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Climate: no change?

November 8, 2009

Who should pay for environmental protection? That question is proving difficult to answer. The upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen could fail, warns Germany's development minister, Dirk Niebel.

A banner reading 'climate chaos' hangs from a statue during a demonstration against global warming
Can the world agree on how to stave off rising temperatures?Image: AP

One month before the World Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Federal Development Minister Dirk Niebel is doubtful about the chances for agreement on new climate standards.

"The national government wants this to succeed," Niebel told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper on Saturday. "But there is real doubt about whether it is going to be possible at this time." Niebel noted that even some sort of resolution outlining core goals for an international accord could be considered a success.

Development Minister Dirk Niebel
Niebel is worried that a new accord to replace the Kyoto protocol may not be foundImage: AP

Climate protection gets expensive

The climate summit in Copenhagen is supposed to come up with a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. However, industrial and developing nations continue to argue over which countries must reduce their emissions and who should bear the costs of carbon dioxide reduction measures.

According to EU estimates, the Earth's poorest nations will need about 100 billion euros per year until 2020. About 22 to 50 billion euros of that will come from the public purse. The EU has indicated that it is prepared to cover about a third of the costs. But an agreement among all the industrialized countries is still pending.

"If there isn't an agreement on financing, if there isn't an agreement about contributions to make sure we can deal with this problem, then the Copenhagen agreement is going to be much, much more difficult," British Finance Minister Alistair Darling said on Saturday, after finance ministers from the G20 countries met in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Developing countries protest

Village in Mali
Drought and rising temperatures are a growing problem in AfricaImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

The EU is prepared to unilaterally reduce its emissions by 20 percent by 2020 - and by 30 percent if other industrialized countries join in.

According to an assessment by the Copenhagen Climate Council, developed countries must reduce their emissions by 25 to 40 percent in order to hold an increase in global temperatures to two degrees.

For the developing countries, these promises are not enough. During pre-Copenhagen preparatory talks, held earlier this month in Barcelona, 50 African countries temporarily walked out of the proceedings to protest what they saw as foot-dragging by the wealthier countries.

These nations, says the so-called "Group of 77" developing and threshhold countries, must reduce their emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020.

Editor: Andreas Illmer