Political inertia prevents urgent action on climate change

Published: 20 November 2006

Africa gets nothing but vague promises from climate change conference.

NAIROBI, 17 November: An overwhelming lack of political ambition turned the UN conference on climate change into a disappointment today, with poor countries coming away with little more than vague promises to help their efforts to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

“The conference has let Africa and the rest of the developing world down. It has put forward only vague promises to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change, beyond the pledge to set up a fund that has to date only $3m in its coffers. This urgently needs to be turned into a multi-billion dollar fund if poor countries are to be helped in adapting to climate change,” said Antonio Hill, Oxfam’s Senior Policy Adviser.

At the conference African countries fought hard, and successfully, to get the Adaptation Fund up and running by the end of 2007. But the conference has failed to back the fund with adequate resources beyond a two per cent levy on proceeds of carbon sales from Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects, after administration costs have been deducted. The fund currently stands at $3m.

CDM projects generate funds through the sale of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs). The Adaptation Fund could grow significantly as the CDM market expands. But the size of the Fund will ultimately depend on how sharp emissions reductions commitments are in the Kyoto Protocol’s second (post-2012) commitment phase. The second phase has yet to be negotiated.

It has been estimated that the fund could grow to $300m a year by 2012. The World Bank estimates the cost of ‘climate proofing’ development would cost between $10 - $30bn a year.

The CDM has been seen as an innovative way to both help rich countries reduce global emissions at low cost and drive low carbon, sustainable development in developing countries. But of the 400 odd projects running so far only five are in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The scientific, economic and moral arguments for urgent action on climate change have been won. The challenge to politicians is to resolve the political obstacles. At this conference there has been no display of political leadership on accelerating progress towards a binding agreement on global emissions and there have only been vague promises to help poor countries adapt,” added Hill.

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Ian Bray +254 733 741104 or +44 7721 461339