Friday 2 December 2011

U.S. asserts it will meet pledge to help climate needs of


Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2011

The United States spent more than four times as much money on clean technology investment as it did protecting vulnerable countries from the impact of climate change, according to a new
report the Obama administration released today at climate talks in Durban, South Africa.

Of the $3.1 billion the U.S. says it devoted to climate change efforts in 2011, about $563 million went toward helping poor communities build resilience to weather disasters. Meanwhile, $2.5
billion went toward a variety of programs to steer developing nations toward clean energy, mitigate carbon emissions and develop new renewable technologies.

The detailed accounting shows the U.S. on a path to meeting its unofficial share of commitment wealthy nations made at the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit of $30 billion by 2012. Though nations were not allocated specific amounts, the U.S. expectation for most foreign aid accounts is roughly 20 percent.

Environmental groups said they are pleased that the administration is fighting for international climate aid and using existing programs to help address clean energy needs. But they also warned that some aid is undermining climate change efforts -- particularly through the Export-Import Bank -- and cautioned that adaptation needs are in danger of being pushed aside.

"We're certainly disappointed. It seems to be going in the wrong direction," said David Waskow, international climate change policy director at Oxfam America. He estimated the share of 2011 dollars going toward making communities resilient to climate change at just 18 percent.

In 2011, the administration said, it devoted $3.1 billion to global climate aid, bringing its total contribution so far to $5.1 billion. The funding is split between $1.8 billion in congressionally appropriated dollars and $1.3 billion in  loan guarantees and other export agency finance measures.

Bulk of aid through loans, loan guarantees

Loans, loan guarantees and other financing from the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation was a cornerstone of the U.S. aid efforts and is expected to grow. Last year OPIC directed $310 million in financing to double the generating capacity of a geothermal plant in Kenya and invested $250 million in the development of solar projects in Thailand.

The Export-Import Bank, meanwhile, authorized $84.3 in loans to finance solar photovoltaic modules and equipment in Rajasthan, India. In all, the OPIC and ExIm Bank investments leveraged more than $2.3 billion in private investment, the administration said. 

Waskow argued that the presence of so much private investment in clean technology is yet another reason the U.S. should put its resources into areas where business has little interest in
investing: keeping poor communities safe from weather-related disasters. "For the majority of countries, their greatest interest is in resilience and adaptation," he said.

Others, meanwhile, noted that while the U.S. statement played up clean energy development, it failed to mention massive coal and other fossil fuel investments. Of particular concern to environmentalists is U.S. underwriting to the tune of $805 million the Kusile coal-fired power plant near Johannesburg, South Africa.

The 4,800-megawatt power station will emit 30 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.

Meanwhile yesterday the African Climate Policy Center blasted developed countries and claimed that of the money put forward, less than $7 billion of it is new funding. 

African nations say vulnerability outpaces aid "African countries, as well as many other developing countries, are vulnerable to climate change and are among those least likely to have the resources required to withstand its adverse impacts -- yet there has not been any indication that the magnitude of climate finance will meet the scale of what is needed." Seyni Nafo, Spokesperson of the African Group said in a statement.

The report stands in contrast to a World Resources Institute report that found nation's pledges already reach more than $28 billion.

Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, acknowledged that many governments are counting old dollars -- but also noted that a number of countries began ramping up climate aid before Copenhagen because they knew more funding would be a key point for poor countries. The fact that some money is not new, he said, is less important than whether the dollars are used well.

"Here's the reality. The fast start funding commitment was made in December of 2009. As of January 1, all of a matter of two weeks after, they were supposed to have turned the pledge into firm legislation with money from their treasuries," Schmidt said.

The U.S. share, he said, is a "mixed bag." He praised the Obama administration for fighting to keep climate aid in the budget, but also warned against fossil fuel loans from ExIm and others.

"It is critical that all the money we have flowing is not digging us deeper into the hole but helping us to solve it."

Scene@COP17: Durban, South Africa

Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change Adaptation Team

Support the Islands, wear a flower!

Greener mode of transport

Entertainment at the Climate Change Response Expo

Traditional entertainment at the Climate Change Response Expo

Interactive exhibition at the climate change booth

Island Pavilion: a taste of the Islands in Durban

Dr Netatua Pelesikoti addresses the room during the Question and Answer session 

Durban, South Africa, 1 December 2011 - There’s a corner office at the UN Climate Conference that has brought a taste of the islands to Durban, South Africa. Decorated with a bright sign and a poster of the Pacific, the Island Pavilion opened yesterday to a full room for the very first side event on climate change mitigation in the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS).

The Island Pavilion is a partnership between the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

Pacific delegates outside the Island Pavilion
Over the course of the week side events have been planned during the lunch breaks of the conference. At 1.30pm each day different people will present on the different themes of the day.

Yesterday the Island Pavilion opened to a full room for the first side event on climate change mitigation in the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS).

Dr Joeri Rogelj, contributing author to the UNEP Emissions Gap Report presented on the Gigatonne Gap and the implications on Small Islands Developing States. This set the scene for the following presentations which included the release of the Pacific Renewable Energy DVD Series by SPREP.
Delegates showcasing the Pacific Renewable Energy DVD Series
The Pacific Islands Greenhouse Gas Abatement through Renewable Energy Project (PIGGAREP) aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the Pacific region by 33% by 2015. There are 11 Pacific islands that are taking part in the event for which documentaries have been made outlining lessons learnt and achievements made.

Mr. Joseph McGann of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre made the final presentation on the background on mitigation actions within implementation.

Mr Joseph McGann
Over the course of the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to the Framework on Climate Change, the Island Pavilion will be the venue to showcase the climate change work undertaken by the SIDS.

On Thursday the theme is Climate change mitigation in the SIDS, Friday it is Climate change adaptation, Saturday is the ‘marketplace’ day where there will be a sharing of different ideas. Each day the event starts at 1.30pm.

If you are attending the 17th Conference of the Parties and would like to visit the Island Pavilion, make your way to the country delegation offices beneath the main ICC building on lower level three. The venue holds free giveaways including flowers for delegates to wear to raise island visibility amongst the 20,000 delegates.