A dollar more for climate change adaptation, a dollar less for health

The decision by the Group of Eight (G8) countries to divert money from their Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) funds to help poor countries adapt to climate change has been slammed. The eight industrialised countries have also come under fire for failing to fix short- and medium-term targets to cut dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists say are warming up the planet.

"This [diversion of ODA funds] is terrible news - every ODA dollar diverted towards climate adaptation would mean a dollar less for health and education [programmes] in developing countries," Antonio Hill, senior policy advisor at Oxfam, the UK-based development agency, told IRIN.

The G8 countries met this week in Hokkaido, Japan, where they pledged US$6 billion as part of their ODA to new Climate Investment Funds (CIFs), which is to comprise two funds: one to help provide clean technology, the other to build adaptive capacity in poor countries. Both funds will be managed by the World Bank.

The Group of Five, representing the emerging economies of China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, which met outside the G8 forum in Japan, called for "new" and "innovative financial mechanisms" to mobilise "additional" money without diverting ODA and other multilateral resources to alleviate poverty.

Oxfam said the money pledged to the CIFs was a "drop in the bucket", and pointed out that Ethiopia's immediate climate adaptation needs alone would cost $800 million.

''This [diversion of ODA funds] is terrible news - every ODA dollar diverted towards climate adaptation would mean a dollar less for health and education [programmes] in developing countries''

The development agency also highlighted the funding imbalance between the G8-backed CIFs and the United Nations adaptation fund.

The CIFs had drawn the disapproval of civil society ahead of the Hokkaido meeting, as money under both its funds will be provided in the form of loans, which non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Oxfam say is a violation of the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP). PPP is widely acknowledged as a general principle of international environmental law and is one of the fundamental principles of the European community's environmental policy.

"Pathetic" long-term vision

At the last G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, the rich countries agreed to consider a global target of at least a 50 percent cut in emissions by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

"Confirming the results of last year's summit in Heiligendamm is hardly a remarkable outcome," said Kim Carstensen, Director of Global Climate Initiative of the conservation NGO, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), in a statement. "So little progress after a whole year of ministerial meetings and negotiations is not only a wasted opportunity, it falls dangerously short of what is needed to protect people and nature from climate change."

The world has until the December 2009 climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, when a new agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, to become effective after 2012, is expected to be approved.

A new agreement is needed because the first commitment phase of the Kyoto Protocol - made by developed countries in 1997 to cut their discharge of harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and also to help poor countries cut theirs - ends in 2012. Scientists and environmentalists say time is running out.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the World Meteorological Organisation and the UN Environment Programme, has suggested cuts of between 25 and 40 percent by 2020 to avoid a 2°Celsius increase in global temperature, which is expected to destroy 30 to 40 percent of all known species, generate bigger, fiercer and more frequent heat waves and droughts, and more intense weather events like floods and cyclones.

At the last UN meeting on the Protocol in December 2007, Oxfam's Hill pointed out that at least four European G8 members had agreed on the need for cuts ranging from 25 to 40 percent by 2020. But "Canada, the US and Japan are holding the world hostage on 2020 targets – and poor people are paying the price," he said.

The US, which has refused to endorse the Kyoto Protocol, says that growing economies such as China and India, which are among the world's biggest emitters of dangerous gases, should also make mandatory cuts.

Hill said the G5 countries had said they were willing to take on mandatory 50 percent cuts in emissions by 2050, if the rich countries would agree to at least take on 25 to 40 percent cuts in emissions below 1990 levels by 2020.

"The G8 are responsible for 62 percent of the carbon dioxide accumulated in the Earth's atmosphere, which makes them the main culprit of climate change and the biggest part of the problem," said the WWF's Carstensen.

Scientists have in fact called for reductions of 80 percent to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The UK, in a bilateral agreement with South Africa this week, announced that it was willing to commit to the higher emission cut target of between 80 and 95 percent by 2050.

"To get there, global emissions have to peak and decline in 10 to 15 years, and rich nations must reduce emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020. These crucially important necessities are not reflected in the G8 communiqué," said Carstensen.

Hill said negotiations would have to continue at the next big UN climate meeting in Poland in December this year.

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