The EU passes climate change burden to world’s poorest

Europe’s refusal to commit money to help poor people cope with climate change could derail the chances of reaching a fair climate deal in Copenhagen, warned Oxfam International today.

The EU's Climate Change Communication, published today and due to be adopted by Member States in March, sets out Europe’s position for the post-2012 negotiations.

The proposal recognizes that massive resources are needed to help developing countries adapt to climate impacts and adopt green technologies, and has promising ideas on how to raise the money. But it completely fails to specify how much money the EU and other rich countries will make available.

As Commissioner Dimas today acknowledged, finance is a make-or-break part of a global climate agreement. Yet early funding commitments have been stripped out of the final document.

Elise Ford, head of Oxfam International’s EU office, said: “Unless developing countries see hard cash on the table, there is a real danger they will simply walk away. It seems the Commission is pandering to Member States’ expected opposition to put money on the table – fueled by their worries about the impact of the recession.

“A year ago, the European Union set a much needed minimum floor for negotiations with a call for a 20-30% mitigation cut by 2020. Now, instead of setting a target for adaptation finance too, the Commission has shrunk from any ambition, let alone responsibility as a major polluter. This seems to be a new EU, one that's signaling it's ready to race to the bottom.

“The EU should look to US President Obama’s call for a climate recovery plan which protects people and rebuilds economies. EU Member States now have just over a month to dust off and don their climate leadership uniforms."

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). This needs to be managed by the United Nations and come on top of existing aid commitments. This is to ensure donors don’t divert money meant for schools and health services, and pass it off as climate finance they owe as a result of on-going pollution.

“Developing countries will be alarmed that the UN – which by rights should be the governor-in-chief of new climate funds – is side-lined in the Communication. This leaves the way open for a spaghetti bowl of money flows, with no trusted referee to ensure countries pay their dues and the funds reach the poorest,” said Hugh Cole, Oxfam's Regional Climate Change Advisor for Southern Africa.

Oxfam welcomed the EU’s strong line that all rich countries should reduce emissions on a just basis, but argued the fairest way to cut the carbon pie by measuring countries’ historic responsibilities (per capita emissions) and wealth.

Notes to editors

1. Climate change is already having an impact on millions of poor people around the world. There has been a dramatic increase in extreme weather events over the last 20 years. By 2020, according to the UN, up to 250m people across Africa may face drastic water shortages, and between 150m and 1bn people could be displaced by extreme weather, disease, and - on some calculations – the halving of yields for crops like corn and rice.

2. 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.

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