EU Finance Ministers Reaffirm Climate Funding for Developing Countries

EU finance ministers on Tuesday signed off on more than €4 billion ($5.5 billion) in short-term funding to help developing countries adapt to climate change and curb emissions — even as they met to grapple with Europe’s debt crisis.

Draft conclusions seen by Reuters showed EU member states had mobilized an estimated total of €4.68 billion [$6.45 billion] in 2010 and 2011 so far, as part of a commitment to provide €7.2 billion |just under $10 billion] from 2010-2012.

“Considering the economic and fiscal challenges we are faced with, this demonstrates our strong commitment to deliver on the Cancun (climate summit) agreement and to the G20 (Group of 20 industrialized nations) commitment to fight climate change,” the document said.

Non-governmental organizations said it provided a glimmer of hope that environmental issues had not been knocked off the agenda by European debt, but they also voiced concern the funds had been reallocated from elsewhere and were not new money.

“On first sight, European governments have done well on meeting their commitments to help poor countries cope with immediate climate change impacts. But they have done this mainly by re-labeling development aid as climate finance,” said Lies Craeynest, Oxfam’s EU climate change policy adviser.

The EU’s billions are part of a commitment to provide $30 billion between 2010 and 2012 to developing nations.

Known as “fast-start finance”, it was promised at the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen to help nations adapt in the immediate term.

For the longer term, in 2010 in Cancun, countries reconfirmed a commitment to raise $100 billion annually by 2020.

When the fast-start financing runs out, there could be a funding gap.

“At the moment, we have very little indication they are willing to put any more money on the table beyond 2012,” said Craeynest.

A European Union statement at the end of the finance ministers’ meeting said it had underlined the need to identify a path “for scaling up climate finance from 2013 to 2020.”

Oxfam and other non-governmental organizations are eager to establish sources of climate finance that are distinct and definitely new.

Together with WWF, it has put forward a proposal — for discussion at climate talks in Durban beginning later this month — to raise funds by applying a carbon price to international shipping.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Rex Merrifield)