Parties light-years apart on finance

Mind the gap?!  That looks like the understatement of the year.

While the deplorable lack of funding for climate change adaptation is clearly being felt right now by the millions of residents of Metro Manila, and many more poor communities are suffering from monsoon disruption and related crop failure in South Asia, developed countries seem to be frozen in place, eyes tightly closed and voices strangely silent.

So far this week, the discussions in the LCA finance contact group have plainly highlighted how a good many developed

countries are attempting to renege on the agreement reached in Bali, where the need for their support to developing countries was spelled out and agreed to by all.

A number of developed countries fought hard to get rid of the very first paragraph in the finance text referring to the “substantial gap” between resources required and those that are currently available. Most disturbing was Canada’s intervention suggesting that the entire paragraph was “too negative” and that the negotiating text should have a more positive tone.

While the negotiations have been tied down for months by the stubborn refusal to put forward specific funding commitments from developed countries, the very same countries are now pointing their fingers at the developing countries and suggesting they should put money on the table for climate action.

The US “generously” recognized the need to scale up finance while counting carbon markets as financial transfers. It’s not clear whether they are talking about scaling up offsets, and thereby allowing developed countries more opportunities to avoid their obligations at home, or scaling up crucial public financial support to developing countries.

Furthermore, during Monday’s curtain raiser press conference, chief negotiator Jonathan Pershing made several statements indicating that the US team has not advanced their positioning on finance since Bonn I. The US ought to have come to Bangkok with numbers on the table, and not with a strategy that is sure to continue stalling the negotiations on financing.

Despite cheery advice from Canada, the predictions for the residents of Metro Manila and other climate-vulnerable areas seem bleak, until developed countries come to the table prepared to fulfill their commitments in Copenhagen.

[Article published in Climate Action Network's Eco Newspaper, Sep. 30, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand UNFCCC negotiations - full PDF version here]