Disasters ‘a call to action on climate change’

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres yesterday warned that a string of weather calamities showed the deepening urgency to forge a breakthrough deal on global warming this year.

Speaking before some 40 countries were to address finance, an issue that has helped hamstring UN climate talks, Figueres said floods in Pakistan, fires in Russia and other weather disasters had been a shocking wak-up call.

“The news has been screaming that a future of intense, global climate disasters is not the future that we want,” Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told reporters.

“Science will show whether and how those events are related to climate change caused by humanity’s greenhouse-gas emissions, but the point is clear: We cannot afford to face escalating disasters of that kind.”

Figueres called on governments to agree on “four or five” major planks at year-end UNFCCC talks in Cancun, Mexico, which would then serve as a platform for a 2012 global pact on climate.

“We read it that countries are assuming their responsibility, that they’re being realistic, that they’re being productive, that they’re being constructive and that they’re counting on very clear outcomes from Cancun,” she said.

One of the issues in Cancun will be funding.

Hundreds of billions of dollars are needed to prevent future emissions of greenhouse gases by emerging economies and help poor countries facing worsening drought, flood, storms and rising seas.

The Geneva talks, which end today, gather more than 40 countries at ministerial level, including big advanced economies, emerging giants and countries representative of poor nations.

The tentative goal is to establish a “dialogue” on the broad lines of how to gear up as much as €100 billion (€78bn) a year by 2020.

The many questions include the resources of this fund, the role of the private and public sector and how the money would be administered.

Also on the table will be how to implement “fast-track” finance of €30bn over the next three years.

Both are the key pledges made by rich countries at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen last December, an event that bickering, textual wrangling and finger-pointing brought to within an inch of catastrophe.

Mistrust festers, especially among developing countries eyeing the few solid promises made at that meeting.

“We will be very happy after the meeting if it starts to send trust, send a common understanding of the challenges... of the important questions, that would be huge step forward,” said Swiss negotiator Franz Perrez.

Developing countries in particular want assurances that the €30bn in short-term finance will come from new sources and is not siphoned off from development aid or existing budgets, said Oxfam policy advisor Romain Benicchio.

Switzerland and Mexico say the outcome will feed into the UN process, deemed the sole valid vehicle for dealing with the climate peril.


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