(2014-09-20)Barack Obama will not be pledging any cash to a near-empty fund for poor countries at a United Nations summit on climate change next week, the UN special climate change envoy said on Friday.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has challenged the 125 world leaders attending the 23 September summit to make “bold pledges” to the fund, intended to help poor countries cope with climate change.
The UN has been pressing rich countries to come up with pledges of between $10bn and $15bn.
“We are putting a lot of pressure for them to do it at the summit on the 23rd,” the UN envoy and former Irish president, Mary Robinson, told the Guardian on the sidelines of a US Agency for International Development meeting. But she added: “I know the United States is not going to commit because I’ve asked.”
Obama put climate change at the top of his second term agenda, and the administration unveiled a host of new green measures in the run-up to next week’s meeting, including an initiative to cut the extremely potent greenhouse gas used as a coolant in refrigerators and air conditioners.
Obama’s speech to the summit will showcase those US actions, such as proposed new rules cutting carbon pollution from power plants.
“The president will use his speech at the climate summit to call on other leaders to keep their ambitions high and to work for a strong global framework to cut emissions,” White House adviser John Podesta told a conference call with reporters.
Todd Stern, the state department climate envoy, told the call those measures put Obama in a stronger position to help broker an international climate deal next year.
But cash for the Green Climate Fund – to help poor countries move off fossil fuels and protect their people from rising seas, heat waves and other consequences of climate change – will not be part of Obama’s agenda at this UN meeting.
The summit is intended to help catalyse action on climate change – and UN officials have said repeatedly it is not a negotiating session.
Instead, the meeting is being seen as a test of willingness of rich and poor countries to buckle down in the next 15 months and do the work needed to reach a deal that will cut greenhouse gas emissions and help insulate the world from effects of climate change.
Climate finance is a critical part of reaching a deal. Poorest countries did the least to cause climate change, but scientists say they will suffer the worst impacts.
Rich countries committed to the Green Climate Fund in 2009, pledging to mobilise $100bn a year by 2020 to help poor countries deal with climate change.
So far, only Germany has made a significant contribution, with Chancellor Angela Merkel pledging $1bn over four years in July, potentially poisoning the atmosphere for future negotiations.
“We must have a commitment on the Green Climate Fund. It has to be capitalised to a minimum of $10bn and hopefully between $12bn and $15bn,” Robinson said.
“It is important for the trust between countries that rich countries really take responsibility. There were commitments made to have $100bn a year by 2020 but we are still not seeing that fleshed out.”
Developing countries have said they want to see promises of $15bn for the fund this year. Leaders of small island states, which face getting drowned by sea level rise, are also demanding to see cash – as well as strong action on climate.
“From those of us on the front line – or from our perspective on the water line – we need to hear the leaders at the the summit say very clearly they are prepared to take stronger actions than before to reduce emissions,” Tony de Brum, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, told a conference call hosted by the World Resources Institute thinktank. “They also need to bring climate financing to the table.”
Robinson said she expected to see pledges from European countries and South Korea at the summit, and maybe Mexico and Costa Rica as well, to demonstrate that the UN is casting the net wider for funding.
Other UN officials were hopeful of filling the pot.
Bob Orr, a UN assistant secretary general for policy, said the organisation hoped to see funds beginning to flow at the summit. “The secretary general has been calling on all the government of the world to fill this empty shell,” he told a panel organised by the Center for American Progress. “We will see a good downpayment on that next week.”