Adaptation is the only major area in which climate negotiators actually hope to strike a bargain before leaving Poznan this week, but judging by the tone of a panel discussion I attended last night, such an outcome is by no means assured.
The goal is to sign off on a new adaptation fund that has been collecting money from a tax on projects in the Clean Development Mechanism, which allows wealthy nations to meet their targets under the Kyoto Protocol by paying for clean energy and other such projects in poor countries. But negotiators from developing nations say their counterparts in the developing world, namely Europe, are insisting on overly burdensome requirements that will increase bureaucracy, delay projects and ultimately waste money.
That anger bubbled over on Sunday at a meeting held by the International Institute for Environment and Development and others. Bernaditas Muller, a lead negotiator for the Philippines, lashed out at developed nations for pretending that the adaptation fund is a charitable gift to the developed world. “This is not a donor situation – this is a debt owed,” Muller says, quickly citing UN convention language laying out the obligation. Moreover, she says, developing nations themselves took the lead in setting aside this particular pot of money for adaptation, because they recognized that many countries are in fact too poor to benefit from the CDM program (you can’t reduce emissions that you aren’t producing in the first place). “It’s our gift to our own people,” she told me later.
I tracked down Amjad Abdulla, director general of the Maldives Ministry of Environment, after the meeting as well. He put it in simple terms: “We feel that you don’t trust us."
Richard Muyungi, a Tanzanian official and chairman of the Adaptation Fund Board that has been studying the issue since Bali, says the board’s proposal is to set criteria and guidelines now. Anybody that meets the criteria, including a government agency, would then be able to access and dispense the funds beginning next year.
I haven’t yet talked to European negotiators about the issue yet, so it’s not clear to me what wealthy nations are actually proposing (aside from some kind of protocols to ensure the money will be spent properly). But I bumped into UN climate chief Yvo de Boer at the Sheraton – a popular after-hours venue – and he was sympathetic to the developing countries pleas for “direct access” to the money. I asked if he was confident that the adaptation fund would be launched this week. “No I’m not,” he told me. “I’m not. I hope it will be launched, but I think developing countries are rightly concentrating on quality rather than speed.”
And this isn’t the only issue facing negotiators. Legal issues need to be worked out if the Adaptation Board itself is to distribute the funds, and of course there are the usual questions about money. The fund currently contains something on the order of $200 million; even with a doubling or tripling in the next several years, the numbers remain small. As such, there are proposals to increase funding as well, including one proposal to collect a fuel tax on international air travel.
More on all of that later. Negotiators are taking today off in honor of the Muslim holiday Eid Al-Adha, but I’ll be busy with plenty of side events and news conferences.