Small islands demand more ambitious global warming fight, $400 billion in aid

The world’s smallest nations are aghast not only at the pace of climate-change negotiations, but at the modesty of the goals set by the world’s biggest polluters.
The Alliance of Small Island States and a coalition of Least Developed Countries want global warming to be capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, not the 2 degrees the G8 has agreed to. They want developed nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions far lower and far faster than they have proposed to do. And they want $400 billion per year in additional aid to the undeveloped world to mitigate the effects of global warming.
“I want to express our disappointment with current lack of progress and ambition in the climate change talks,” said Dessima Williams of Grenada, chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, at a press conference at the close of informal negotiations in Bonn today. “Unless the pledges (by developed nations) are strengthened, this will lead to global warming in excess of 3 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Such a path will be catastrophic for all countries, but especially for small island states.”
The Bonn conference was one of a series of negotiating meetings designed to iron out differences ahead of the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December.
The undeveloped nations have been told their demands on the developed world–such as a 45 percent reduction in emissions by 2020, just a decade away–are unrealistic, but Williams brushed that suggestion aside: “This approach is realistic because it is risk averting, it is precautionary, and it is problem solving,” she said. “Adverse climate change impacts are already being felt…. Current adverse impacts include sea level rise, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, land loss, coastal erosion, floods, desertification, drought, loss of fresh water supplies, biodiversity loss and more frequent and intense extreme weather events including hurricanes and king tides.”
The aid Williams requested dwarfs earlier numbers. Yesterday Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, estimated it could cost the world $300 billion per year to fight global warming. Today Williams demanded $400 billion just for the undeveloped world, in addition to current levels of aid, with specific financing proposals on the table before the Copenhagen conference.
But while small nations have a place at the 180-nation negotiating table, only big polluters seem to possess significant influence. The top players have adopted postures like a group of dysfunctional siblings. The United States, after decades of self-indulgent disregard, has declared it has matured and will stand with Europe or take the lead. Russia agreed to the commitments of the developed nations while saying it probably could not achieve them.
China and India are the leading polluters among developing nations. China seems eager to appear among progressive nations; it signed a memorandum of understanding in July to cooperate with the U.S. India, meanwhile, has been playing the squeaky wheel, balking at commitments, accusing the U.S. of dividing the developing world with bilateral agreements, such as the one with China, and pressing the developed world for deeper cuts in its own emissions and for more aid.
UN officials have been urging the developed world to commit more aid. At his own press conference in Bonn today, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing yielded on the question of aid:
“Least developed countries are going to need some facilitation and some support. We in the United States are working aggressively both at home and internationally in these negotiations to make that happen,” he said. But he suggested the aid would be tied to significant actions that could be independently verified.
“With respect to developing countries, particularly with greater responsibility, we would like to see those countries inscribe robust domestically derived actions in a legally binding agreement. There are differences of view as to how that would be done.”
Meanwhile, de Boer stressed the pace of negotiations was too slow and emphasized and the high stakes of failure. “If we continue at this rate we’re not going to make it,” he said. “A climate change deal in Copenhagen this year is simply an unequivocal requirement to keep climate change from slipping out of control.”

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