Finance ball shifts to US court as climate talks kick off in Barcelona

Published: 2nd November 2009

Oxfam called on the US to join Europe in laying its climate finance cards on the table as international climate talks opened in Barcelona today.
Real progress on climate finance is possible for the first time after European leaders, meeting in Brussels on Friday, outlined their proposal for how much public money should be made available to help poor countries tackle climate change. The lack of concrete figures on finance – a make or break issue in the talks – has stalled negotiations on climate finance for years.
All eyes will be watching this week to see whether the US will join the EU and put concrete figures on the table.  The EU – US Summit in Washington on Tuesday 3 November is the perfect opportunity for the US and Europe to move forward together on climate finance. President Obama will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, European Commission President Jose Barroso, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana at the White House.
At a high level meeting in Brussels last week, European leaders said that €22-€50 billion per year was needed in public finance to help poor countries tackle climate change. The European Commission estimates the EU’s fair share would be up to €15 billion per year (approximately $3-22 billion). This offer falls far short of what is required – at best it is less than half the amount that is needed - and there are no assurances that existing promises overseas aid will not simply be rebranded as climate finance.

Rich countries must commit new money

Oxfam is calling for rich countries, which created the climate crisis, to accept their responsibilities, and provide at least €110 billion ($150 billion) per year to help poor countries reduce their emissions and adapt to a changing climate. The money must be additional to the 0.7 per cent of national income already committed to overseas aid. Oxfam calculates that Europe and America’s fair share of this global total is around €35 billion each per year ($50 billion) based on their historical responsibility for creating the climate crisis and financial capacity to tackle it.
The legal status of a final agreement in Copenhagen is also likely to be the subject of intensive debate in Barcelona. The US, Australia and Canada has put forward a proposal which could move away from binding emission reduction targets for developed countries from 2013, when current Kyoto Protocol commitments expire. This would significantly weaken the rules governing rich country action and was roundly condemned by poor countries at the last round of UN talks in Bangkok.

Barcelona: a fork in the road to Copenhagen

Barcelona is the last official round of negotiations before a deal is done in Copenhagen at the end of the year. Millions of poor people are already struggling to cope with the effects of climate change and cannot afford delay. In Bolivia glacial retreat threatens the water supply of thousands of poor Andean farmers as well as water and electricity supplies to cities such as La Paz.
Antonio Hill, Senior Climate Advisor for Oxfam International, said:
“For the first time there is an opportunity for real progress on finance in the climate talks. Rich countries must act now and provide at least $150 billion in new money to help poor nations tackle the climate crisis they created. The fate of the climate deal and millions of poor people around the world depends on it.”

Up to the US now

“The finance ball is in the US’s court. It must say how much money it is going to commit to help poor countries tackle climate change. The EU – US Summit is a perfect opportunity for America to move forward with the EU on climate finance. If there is political will in Washington there could be real progress in Barcelona.”
"Europe may have got the ball rolling on finance but its opening bid falls far short of what is needed. It needs to put more money on the table and ensure this money is additional to existing aid commitments to seal the deal in December. Poor countries must not be forced choose between building flood defences and building schools.”

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Read the Oxfam discussion document: Climate Change Adaptation: Enabling people living in poverty to adapt (pdf)
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Rich countries must act now and provide at least $150 billion in new money to help poor nations tackle the climate crisis they created.
Antonio Hill
Senior Climate Advisor for Oxfam International