European Union environment ministers have failed to agree on concrete financial support for climate change efforts in developing countries. They have now passed the buck on to their finance counterparts.
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The European Union is unable to set an exact figure on the aid it is willing to give developing nations in exchange for support of a global climate change pact, said Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursik.
It was "too early" for the 27-nation bloc "to put money on the table," said Bursik, whose country currently holds the EU presidency.
"We were not quite able to reach consensus on the financing mechanism," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told reporters.
The EU environment ministers met in Brussels on Monday, March 2, to discuss the bloc's negotiating position at talks for the UN-sponsored climate change talks in Copenhagen in December.
"It makes no sense to say now how much the EU is willing to transfer," Germany's Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said. "We will negotiate that in Copenhagen. We are creeping towards a number."
USA plays a key role
Bursik said the EU still wanted to find out the United States' mid-term targets, how much money the US would spend and whether Washington would adopt a cap-and-trade system.
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He said the EU presidency was confident that US President Barack Obama "will follow the leadership of the European Union" by setting ambitious mid-term goals for cutting greenhouse gases.
"We know that the US wants to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, (but) we don't know what their mid-term target is," Bursik said.
The EU and the US are considered the major donors that could get lesser developed nations involved in a new global drive to cut carbon dioxide emissions. The EU has committed to reducing emissions by 30 percent of 1990 levels by 2020 if other developed countries commit to comparable cuts. It has already put in place the measures to cut its own emissions by 20 percent.
European environment ministers said they see Obama as a great boost for finding a successor to the Kyoto protocol in Copenhagen. His predecessor George W. Bush refused to ratify the treaty.
Bursik and Dimas said they would visit Washington on March 14-15 to find out more about the intentions of the US administration. According to Bursik climate change would be one of the first things European Union leaders discuss with Obama when he visits Prague for an EU-US summit in early April.
Passing on the "hot potato"
Joris den Blanken, the EU climate and energy policy director for environmental group Greenpeace, criticized that the issue has now been put on the agenda at the EU finance ministers meeting on March 10.
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"Environment ministers have ducked and passed the climate funding hot potato to finance ministers," Blanken said in a statement. "While billions of taxpayers' money is being used to prop up failed banks and carmakers, not one eurocent is being pledged to help the developing world tackle a problem that Europeans helped create."
According to Greenpeace, EU leaders should support a market-linked scheme where countries are asked to pay for part of their emissions.
"The EU must contribute its fair share to poorer countries," Blanken said. "The clock is ticking, global climate talks in Copenhagen are less than 300 days away, and we still have little more than words on the table."
An EU report states that global investment to fight climate change will need to rise to some 175 billion euros ($220 billion) per year by 2020. Over 90 billion euros of that sum must be spent in developing countries, the report said.
Greenpeace and other NGOs have said the European Union should be contributing around 35 billion euros by 2020 to overall assistance by industrialized countries to help developing nations deal with the effects of climate change.
The issue is also on the agenda when the EU's 27 heads of state and government come together for their next summit on March 19-20.