Poor countries pulled out of the United Nations climate talks during a fight over transferring wealth from richer countries to fight global warming.
The G77 and China bloc led 132 poor countries in a walk out during talks about “loss and damage” compensation for the consequences of global warming that countries cannot adapt to, like Typhoon Haiyan. The countries that left claim to have the support of other coalitions of poor nations, including the Least Developed Countries, the Alliance of Small Island States and the Africa Group.
Poor countries have demanded that the developed world give them $100 billion annually by 2020 to prepare for the impacts of global warming, such as heat waves and droughts. Brazil even put forward a proposal last week that would have made rich countries pay for historical greenhouse gas emissions.
“The US, EU, Australia and Norway remain blind to the climate reality that’s hitting us all, and poor people and countries much harder,” said Harjeet Singh, spokesperson for ActionAid International. “They continue to derail negotiations in Warsaw that can create a new system to deal with new types of loss and damage such as sea-level rise, loss of territory, biodiversity and other non-economic losses more systematically.”
Rich countries have so far resisted these proposals. Australia, Europe and the U.S. have all argued that the issue should be addressed in 2015, when the world is set to discuss a comprehensive climate agreement. Developed countries have also banded together to block attempts to create a whole new bureaucracy to handle climate “reparations” to poor countries.
“The EU understands that the issue is incredibly important for developing countries. But they should be careful about … creating a new institution. This is not [what] this process needs,” said Connie Hedegaard, European Union climate commissioner. “The whole financing discussion reflects that the developed world knows it has special responsibility. Most of what has been emitted has been done by us.”
U.S. diplomats were specifically instructed by the Obama administration to oppose any attempts to create an independent fund for climate reparations from rich countries to poor countries.
“A central issue will be whether loss and damage continues to fall within adaptation or whether it becomes a separate, third pillar (alongside adaption and mitigation), which we believe would lead the [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] to focus increasingly on blame and liability, which in turn would be counterproductive from the standpoint of public support for the convention,” reads a State Department memo.
Australian diplomats have also thrown a wrench into the negotiations, as poor countries and activists accused them of not taking the talks seriously. The country did not even send high-ranking officials to the UN summit, saying that they would be busy repealing the country’s contentious carbon tax.
“They wore T-shirts and gorged on snacks throughout the negotiation. That gives some indication of the manner they are behaving in,” said a spokeswoman for the Climate Action Network.
“The carbon tax is bad for the economy and it doesn’t do any good for the environment,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told The Washington Post. “Despite a carbon tax of $37 a ton by 2020, Australia’s domestic emissions were going up, not down. The carbon tax was basically socialism masquerading as environmentalism, and that’s why it’s going to get abolished.”
Japan has also been seen as bucking the UN’s climate goals by allowing greenhouse gas emissions to grow by three percent. The Fukushima disaster shuttered the island nation’s nuclear power industry and dashed its hopes of lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 1990s levels.
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