19th Mar 2018

Africa lowers climate cash demands to boost Copenhagen deal chances

Africa has dramatically scaled back its demands for funds from rich countries to help deal with climate change in return for certainty that promised funds will actually be delivered and for the right to a say in how the money is managed.

The gambit could lead to breakthrough on a deal at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen as the issue of climate finance has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in talks, but some developing world leaders accused the African Union of selling out, with the G77 accusing the EU of being the real author of the offer and wanting to see the "destruction of Africa."

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  • Developing countries will be hit much harder by the effects of climate change (Photo: Notat)

Under a proposal presented at the summit by Ethiopian prime minister and chair of the African group of nations at the conference Meles Zenawi, Africa will abandon its argument that public funds from the global north must total many hundreds of billions a year.

The Zenawi text, formally announced at a press conference alongside European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt, calls for a mix of both public and private cash amounting to $100 billion annually.

Africa had been demanding $400 billion in government funds annually to pay for adaptation to the effects of climate change and help countries move toward a green development path - equivalent to one percent of industrialised nations' GDP.

The two EU leaders welcomed the announcement, saying that little separated the new African proposal from the European bloc's position on climate finance. In September, the European Commission proposed a figure of €100 billion by 2020 coming from both government coffers and private investment, a formula later endorsed by EU member states.

"The African Union perspective on short-term and mid-term financing comes very close to what we have proposed within the European Union," said Mr Reinfeldt, whose country chairs the EU's six-month rotating presidency. "We are ready to keep on discussing."

Under the EU scheme, just €22-50 billion of the headline €100 billion figure would come from public sources. In the African document, the mix of public and private cash remains unstated, but a European Commission source said that they understood the balance to be comparable.

The major innovation however is the concept of mid-term funds. The Zenawi proposal calls for developed countries to supply funds on the scale of $50 billion a year by 2015.

The commission had argued that international public financing in 2013 should climb to €9-13 billion, but this has never been backed by EU member states.

There are other concepts suggested by the African proposal that, if embraced by the EU and other rich nations, could cut through some of the other red lines developing countries have long said that they could not cross, including equal participation in the management of climate funds and ensuring that financing be "reliable".

The third world has worried that climate cash would be promised but never delivered.

In return, developing nations would themselves assure a reduction in the growth of their greenhouse gas emissions and limit their call for higher reductions from the developed nations. Africa's position has been that the north commit to a 40 percent reduction on 1990 levels, with some taking a harder line that in order to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels a cut of 45 percent is required.

On Tuesday, Mr Zenawi met with French President Nicholas Sarkozy in Paris, where the two said that Africa and the EU had reached agreement on a common position on carbon emissions reductions.

Nicholas Stern, the UK economist and advisor on climate change, clinched the deal between the two sides, according to the Times of London.

The African leader conceded that the compromise was a significant climb down.

"I know my proposal today will disappoint those Africans who from the point of view of justice have asked for full compensation for the damage done to our development prospects," he told reporters. "My proposal dramatically scales back our expectation with regards to the level of funding in return for more reliable funding and a seat at the table in the management of such funds."


However, Lumumba Di-Aping, the chief negotiator of the G77 bloc of countries, representing some 130 nations, accused Mr Zenawi of capitulating to rich country pressure and savaged the European Union, who he blamed for the move.

"Meles [Zenawi] agrees with the EU perspective and the EU perspective accepts the destruction of a whole continent plus dozens of other states," he told EUobserver. "The EU's very moral foundation is deeply questionable because she accepts that a large section of the human family should suffer in order for her to continue to thrive and prosper."

He predicted other African nations will reject the proposal. "The African Union has not accepted this. Meles is not the author of this proposal, the EU definitely is, along with the UK and France."

Some development NGOs and environmental groups guardedly welcomed the proposal, with Greenpeace saying that the new alliance between the European Union and the African Union could successfully pressure the US to come to the table with a more ambitious offer.

Adding to the thaw over climate finance, on Wednesday, Japan boosted its global warming aid to 1,750 yen ($15 billion) a year, of which $11 billion would come from government revenues.

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