The EU risks heading for another climate mistake, warn NGOs

“This is Europe’s opportunity to acknowledge its role in creating the climate crisis and to pay its share of the money needed to help poor countries deal with the impacts of global warming.”
Elise Ford
Head of Oxfam International's EU Advocacy Office
Published: 27 January 2009

Europe is trying to shirk its responsibility and pass the burden of dealing with the impacts of climate change onto the world’s poorest countries, Europe’s leading environmental and development groups warned today.

Tomorrow, the European Commission is expected to publish a Communication which sets out EU proposals for a UN climate deal in Copenhagen in December.

However, there are fears that early proposals on helping poor countries deal with the impacts of climate change have been stripped out or watered down out of the final document.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are concerned that the Communication will either include figures on funding for adaptation and mitigation much lower than the scale of the needs or simply fail to quantify the support developing countries urgently require. Oxfam estimates that at least €38 billion ($50bn) per year is needed to fund adaptation in developing countries, with Europe owing at least €12bn ($16bn), in addition to existing overseas aid commitments. Moreover, NGOs demand support from the EU for mitigation at the order of €40 billion ($53bn) for clean energy and €20 billion ($26.5bn) for reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries.

Finance is recognized as the make-or-break part of the deal for developing countries. The EU must put concrete figures and commitments on the table to help developing countries adapt to climate change and pursue low-carbon development – and this is the time to do it.

“After the failure to put money on the table in the EU Climate Package and at Poznan in December 2008, this is Europe’s opportunity to right the previous wrongs – to acknowledge its role in creating the climate crisis and to pay its share of the money needed to help poor countries deal with the most devastating impacts of global warming,” said Elise Ford, head of Oxfam International’s EU office. “If the Communication is weak on finance, negotiations on a global climate deal will remain stuck in log-jam. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again,” she added.

“The EU must regain the level of trust it lost with developing countries from the results of the climate package. This Copenhagen Communication must be approached by Heads of State as the ‘climate protection stimulus plan’, to reinvigorate the negotiations for a fair and equitable global deal. The EU must show the world that it can deal with more than one challenge at a time – as the new US administration appears to be trying also,” said Matthias Duwe, Director CAN-Europe.

Notes to Editors

1. Poor countries did not cause climate change, but they are the most affected by it, with the least resources to tackle its effects. Global warming is already impacting on millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people who have also been severely hit by food and oil price hikes, and are set to pay further from the collapse of financial markets.

2. Climate change is already having an impact on millions of poor people around the world. In Uganda, the unpredictable weather patterns mean farmers are gambling when to sow seeds, risking having them washed away by torrential rains or dry up in drought. In Bangladesh, rising flood levels are washing away crops and homes and the salinization of the land is making it harder to grow crops and water unsafe to drink. Poor countries need help to build up their resilience by, for example, upgrading national flood early-warning systems, planting mangrove ‘bio-shields’ along coasts to diffuse storm waves and growing drought-tolerant crops. If countries fail to adapt to the new reality of climate change, they will suffer far greater damage from floods, droughts and hurricanes, and at much higher cost, both in human and financial terms.