Monday, November 26, 2007

Climate change: the rich renege - again

Early next month, parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are meeting in Bali to discuss a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. An important part of these negotiations is likely to be a promise by rich nations to help fund adaptation and emissions reduction in poor nations in exchange for the latter agreeing to gradually accept binding emissions reduction targets. But there's a problem: rich nations have promised this before, and are spectacularly failing to live up to those promises.

According to the Guardian yesterday, at the UNFCCC summit in Bonn in 2001, rich nations pledged a total of US$410 million per year to the Global Environment Facility to fund adaptation and reductions in Annex II countries. The funding was due to start in 2005, and so so far the GEF should have received US$1.2 billion to help fight climate change. But according to a report [PDF] presented to a GEF meeting last month, total contributions over three years amounted to a paltry US$177 million - just 15% of the total. Another US$106 million has been pledged, but not actually paid, and whichever way you look at it, wealthy nations are falling well short.

This seems to be a disturbing habit; I've posted before about how the rich nations have reneged on promises to increase aid spending. This is both wrong and stupid. On the moral front, we should keep our promises, and not promise things we have no intention of delivering. And on the pragmatic front, this continued reneging devalues our word, and reduces the utility of such promises as a negotiating tool. To put it bluntly, given our failure to live up to the promises made at Bonn, why should poorer nations accept any promises we make at Bali?