Nations seek climate financing for developing countries
Europeans press former East bloc neighbors to help
COPENHAGEN - European nations pressed former East bloc neighbors yesterday to help create a multibillion-dollar fund for poor countries suffering the most from global warming, while key US senators signaled progress on legislation in line with what President Obama will pledge at the UN climate conference next week.
The release of the legislative blueprint was timed to bolster the argument by US delegates in Copenhagen that Washington is taking climate change seriously and that Congress is making progress - albeit slowly - on reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
There were questions, meanwhile, about how to distribute the money, $10 billion a year in fast-track funds for developing countries.
US climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing said America is willing to pay its fair share, but he added that donors “don’t have unlimited largesse to disburse.’’
Britain has said it will contribute $1.3 billion over three years, and Sweden will give $1.2 billion.
The Dutch say they will contribute $442 million over three years, and the Belgians $221 million. A Danish diplomat said Denmark would give $233 million, bringing the total known European pledges to nearly $3.5 billion.
But the less-affluent former East bloc countries are reluctant to participate in costly emissions cuts or to give to a fund intended to help developing nations.
European Union leaders met late into the night in Brussels but failed to agree on how much money to commit to the fund. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said officials would “work though the night to see that we get all the resources in place.’’
Developing nations are pressing the United States, Europeans, Japanese, and others for more upfront money and for assurances about long-term financing.
Industrialized countries are talking only about three years of funding at $10 billion a year. Much of that would go toward training, planning, and getting a fix on needs.
At the Copenhagen conference, where 192 countries are trying to negotiate a climate pact, US industrialist George Soros said the proposed $10 billion fund is short of what’s needed. He warned that the gap between developed and developing nations on financing “could actually wreck the conference.’’
“It is possible to substantially increase the amount available to fight global warming in the developing world,’’ the billionaire said. “All that is lacking is the political will. Unfortunately the political will will be difficult to gather because of the mere fact that it requires congressional approval in the United States.’’
The financing is intended to help poorer nations to build coastal protection, modify or shift crops threatened by drought, build water supplies and irrigation systems, preserve forests, improve health care to deal with diseases spread by warming, and move from fossil fuel to low-carbon energy systems, such as solar and wind power.
In a boost for the US negotiating position, three senators of different political stripes said legislation that they were working would seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020 was “achievable and reasonable.’’ The new limit puts their goal in line with a bill passed by the House in June and with what Obama will pledge at Copenhagen.
But the senators admitted that even with other compromises aimed at broadening support - such as incentives for more nuclear power and expanded offshore drilling for oil and gas - they still didn’t have the 60 votes required for passage.
The bill is not expected to be voted on by the full Senate until spring.
Senate Democrats, led by John Kerry of Massachusetts, had initially sought a higher target of a 20 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020.