Rich Nations Break Aid Promises

In Africa, Governments & Politics, News Headlines

Poor nations accused donors on Thursday of failing to keep a promise of extra climate aid, which the U.N. says will be the “golden key” to successful global warming talks in Mexico this month.

“The promises (of aid) are there, and they keep coming, but we don’t see anything on the ground,” said Bruno Sekoli of Lesotho, who will chair the group of least developed countries (LDCs) at the United Nations’ negotiations in Mexico from November 29 to December 10.

“For us, the LDCs, we want action,” Sekoli told Reuters of promises of billions of dollars of extra aid for 2010. Up to 194 nations, of which about 50 are LDCs, will meet in the Mexican resort of Cancun to seek ways to slow climate change.

By contrast, developed countries say that cash is starting to flow under a pledge made at the U.N. climate change summit in Copenhagen in December 2009 to provide funds approaching $30 billion of “new and additional” aid between 2010 and 2012.

A draft European Union report, for instance, said that EU members were keeping a promise to deliver 2.2 billion euros ($3 billion) in 2010 to help poor nations cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to impacts of climate change.

It said projects include a German grant of 300,000 euros to help Mozambique build a flood warning system and a 400,000 euro grant from the Czech Republic to help Ethiopia revitalize wells, improve water supplies and halt erosion.

U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres says flows are a “golden key” to Cancun, where nations hope to agree a package of measures including a green fund to manage long-term aid, deals on sharing clean technology and protecting tropical forests.


The different perceptions of aid flows between rich and poor nations are likely to be a hurdle to negotiations among environment ministers in Cancun. No nations expect a treaty to be agreed after world leaders fell short in Copenhagen.

Poor nations suspect that rich nations, facing budget cuts at home, are simply relabelling many old projects as new.

“It is clear there is more funding flowing,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy program at the World Resources Institute in Washington. “But how much of it is new and additional is an open question.”

Developing nations have long said aid is “new and additional” only if it is above a goal, set in the 1970s, for developed nations to give 0.7 percent of their annual gross domestic income as aid. Most donors have never reached the goal.

Even so, Sekoli said that getting cash flowing was more important than wrangling about percentages. “We should not spend time arguing on the level … I am so desperate to see the flow of funds,” he said.

The poorest nations, largely in Africa, have done least to cause global warming but are among the most vulnerable to droughts, floods, desertification, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

Many developed nations have not clearly defined what they mean by new and additional. Under the Copenhagen Accord, aid is due to rise to $100 billion a year from 2020. (Editing by Susan Fenton)

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