EU lets long-term financing slip off the agenda

In draft council conclusions for the EU summit on Thursday evening, there is a placeholder for a fast-track financing figure to help developing countries fight climate change up until 2012, but nothing on what will happen in the longer term.

The short-term figure EU leaders are expected to agree will not come as a surprise: About €2bn per year has been expected for some time. It will be lauded as yet another sign of EU leadership in the climate talks, given that no other region or country has committed to a specific fast-track figure so far.

But the draft conclusions remain ominously silent on: 1) the issue of long-term financing and; 2) whether even the fast-track money is well and truly additional to existing financial commitments to developing countries.

On 6 December, Oxfam accused European politicians of planning to "cannibalise" existing development aid budgets and repackage them as part of a deal to fight climate change. The Swedish EU presidency did not deny existing funds would be used but said budgets had been planned with climate change in mind.

"Many countries, my own included, have foreseen and planned for Copenhagen and the money is already in state budgets," top Swedish negotiator Anders Turesson said according to Reuters.

Oxfam is unconvinced. To really make an impact on the talks in Copenhagen, EU leaders on Thursday night must be clear that the climate finance they are offering is additional, Oxfam's Tim Gore says, and they must take a stand on long-term financing.

US$10bn a year for 2010-12 is not enough to get an agreement in Copenhagen. It's not even enough to buy us coffins, chief negotiator of the China and G77 bloc Lumumba Di-Aping said as the Copenhagen summit kicked off.

Long-term financing has quietly faded from the agenda because the US has asked the EU to let it go. "The US has pushed back very hard, saying it will cost them the five votes they need in the Senate to get their domestic climate bill through," a source told ENDS.

The financing talk in Copenhagen so far has focused on governance not scale. Even the latest UK-Australia-Mexico-Norway proposal sets out principles but no scale.

Ironically, the Danish text which was so roundly slammed earlier this week, did have placeholders for provisional public financing figures for 2013 and 2020. And one for the minimum percentage of total funding for 2013-20 that should be delivered halfway through.

EU leaders can make a difference by putting a figure on the table for 2013 with an indication of how it could be scaled up to 2020, Oxfam says. The UK, Netherlands and France are pushing the issue, ENDS understands.

An offer on long-term financing could prove a more powerful lever than the mooted 20-30% emissions cut pledge increase, which several studies have shown is no longer particularly expensive, and therefore politically risky, because of the economic crisis.

It could also unlock the impasse over bunker fuels, which some say countries like China are holding up not over fears of jeopardising the "common but differentiated responsibilities" principle but over fears that developed countries will use a levy on these fuels to get out of any public financing commitments.

It would certainly re-assert EU leadership on climate change.