The EU is treating climate deal like an eBay novice

Published: 30th October 2009

No sale, Europe

The European Union’s suggestion today of global public financing worth €22-€50 billion per year for developing countries to tackle climate change falls short of what is needed, says international agency Oxfam.
Europe’s bid is not enough and comes with a fatal flaw – there is no guarantee that this money would be “new” and not diverted from existing aid commitments. “This is not yet a break-through for a climate deal. But the EU has shown that real numbers can now be negotiated,” said Elise Ford, head of Oxfam International’s Brussels office.
“Right now, the EU is treating a climate change deal like a novice on eBay. It has made an opening bid for climate justice that is nowhere near enough and with a fatal flaw. It’s no sale, Europe, and you only have a short time left to bid again before the auction closes on a safe and fair deal in Copenhagen,” said Ford.
Oxfam says that the top-end of the range, €50 billion per year, is less than half of what developing countries need to adapt to harmful climate change and pursue low-carbon futures. EU heads of state did not give a concrete range for Europe’s fair share of that total, but said it would be based on their fair share of global responsibility for emissions and capability to pay. The European Commission earlier indicated that such criteria would lead to an EU contribution of between €2 and €15 billion per year. Oxfam is calling instead for Europe to provide at least €35 billion in public finance – alongside a comparable contribution from the US – towards a global climate fund of at least €110 billion per year.

Millions could suffer if aid is diverted

Financing must be new and additional. Oxfam estimates that at least 75 million fewer children are likely to attend school and 8.6 million fewer people could have access to HIV/AIDS treatment if money that would otherwise have been spent on health and education is diverted to tackle climate change.
“Europe is committed to increase its overseas aid spending to 0.7% of national income. Climate financing must be over and above that. If not, rich countries are simply telling the world’s poorest countries to choose between building flood defenses and building schools. If rich countries steal from aid budgets to pay their climate debt, the fight against poverty will go into reverse,” Ford said.
“Europe’s bargaining tactics are a carbon-copy of its past form in international trade negotiations. Low opening offers will be followed by intense pressure on developing countries to agree to Europe’s demands. But these are not conventional negotiations, and such tactics won’t deliver the deal we need in Copenhagen,” warned Ford. “The collapsed Doha round of trade talks was about pulling millions out of poverty, Copenhagen is about preventing billions from being plunged into poverty.”
“We now need an improved offer – more money and new money. Placing the first bid doesn’t make you a leader,” Ford added.
Oxfam also said that today’s announcement from Brussels helped to turn the international spotlight back onto the United States. “The US now needs to join the EU in talking about concrete financing numbers – and next week’s US-EU Summit is the perfect opportunity to begin,” Ford said.

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Read the media brief on “What does climate change mean for developing countries?” (PDF)
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For more in-depth analysis on the link between climate change and poverty, read our report Suffering the Science.

If rich countries steal from aid budgets to pay their climate debt, the fight against poverty will go into reverse.
Elise Ford
Head of Oxfam International’s EU office

Notes to editors

  1. 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.
  2. The EU’s climate finance commitments could be met without costing the European taxpayer another Euro. The European Commission estimates that €50bn per year will be raised from polluting industries by the auctioning of emission allowances under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. This money can be used in an international system to be agreed in Copenhagen that will give real assurances that promises on climate financing will not be broken.