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Leuenberger is positive about Cancun

Desertification is just one of the issues on the table at climate talks Keystone

Swiss Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger says he has been encouraged by two days of informal talks in Geneva on funding efforts to combat climate change.

This content was published on September 3, 2010 - 21:42

He said consensus had been reached on a so-called “Green Fund” for long-term financing that includes public and private funds. But observers say nothing was really decided in Geneva and Cancun remains the real litmus test.

Ministers and top officials from 46 countries took part in the talks, jointly hosted by Switzerland and Mexico, aimed at rebuilding trust and sounding out positions on key finance issues ahead of the global climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico, in December.

“We had very open, candid talks to seek new solutions and pinpoint where differences lie,” Leuenberger told reporters on Friday. “The meeting enabled us to rebuild trust between countries.”

It was a “useful meeting” with concrete proposals, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s environment minister, José Endundo, told swissinfo.ch.

“We saw rather mixed results in Copenhagen, so there was a real need for informal talks and common visions. This was difficult with 192 countries but possible with 46.”

Leuenberger said he believed progress would be possible in Cancun because countries were "no longer fixated" on agreeing on an all-embracing successor to the Kyoto Protocol as they were in Copenhagen.

“Industrialised nations are willing to pay according to the “polluter-pays” principle. It remains open whether emerging nations like China and Brazil will also contribute to the fund,” he added.

Mexico's Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa felt it should be possible to establish a “Green Fund” at the Cancun conference, which was “part of a package”.

No new text

But she played down hopes of any broader breakthrough deal in December saying the public should not measure the success of the Mexican talks by whether countries agree on a new legally binding text to combat global warming.

She said negotiators were focusing on making progress on smaller issues before perhaps seeking a comprehensive agreement in 2011 or later.

“I don't think this is the right approach under the current circumstances," she told reporters. "Throughout the world there are really very different needs and interests."

Wealthy countries like the United States, which rejected the Kyoto Protocol, want rapidly developing nations such as China and India to join in the effort to cut pollution.

Poor countries say they will agree to a deal only if it includes significant financial aid to help them make their economies greener.

Financial promises

Under the Copenhagen Accord finalized last December, developed countries promised $30 billion in fast-track financing for the period 2010-2012, but the larger goal was commitment to “jointly mobilising” $100 billion in long-term aid annually by 2020.

Ministers in Geneva were expected to address key questions such as where the money should come from, how the private sector should be brought on board, coordination of funds and new sources of finance.

During the meeting the Advisory Group of the UN Secretary General on Climate Finance (AGF) briefed delegates on their recommendations on new and innovative sources, but the details remain sketchy.

“I would like to present you with facts and figures, but we are here for building trust,” said Leuenberger.

Big differences remain

According to Wendel Trio, climate policy coordinator at Greenpeace International, big differences remain over where the money should come from, who should get it, and how it would be controlled.

"Given that climate finance is definitely one of the issues that will need to be solved, the fact that we haven't seen progress in the last two days is an indication that governments are not yet willing to move forward," Trio told the Associated Press news agency.

Romain Bennichio, a climate expert with Oxfam France, also felt little had been achieved in Geneva.

“Nothing was decided here during these two days,” he told swissinfo.ch. “We will only know in Cancun if sufficient progress has been made.”

Pledges website

A website was launched on Friday on the sidelines of the Geneva talks to help track whether rich countries are keeping a pledge to come up with the $30 billion in fast-track climate aid for poor nations.

The United Nations-backed site (www.faststartfinance.org) so far lists cash promises by six European donors including Germany and Britain, and 27 recipients from Bangladesh to the Marshall Islands. Many of the developing nations have blank entries on the amount of aid received.

"It will give trust that promises are being kept," Dutch Environment Minister Tineke Huizinga, who conceived the project, told reporters.
Bennichio said the launch of the site was a “first step” towards much needed transparency.

“But it is still not enough,” he said. “Only a few countries have taken part and lots of information is lacking about new and additional pledges or whether they are loans or donations.”

Simon Bradley, swissinfo.ch

UN CLIMATE TALKS

The first UN climate conference, popularly known as the Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It produced an international environmental treaty, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

A follow-up conference in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 produced the Kyoto Protocol, with binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. The 178-nation accord is a 1997 annexe to the 1992 treaty that requires 37 industrial nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% below 1990 levels by 2010.

The Bali action plan adopted by UNFCCC in 2007 included five building blocks: a shared vision for a future climate regime, reductions of greenhouse gases, adaptation measures, financing and technology development. Based on this plan a negotiation process was launched.

Nearly 200 countries met in Copenhagen in December 2009 to try to reach a global agreement to follow or extend the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out at the end of 2012. The Copenhagen Accord fell short of a new treaty, setting a non-binding goal of limiting a rise in world temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

The Climate Dialogue in Geneva from September 1-2 to discuss the long-term financing of climate action was chaired by Swiss Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger and Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa.

The UNFCCC is due to hold a climate preparatory meeting in October in Tianjin, China, followed by the next major global climate talks in the Mexican city of Cancun from November 29 to December 11, 2010.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says industrialised countries need to reduce their emissions by 25% to 40% of their 1990 levels by 2020. It has called on the rich nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80% to 95% by 2050, and developing countries by 50%.

The Swiss government proposes that Switzerland should reduce its emissions by 20% of their 1990 level by 2020.

Switzerland has said it is prepared to increase its target to 30%.

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