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Who foots the bill?

October 29, 2009

With just five weeks to go before world leaders meet for a global climate summit in Copenhagen, a split has emerged within the European Union. Nobody, it seems, can agree on who should foot the bill.

A falling stock curve with the sun and wind turbines in the background
EU leaders can't agree how much to pay to protect the environmentImage: AP/DPA

In the past, Europe has played a crucial role in pushing for global consensus on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. But the bloc may lose its position at the fore of environmental protection if it can't come to an agreement on how to spread the costs fighting climate change.

European politicians said one of the main tasks of a two-day summit that began in Brussels on Thursday would be to work toward a compromise on financing climate protection measures.

Developing nations have said they will not agree to tackle climate change unless they receive funding from rich countries, whose industries are largely responsible for the problem.

According to the European Commission, poorer countries will need an annual sum of 100 billion euros ($147 billion) until 2020 to help fight global warming. The EU is proposing that it should contribute 15 billion euros to this annual figure.

Turning to Merkel

Greenpeace flyer showing Merkel which reads, "Climate change starts here, less talk, more money"
Environmental groups want Merkel to make concrete aid promisesImage: Greenpeace / Rante

Despite falling far below the 35 billion euros called for by environmental organizations, the EU's proposal has met with vocal protest from Poland and eight other central European countries.

Poland, which depends largely on coal for its energy, objects to the idea that countries should pay according to what they pollute.

"There is a possibility to agree on a mechanism under which, the richer the country, the more it pays," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said. "We will not agree to a mechanism which means the more you pollute, the more you pay."

Some in the EU are looking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel for progress on the funding because Berlin has resisted calls to set a precise sum for funding, saying the EU should wait for others to show their hand.

"I want Copenhagen to be a success," Merkel said after arriving in Brussels. "The EU has to make clear its ideas. But it is crucial that the United States and China also make clear what they are willing to contribute."

Copenhagen in crisis

Yvo de Boer
Leaders don't have the time to dilly-dally, de Boer saidImage: picture-alliance / dpa

The EU's bickering is the latest in a series of blows which threaten to undermine the Copenhagen summit before it has even begun.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that while he's still optimistic a political deal to slow climate change can be reached in Copenhagen, negotiaters will not be able to reach the wide-ranging deal many observers had hoped for at the beginning of 2009.

The UN head is now urging leaders to make nonbinding agreements with a view to working out the details once the summit is over.

On Wednesday, Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, pushed nations to make commitments to fight climate change quickly.

"What has to be absolutely clear is that we do not have another year to sit on our hands," he said.


Editor: Sean Sinico