Paris climate talks should not put figure on finance, says World Bank vice-president
The Paris conference on climate change should not set a target for future financial assistance to developing countries, according to the World Bank's top official on climate change.
The question of how rich countries should provide money to poor countries to help them cut greenhouse gases and cope with the effects of global warming will be crucial to success at Paris, and the World Bank’s intervention is likely to be controversial in some quarters.
At the last landmark climate conference, in Copenhagen in 2009, rich countries agreed that $100bn a year should flow to the poor world in “climate finance” by 2020, a figure still to be met. Most developing countries regard this as totemic issue, and it is likely to prove the make-or-break condition of the Paris meeting in December, where governments are hoping to forge a new global agreement for the decade beyond 2020.
Rachel Kyte, World Bank vice-president and special envoy for climate change, told the Guardian that she rejected the idea that a Paris agreement should contain a similar pledge.
She said: “I hope there is not a number [on climate finance] for beyond 2020 at Paris. I understand the need of developed countries to ensure that finance is going to those countries but that is not it.”
She accused governments at the Copenhagen meeting of making up a symbolic number in the closing days of the talks, just to try to get a last-minute deal.
“The $100bn was picked out of the air at Copenhagen,” she argued. “If you think about the global economy and the challenge for finance ministers in developed countries, I’m not sure that an abstract number like $100bn is helpful. It is not a meaningful number to a country managing its economy.”
Climate change now affects many aspects of a country’s development and economy, she said, so that it would be difficult in future to separate out “climate finance” from other funds.
The Paris conference is aimed at continuing where Copenhagen left off. In 2009, for the first time, developed and developing country governments jointly agreed targets on cutting or curbing their emissions up to 2020.
But the summit was marred by scenes of chaos and bitter recriminations, and the resulting deal - though still valid - was not enshrined in a formal treaty. As a result, the targets agreed there are not legally binding at an international level, though many are at a country level.
Hopes for Paris are for a treaty or another binding legal instrument that will ensure all the commitments on emissions are more formally treated. In order to gain developing country agreement, rich nations will have to show that they are fulfilling the $100bn pledge, as well as preparing to ramp up their contributions beyond 2020, when any Paris agreement would come into effect.
Kyte said that the new agreement would not need a similar pledge on post-2020 financial assistance, but would be better made with a clear commitment to provide clearly defined climate finance, without setting a specific number on it.