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Brits join Aussies, US in opposing climate ‘reparations’

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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The United Kingdom has joined Australia and other rich countries in opposing creating a new United Nations mechanism to compensate poor countries for the damages brought on by global warming.

More than 130 poor countries have demanded that the UN set up an institution to measure the “loss and damage” from global warming-induced extreme weather events — which were allegedly brought about by the unabated burning of fossil fuels by rich countries.

“We don’t accept the argument on compensation. We never have and we are not intending to start now,” said Ed Davey, the the UK’s energy secretary. “We do believe we need to support people when they are having to adapt their lives and economies to climate change, but I don’t think the compensation analysis is fair or sensible.”

A British official said it would be “impossible to calculate how much storm damage was caused by man-made climate change, even if one accepted that there was a link,” the Times reports.

On Wednesday, diplomats from 132 poor countries walked out after the U.S., Australia and European countries rejected proposals to set up a separate institution to dole out climate reparations. Developed nations said the discussion should be pushed back to 2015 when more comprehensive climate talks are set to take place.

This year’s climate talks in Warsaw, Poland were supposed to clear the way for a global deal greenhouse gas emissions reductions to take place in 2015, but hang ups about how much money should be handed out for climate aid has deeply divided negotiators.

Poor countries hoped to use extreme weather events like Typhoon Haiyan to pave the way for future negotiations, but domestic politics in rich countries have set back this goal. Furthermore, the science surrounding global warming has come under increased scrutiny.

Japan recently announced it was scaling back its climate goals after shuttering of its nuclear power industry in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Instead of reducing emissions 25 percent below 1990s levels, the country will allow emissions to rise by three percent.

Australia’s newly elected conservative government came into power on a platform opposing much of the country’s already existing climate policy. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made efforts to eliminate the country’s carbon tax and has cut funding Australia’s renewable energy bureaucracy. High-ranking Aussie diplomats also opted not to attend this year’s climate talks in Warsaw.

Aussie diplomats have also been heavily derided by poor country diplomats for supposedly not taking the negotiations seriously.

“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.

Even U.S. negotiators were instructed not to oppose charging rich countries “compensation or reparation” for historic greenhouse gas emissions.

“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 obtained by India’s the Hindu newspaper.

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