Euro summit gets down to climate brass tacks
Brussels -- Europe's leaders will on Thursday attempt to agree a 2-billion-euro annual endowment to the world's poorer countries in order to jolt Copenhagen climate negotiations into a new gear.
But with many uneasy about dipping into sorely depleted national budgets in post-recessionary times scarred by high unemployment, their success or otherwise will say much about Europe’s role and its credibility on the international stage.
The 27 leaders of the European Union have a battle on their hands if they are to reach this target contribution, amounting to 3 billion dollars per year between 2010 and 2012, not least because the sums are to be raised voluntarily.
Raised targets for cutting emissions within a decade down the line are already problematic, but as one European source underlined, here "it is a question of instant money, within the context of an economic crisis and squeezed budgets."
Opposition during negotiations on the issue in late October proved intense, gathering France, Germany, Italy and eastern EU powerhouse Poland behind an argument which said there should be no commitment to set figures.
Why reveal all before discovering the intentions of the world’s other great historical polluters, its advocates maintained.
"Nobody wants to pay for Copenhagen," Poland’s European affairs minister, Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, said then.
Sure enough, when the United Nations conference opened on Monday, there was no concrete money on the table and commitments made by developed countries to reducing harmful emissions blamed for rising temperatures were seen as a disappointment within the European Commission.
In a bid to regain some lost initiative, leading figures are pushing for the offer of upfront aid to the world’s developing economies, Europe having estimated the global finance requirement for the next three years at between 5 and 7 billion euros per year.
"The Swedish presidency wants a precise figure, and it would be of the order of 2 billion euros per year" from Europe, another European source told AFP on Tuesday.
But, to date, only Britain has made public its contribution: an 800-million-pound pot, which breaks up into around 300 million euros per year.
"France will be generous," comes the cry from Paris, although still without pinning down a number.
"We’re not going to hand over a blank cheque so that others can wriggle out of their responsibilities," explained German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
"Italy will decide based on what the European Union decides" was how his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini summed up the issue.
The tensions are equally prevalent over emissions cuts, where Poland is also in opposition to the European Parliament, which backs raising the level from a 20 percent cut to a 30 percent reduction on 1990 emissions levels by 2020.
"As we speak, the conditions have not been fulfilled that would allow us to move from our objective of 20 percent to 30 percent," said Dowgielewicz on Monday.
Environment commissioner Stavros Dimas admitted that even when the commitments of others are added in, the result remains "very far removed from the level of our ambition being sought."
Even in the case where a substantial political agreement is reached in Copenhagen, Warsaw would prefer to wait until next year — and the conclusion of a restrictive international compromise — before making its move.
In order to limit global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, going by broad scientific consensus despite mounting data challenges, countries are estimated to need emissions cuts of between 25 percent and 40 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.
So far, the total offered by developing countries adds up to 13.3 percent.