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INTERVIEW-Poor Nations Fear Empty Climate Deal At Copenhagen

Date: 16-Oct-09
Country: BELGIUM
Author: Pete Harrison

BRUSSELS, Oct 15 - Poor nations are not blocking global climate talks but are simply demanding that rich nations meet existing commitments of financial help, a leading negotiator for the 77 poorest countries said.

Bernarditas Muller said a rift that emerged in climate talks in Bangkok last week showed that rich nations want to dodge responsibility for global warming by their industries and to avoid existing commitments to provide climate funding.

About 180 nations will meet in Copenhagen in December to try to find a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N.'s main tool against climate change, which expires in 2012.

A dispute over how much money rich nations pay to help the poor adapt to climate change threatens to undermine chances of a deal there, said Muller, who negotiates for the Group of 77 (G77) nations.

"What we fear most is that this will just turn into a short political declaration that says principally that nothing will be done unless developing countries do it themselves," Muller, who is from the Philippines, told Reuters.

"But it will be done in beautiful language -- We are making a commitment to address the defining challenge of our times... blah, blah, blah."

Preliminary climate talks in Bangkok ended with accusations that rich nations such as the United States were trying to kill off the framework of the existing Kyoto Protocol. [ID:nSP457708]

"There must be a complete shift in mindset," Muller said on the sidelines of an Oxfam meeting. "They want to deny historical responsibilities. They want to get rid of their legally binding commitments. They want a new one in which developed countries will continue their wasteful lifestyles."

Europe says that it wants to widen Kyoto, which does not bind the United States nor rapidly emerging economies such as the world's biggest carbon emitter China, and so would rather craft a new pact than extend and add an attachment to Kyoto.

Muller rejected accusations that poor nations were blocking the talks by refusing to compromise.

"What really gets me is they say developing countries are blocking the process. There is no way developing countries could be blocking the process. We want a fulfilment of their commitment to provide the (financial) resources."

FUNDING

The European Union is working on measures to provide up to 15 billion euros ($22.4 billion) a year to poor countries by 2020 as part of a global donation of around 100 billion. But no other rich regions have put offers on the table.

Developing nations must first prove the money will not be wasted by showing how they will use it to cut emissions in a transparent and verifiable way, they say.

But poor nations are under no such obligation to report emissions cuts, Muller said. The only obligation that exists in the U.N. convention on climate change is for rich countries to provide financial help.

"It is the advances made by developed countries in amassing their financial resources and getting their technological advance through industrialisation that is damaging the environment. That is why they have a mitigation commitment and we do not.

"The reason we're suffering so much is we don't have the resources to cope. Right now, the Philippines has undergone a series of typhoons, we are still having floods and we think they'll stay until the end of the year."

"The areas that are underwater right now are areas of vegetable and rice production. What are we going to do? We've lost settlements and people. And then they come to us and say we must take mitigation action, and then report it and verify it... how can they say that?"

But Muller did not rule out the possibility of eventual success in finding a global agreement to fight climate change.

"Negotiating is the art of the possible, so we sit there, we talk, we wait..." she said. (Reporting by Pete Harrison, editing by Anthony Barker)

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