Promises, Promises

November 25th, 2007

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Three interesting news stories shared by Benny Peiser:

First on adaptation from The Guardian:

A group of rich countries including Britain has broken a promise to pay more than a billion dollars to help the developing world cope with the effects of climate change. The group agreed in 2001 to pay $1.2bn (£600m) to help poor and vulnerable countries predict and plan for the effects of global warming, as well as fund flood defences, conservation and thousands of other projects. But new figures show less than £90m of the promised money has been delivered. Britain has so far paid just £10m. . .

The vast majority of the promised money was expected to be channelled through funds run by an organisation called the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in Washington DC, which was to distribute it through programmes run by the World Bank and United Nations. But accounts presented to a GEF council meeting last week show that only $177m (£86m) had been paid into the funds by September 30 this year, much less than the $1.2bn due by the end of 2007 under the Bonn agreement. Another $106m (£51m) has been pledged to the GEF by specific countries, but not yet paid. Britain has pledged to pay another £10m over the next three years, which makes it among the largest donors, but still below its promised level of commitment.

Saleem Huq, head of the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, said Britain should have paid between a fifth and a quarter of the £600m promised to date, based on past contributions to international aid. He said: “Most people in the climate change debate focus on how to cut emissions and how to bring the US, China and India into an agreement. The impact of climate change on poor countries, and the responsibilities of rich countries to help them, gets much less attention.” The Department for International Development insisted Britain’s share was closer to £30m a year, and that it had “fully met its commitments”. It said Britain had given an extra £100m since 2005 to climate change work in the developing world through routes outside the GEF, such as bilateral aid given directly to poor countries.

Huq said this money cannot be counted towards the Bonn agreement because it was part of general overseas aid. “The Bonn agreement is clear that the money paid to help developing countries cope with climate change must be additional. Just counting overseas development aid as money for climate change adaptation cuts no ice and is double counting.”

Next on emissions from EU autos:

European Union governments look set to reject calls for taxing cars based on their contribution to climate change.

At a Dec. 4 meeting, finance ministers from the EU’s 27 member states are scheduled to discuss a proposal for reshaping taxes imposed on cars so that they take account of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main climate-changing gas, they emit.

But Portugal, the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, has conceded that a breakthrough on this plan is unlikely. This is despite a pledge made by the EU governments earlier this year that they would lead international efforts to fight climate change.

In an internal paper, seen by IPS, the Lisbon government says there is “opposition from a considerable number” of EU countries to “an obligation to introduce a CO2 element into national car taxes.”

. . . Angela Merkel, now Germany’s chancellor, advocated in 1994 that a maximum legal limit of 120 grams of carbon dioxide emissions per kilometre should be established for cars. Merkel was her country’s environment minister at the time.

Although EU policy-makers have discussed that target ever since then, the Commission suggested earlier this year that a less stringent goal of 130g/km should be set. Ironically, it agreed to that measure after Merkel and the German car industry lobbied the Commission not to opt for the 120g/km limit.

And on that third runway at Heathrow:

Isn’t politics wonderful? Within days of Gordon Brown’s address to the conservation group WWF, in which he pledged eye-wateringly tough reductions in British emissions of Co2, the Government has announced its support for the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport. “This time he really gets it,” Greenpeace’s executive director had enthused after the Prime Minister’s “Let’s save the polar bear” speech. Yesterday, following the Transport Secretary’s endorsement of BAA’s expansion plans, Greenpeace was back to its default position, spitting ecological tacks.

You might think this is a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing (or possibly the left hand not knowing what the left hand is doing) especially given the Government’s growing reputation for administrative chaos. In fact it is entirely deliberate. The Government both wants to claim “leadership in the fight against climate change” while at the same time it – quite understandably– does not want to do anything which might reduce this country’s international competitiveness. It knows that these two objectives are incompatible – very well, then: it will contradict itself. . .

It has been written often enough that any likely reduction in Co2 emissions from our own generation of electricity is not just sub-microscopic in terms of any measurable effect on the climate: the People’s Republic of China is now opening two new coal-fired power stations every week. Real “climate change leadership” would be developing “clean coal” technology and selling it to the Chinese – but for some reason that does not fascinate politicians in the way that targets do. It is insufficiently heroic.

We can see the same national self-obsession in the debate over the environmental consequences of opening a third runway at Heathrow: last year China announced plans to expand 73 of its airports and build 42 new ones. Yes, the British government could demonstrate “increased climate change leadership” by blocking BAA’s plans to build another runway at Heathrow. Does anyone seriously imagine that the consequence of further congestion and delays will be something other than a transfer of traffic from that airport to others in the immediate vicinity, such as Charles de Gaulle, which already has much more capacity?

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