As part of a new UN-sponsored climate change pact, the European Union has stated that it will offer poor, developing countries money in order to encourage them to sign up to emissions cuts. However, the EU is now delaying making its decision as to the amount of money that it is prepared to offer.
Environmental groups have regarded this as a negative move on the part of the EU which will damage the EU's credibility as a leader in combating climate change. They regard this as yet another hitch in international negotiations on a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.
Greenpeace EU climate and energy policy director, Joris den Blanken, stated that "environment ministers have ducked and passed the climate change funding hot potato to finance ministers". He criticised the Member States for spending billions of taxpayers' money to "prop up failed banks" while "not pledging one euro cent to help the developing world tackle a problem that Europeans helped to create".
The reasoning behind the delay is that EU leaders wanted to await climate change comments from the United States and other countries before putting forward a European offer. European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, stated that "it is important that the United States, Japan and other major contributors also signal what their position will be". He reassured that the EU continues to be "committed to playing a leading role" in the fight against climate change and that the decision on offering developing countries such as Africa an aid incentive would be made in the second half of 2009.
To date, developing countries are willing to do what they can to limit greenhouse gas emissions but only if rich countries provide technology and funds to assist them. Member States agree that "significant domestic and external sources of finance" will be needed to help developing countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions. It has been estimated by the Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, that, by 2030, approximately €54bn a year will need to be provided to developing countries in order that they can fight the effects of global warming. This is a substantial sum and leaders of developing countries need to carefully consider how they will come up with this money.
A failure by rich nations to move fast in order to assist developing countries could seriously jeopardise the global climate accord, due to be concluded in December. The head of the UN's climate change secretariat, Yvo de Boer, has stated that "industrialised countries must now show willingness to make real financial commitments to help developing nations".
The subject will be discussed again in June but Mirek Topolanek, the Czech prime minister, was of the opinion that Member States would be unlikely to decide even then since the contribution of the USA, Japan and others will need to be taken into account first. He stated that "we haven't come forward with concrete proposals because there are other global partners who have not come forward with their preparations and pinned their colours to the mast".
Climate talks are due to take place in December, in Copenhagen. the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has warned that a global deal to assist developing countries on emissions cuts would not be likely if there is not more money from the EU and other countries willing to give aid. He also stressed that the process in the EU needed to start early.
The delay has been regarded as a positive step by the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who insisted that delay would not diminish the EU's commitment but would actually make the EU "stronger in the offer that it is making".
However, diplomats are inclined to be of the view that national budgets are feeling the view that national budgets are feeling the pinch of the recession and countries are not putting a climate aid decision high on thier list.