Monday, December 10, 2012

Doha sets up $3bn hit for Aussie taxpayers as climate deal fails to deliver on emissions targets

AUSTRALIA has backed a global climate change deal that offers poor countries financial aid for the "loss and damage" they suffer from extreme weather events, in a new step that could one day leave taxpayers with a $3 billion annual bill.
Developing nations acclaimed the deal for clearing the way for compensation claims against advanced economies as the summit failed to set new targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, further delaying the crucial decisions until 2014.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet declared the "loss and damage" provisions would not leave Australia exposed to financial claims, insisting yesterday that the aim was merely to help countries adapt to change.
But experts say the obligation - written into the global climate accord for the first time - would lead to long-term demands on rich countries to pay for rebuilding if hurricanes and other disasters could be linked to climate change.

"This is something that will be with the world community for a very long time to come, increasingly so if natural catastrophes in developing countries can be linked to climate change," Australian National University climate change economist Frank Jotzo said.
The new provisions are tied to a proposed $100bn annual fund that rich nations are yet to endorse, but environmental groups and developing nations said the change established a key principle in future financial negotiations.
In a sign of the high stakes involved, US climate envoy Todd Stern was reported to have vowed at Doha to kill off the new provisions, but without success.
The summit in the Qatar capital drew strong criticism from environmental groups for not doing enough to reduce emissions, avoiding major commitments in favour of extending the Kyoto Protocol, which lacks support beyond the EU, Australia, Norway and smaller states.
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that "far more" should be done, the summit put a deadline of April 30, 2014, for countries to declare their hand on emissions cuts.
The agreement on "loss and damage" was seen as the major development of the summit. South Centre director Martin Khor, who leads an association of 52 poorer nations, said it was a huge step in principle. "Next comes the fight for cash," Mr Khor told the BBC in Doha.
Developing nations - a group that includes China as well as more than 70 smaller economies - have been pushing for several years for $100bn in annual climate change adaptation and financing help from rich nations they hold responsible for climate change.
The obligation to help with "loss and damage" appears to come out of the $100bn, which is yet to be finalised as rich nations hold off on demands to spend the money.
However, the federal government cautioned against the idea that it had made any firm financial commitment.
A spokesman for Mr Combet said Australia supported the Doha outcome as an "important step" to a new agreement that would cover all major emitters.
Asked whether the new provisions meant Australia took some responsibility for loss and damage suffered by developing nations, Mr Combet's office noted that responsibility was not part of the agreement. "The phrase 'loss and damage' is intended to capture climate risk and the range of impacts of climate change, not assign responsibility," the spokesman said.
The government has already committed $599 million in "fast-start" financing from the foreign aid budget to help vulnerable nations adapt to climate change, including work in the Pacific Islands to deal with rising sea levels.
While Australian aid outlays are about $5.2bn this year and rising in future years, developing nations want the $100bn climate fund to add to foreign aid, rather than redirect existing funding.
Asked whether the new agreement would leave Australia exposed to compensation claims, Mr Combet's spokesman said: "No. The intent of the decision was to find ways to build understanding of climate risks and to manage the impacts of climate change."
Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said Australia should be willing to take financial responsibility for its pollution.
"You accept that human emissions are causing climate change and causing damage on a very significant scale, and these are the further costs of further inaction in cutting our pollution.
"We can't be allowed to free ride off the suffering of others," he said yesterday.
Greens leader Christine Milne backed the agreement to pay for "loss and damage" and said Australia should be willing to outlay $2bn to $3bn a year to help developing nations and that the cash should be in addition to existing foreign aid.
"It's a good thing the world has recognised that some countries are already suffering loss and damage as a result of climate change," Senator Milne said.
"But the agreement doesn't create a new funding mechanism and the existing funding mechanisms aren't delivering."

Doha sets up $3bn hit for taxpayers as climate deal fails to deliver on emissions targets

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