summit. Its peanuts compared to the $8.4 trillion we found to save drowning banks.”

Rich countries are indeed mistaken if they think that less than a half of the emissions cuts demanded by the science and $10bn in re-packaged aid promises can be spun as a success in two weeks time. It underestimates the real needs of billions of poor people and overestimates the patience of poor countries who have clearly signalled their preference for no deal over green wash.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

WTO Ministerial was a missed opportunity

The seventh WTO Ministerial Conference turned out to be a missed opportunity in addressing the serious challenges facing women and men in the global economy. It turned out a missed opportunity to promote a new model of multilateral trading system that addresses livelihood, employment, decent working conditions, food security, climate change and gender inequalities. Ministers of the 153 WTO Member States reassembled on 30 November to 2 December in Geneva for the seventh Ministerial Meeting under the theme of “The WTO, the multilateral trading system and the global economic environment.“ Despite eight years of ongoing negotiations on the Doha Round – the Ministerial was not a defining moment for coming closer to its conclusion. In addition, no major decision on the future of the WTO was taken.

While most governments paid lip-service to a swift conclusion of the Doha round in 2010, they showed no real political commitment and failed to provide concrete proposals on how to overcome the existing deep differences. On these parameters, the proposed stock-taking Conference in the first quarter of 2010 is nothing more than a PR exercise to affirm that the Doha round is not dead and the WTO as an institution still has some relevance. The WTO, and its Doha expansion agenda, is not appropriate to help resolve the current global economic challenges.

Unfettered trade liberalisation and market opening – embodied by the WTO – have not worked to promote human well-being for all – instead there is vast evidence of the contrary. The fact that most Ministers failed to recognise the link between neoliberal trade policies and the multiple crises facing the world today – including food, financial, economic, employment, climate and social crises – is cause for serious concern. At the Conference, Ministers discussed world trade in abstract terms as opposed to deliberating on the impact of trade liberalisation on sustainable livelihoods of women and men, food security and employment. The Conference, therefore, failed to examine how the structure and the content of the WTO could be changed to address these global challenges.

NGOs and social movements from all parts of the world used the Ministerial meeting to jointly discuss alternative proposals to the neoliberal trade agenda. Together they put forward the claim that a new model of governing multilateral trade must be developed, which shifts away from the neo-liberal trade model embodied by the WTO to allow for space for alternative, heterodox and feminist economic and development approaches. These approaches make the crucial link between economic and social policies, focus on people's needs, rights and livelihoods, including the empowerment of women, social justice and equality as well as an equal distribution of resources and power and put the social reproduction side of the economy at the core.

As a part of Geneva Trade and Development Symposium, WIDE, together with WEED, War on Want and Seattle to Brussels Network organized a session entitled “Trade, employment & Global Europe – looking beyond a ‘social clause’. Panel discussion evaluated critically current free trade policies that continue to dominate world trade and threaten to put millions more in rich and poor countries alike out of work and highlighted the importance of the links between trade and gender in these discussions.

>>> WIDE Statement