Budget battle at cash-strapped UN climate forum

16th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Administrators tasked with running the UN's talks on climate change have put out the begging bowl to help implement deals that in theory could reach a hundred billion dollars a year.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is asking its 194 parties to boost its roughly 25-million-dollar annual budget by about 15 percent for 2012 and 2013.

The proposal has so far been rejected by the handful of rich nations that usually foot the bill, according to sources at a meeting in Bonn, where some 3,000 delegates and observers are gathered until Friday.

The UNFCCC secretariat has a staff of 145, headquartered in the former West German capital.

It says it needs the extra cash to take on new responsibilities flowing from last December's ministerial meeting in the Mexican resort of Cancun.

These fresh duties include gearing up a "green climate fund" set to disburse 100 billion dollars a year by 2020, as well as newly created committees to monitor national schemes for cutting greenhouse gases, technology transfer, and measures to help developing countries adapt to climate change impacts.

Failure to up the budget would have "fundamental institutional and process implications for parties and the secretariat," it warned in an internal document laying out its case.

Squabbles over money to keep the UN climate machinery running are not new. But finding a compromise this time could be prove more difficult than in the past, say NGOs following the issue.

Japan, struggling with the aftermath of the March 11 quake and tsunami that has slammed its economy, has called for "zero growth" in the UNFCCC's spending.

The United States -- fearing Washington hawks hostile to the UN -- has taken the same position, observers say.

"The big difference this year is that the Europeans have joined the US and Japan, and that is very disappointing," said Patrick Finnegan, head of Grian, an Irish association that promotes awareness on climate issues.

Finnegan raised eyebrows on Wednesday when he attempted to shame negotiators in a closed-door session into coughing up the extra cash, the first time an NGO has been allowed to weigh in on the issue.

"I pointed out that the cost of running the UN's multilateral process against climate change -- about 500,000 dollars a week -- is what it costs to lay 100 metres (yards) of motorway," he said.

One European negotiator expressed impatience with the request for more money.

"We need more efficiency in the secretariat. We have five groups working on the same questions," he said, asking not to be named.

"It is not because the issue is a priority that we are going to accept waste and inefficiency."

Budget concerns have also damped enthusiasm for scheduling an additional meeting ahead of the UNFCCC's next high-level meeting, running November 28-December 9 in Durban, South Africa.

Each gathering costs about five million dollars.

© 2011 AFP

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