COPENHAGEN — In a last-minute attempt to achieve a breakthrough at the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen, Japan and the United States announced Wednesday and Thursday short- and long-term financial pledges for developing countries to mitigate the effects of climate change over the next three years and to adapt to the future effects of global warming by 2020.
The announcement of new aid packages came on the ninth and final day of formal negotiations on a deal for new emissions reduction targets for the post-2012 period, following the expiration of the first period of commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.
On Wednesday evening, Japan pledged ¥1.75 trillion ($15 billion) in public and private funding to help developing countries adjust to climate change between 2010-2012. The U.S. announced Thursday morning it would work to help provide developing countries with up to $100 billion annually through yet-to-be-determined financial mechanisms and incentives by 2020 for adaptation to future climate change.
“We’re announcing this pledge in the hope that it will become a driving force for the negotiations to move forward and come to a meaningful agreement,” Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa said Wednesday, at Japan’s first open press briefing of the COP15 conference.
Of the total, public finance comprises about ¥1.3 trillion ($11 billion) and the rest will be collected from the private sector by creating a new plan involving the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, said Vice Foreign Minister Tetsuro Fukuyama. Details of that plan were still being discussed and will require a change in the law, he added.
Ozawa’s announcement now means short-term financing pledges for developing countries, which the United Nations said should be around $30 billion by 2012, have nearly been met. The European Union announced last week that about $10.8 billion in total would be available for the remaining period and the U.S. and other countries were expected to contribute as well.
But the long-term financing of the deal has been the more controversial issue. Economists and nongovernmental organizations have said that anywhere between $140 billion and $200 billion or more would be needed by 2020 to assist developing countries facing desertification, increased floods, crop failures and potential climate refugees displaced by severe weather patterns due to global warming.
“Today, I would like to announce that in the context of a strong accord, in which all major economies stand behind meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to their implementation, the U.S. is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said.
“We expect that this funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance,” she said.
But while both Japan and the U.S. offered developing nations a carrot, the pledges also came with a big stick, as Ozawa and Clinton said developing nations must commit to legally binding emissions cuts.
“If those conditions are not met, we’ll have to withdraw this pledge,” Ozawa said.
In a warning directed toward China — which insists that its reduction target of 40 percent to 45 percent per unit of gross domestic product by 2020 compared with 2005 levels is a domestic, voluntary measure and should not be codified in an international treaty — both Ozawa and Clinton said there were conditions attached to their pledges, which included participation in a new deal, and emissions-reduction actions that were transparent.
“I’ve often quoted a Chinese proverb which says that when we are in a common boat, you have to cross the river peacefully together. Well, we are in a common boat,” Clinton said.
“All of the major economies have an obligation to commit to a meaningful mitigation action and stand behind them in a transparent way.”
It remained to be seen whether the new pledges by the U.S. and Japan would be the game-breaker negotiators had been looking for to move the negotiations forward.
Fundamental differences over the amount by which countries should reduce their emissions remain.