Is Canada Placing Conditions on Climate Adaptation Funding?

By John Dillon

Environment Minister Peter Kent maintains that Canada is refusing to commit to further greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol (KP) because the KP only applies to developed countries. He says developing and emerging countries must also be included in a global pact.

Soem of the more than 100,000 signatures on the 2009 KyotoPlus campaign urging Canada to stick to its treaty commitments

In fact, 191 countries have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Only the United States remains outside of it. While developed countries like Canada assumed specific emission reduction commitments under the first phase of the protocol, developing countries also made general promises to reduce emissions. Since developed countries are responsible for 75% of all carbon emissions from the beginning of the industrial era, it is only fair that they make larger commitments under the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities enshrined in the UN climate convention.

The smaller, voluntary pledges that Canada and other developed countries made at Copenhagen to replace their legally-binding obligations under the Kyoto Protocol would lead to global temperature increases of  up to 5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This extremely dangerous amount of warming is well above the official two-degree target, let alone the 1.5 degree target favoured by the least developed countries and small island states that have the most to lose if climate change continues. Moreover, China, India, Brazil and other developing countries have promised larger GHG emission reductions than those pledged at Copenhagen by all the industrialized nations. (See details on page 2 of our Briefing Paper Is Durban the world’s last, best hope to avoid climate disaster?)

Now, in the early days of the Durban conference, the Canadian delegation is implying that access to $400 million promised by Canada to fund climate mitigation and adaptation measures in developing counties is dependent on their agreeing to participate in a new post-Kyoto pact. Canada’s chief climate negotiator, Guy Saint-Jacques, told the Canadian Press that “Developing countries realize that they will not have access to aid money for climate change adaptation unless a path forward is found.”

When Minister Kent announced that Canada would contribute the $400 million to developing countries, he said “We haven’t identified the major focus of our funding.” But he did indicate that most of the money would be given on a bilateral basis to projects selected by Ottawa rather than through multilateral institutions.

When Canada announced a similar $400 million pledge prior to last year’s Cancún conference, 71% of it ($285.7 million ) was earmarked for the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a branch of the World Bank that makes loans to private companies. Instead of providing financial assistance directly to developing countries, 63% of all IFC investments in low-income countries over the years 2008-2010 was channelled through loans to transnational corporations based in Northern countries.

Observers present at the climate talks in Durban report that there is much talk of industrial countries threatening least developed countries with the loss of Official Development Assistance if they insist on a global target of 1.5 degrees or persist in demanding that any pact contain binding commitments for developed countries.

The threat of withholding development assistance from the poorest developing countries as a way of buying their acquiescence in climate talks is not unprecedented. Thanks to Wikileaks, we know that in 2010 the United States cut a deal with the Maldives involving US$50 million in project aid in return for compliance with the Copenhagen Accord. Moreover, another cable divulged by Wikileaks revealed that the US deputy climate envoy, Jonathan Pershing, met the EU climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, who told him that the Alliance of Small Island States countries “could be our best allies,” given their need for financing.

Other cables tell about threats to withhold funds from Ethiopia when that country led the African Union’s climate change negotiations. After the US cut aid to Bolivia and Ecuador for their refusal to back the Copenhagen Accord, Ecuador turned the tables by publicly offering to grant the USA the same amount of money if it would ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

While the $400 million offered by Canada this year as its share of the US$10 billion in annual financing pledged at Copenhagen for each year from 2010 through 2012 is significant, there is a much larger financial package under negotiation at Durban. Last year at Cancún an agreement was reached to establish a US$100 billion Green Climate Fund (GCF). Where the money would come from was referred to a Transitional Committee whose report heavily favours channelling funds through the private sector.

Now Minister Kent is backing the United States’ position that it will not support the US$100 billion GCF unless major emerging countries also commit to GHG emission reductions.

So far at Durban the least developed countries and Small Island States have stuck to their demands that there must be a second round of emission reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. If cracks appear in their united front and some of these countries begin acquiesce with calls for a weaker, voluntary agreement, I suggest we look for evidence for any change of heart by following the money.

Filed in: Ecological Justice

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