Fears for development funds as climate change deal likely to cost €180m a year

A PROPOSED international climate change treaty is likely to cost Ireland €180 million a year as richer nations agree to fund poorer ones to help them reduce their carbon emissions.

The opposition yesterday expressed concern that this would eat into the Government’s already tightened overseas development aid budget.

Environment Minister John Gormley said he hopes “creative accounting” is not used to take away development funds given to third world countries, but he has not yet secured agreement from his cabinet colleagues on where the money would be found.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen is to travel to the special United Nations summit on climate change in Copenhagen next month where the new deal will be thrashed out.

Mr Gormley, who will also represent Ireland at the meeting, yesterday conceded that the treaty agreed will not be legally binding.

“A fully fledged treaty is unlikely to be achieved. At best we are now looking at the possibility of a politically binding agreement rather than a legally binding treaty,” he said.

He also admitted that Ireland’s promised Climate Change Bill will not be completed before he and the Taoiseach attend the meeting with international leaders, including UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

Labour’s spokeswoman on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Liz McManus, said this was very disappointing

“The Government can magic-up NAMA legislation. We’re coming up to an enormously important international meeting in Copenhagen. It seems to me it would be a very important statement of intent if we had at the very least the heads of the bill,” she told Mr Gormley during a meeting of the Oireachtas committee on climate change.

Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney said this “does not inspire confidence”.

Mr Gormley said the laws will be produced in the new year.

“On the Friday before I head off to Copenhagen I will have had a carbon budget and introduced a carbon levy. There are few countries that have stepped up to the mark in that regard by putting a price on carbon, which is absolutely essential if we are going to tackle climate change,” he said.

The treaty is likely to cost €100 billion internationally with industrial countries obliged to contribute to adaptation of climate change in developing countries and to assist those countries to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions.

“The obligation is not based on charity, but on responsibility,” said Mr Gormley.

“The cabinet have not come to conclusions on these matters as of yet because we haven’t looked at the financing issue. We are trying to calculate at the moment what this is going to cost,” he said.

“My own calculation is that in terms of mitigation, we could be talking about €180m per annum by 2020.”

Mr Gormley said this has to be “totally separate” from development aid.

“We have developed a good reputation over the years in relation to overseas development aid and I’ve seen that first hand, recently in the UN, and it would be a shame if we dented that by actually doing a bit of what some people would say is creative accounting.”

More in this section