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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 November 2006, 22:56 GMT
Cash row looms at climate talks
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Nairobi

Farmer sitting in a drought-hit field (Image: Getty)
Developing nations want to decide how climate change funds are used
Disagreement over management of a fund to help poorer countries adapt to climate change threatens the second week of UN climate talks in Nairobi.

Western nations want control to lie with a body tied to the World Bank, while developing countries argue they should decide how funds are allocated.

Adaptation is the main focus of the 12th round of UN climate negotiations.

Talks aimed at deciding new targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions also appear to making slow progress.

Environment and development groups hope momentum will build on both of these issues when ministers arrive for the final segment of the conference.

Control question

Over the past few weeks a number of reports have warned that Africa is the most vulnerable continent to the effects of climate change.

This is partly because some regions are already prone to droughts and floods, and partly because most African countries lack the wealth to spend on protection against greater impacts.

Masai women protest at climate talks in Nairobi, Kenya
Reports warn Africa is the most vulnerable place to climate change

As this conference started, the United Nations itself warned of potentially serious consequences ahead from impacts including sea level rise, desertification and water scarcity.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, 2% of the money invested in the Clean Development Mechanism, which funds projects aimed at reducing emissions in developing countries, is put into the Adaptation Fund.

This can then be used to protect communities against climate-related changes.

So far only $3m (1.6m) stands in the fund, but that could rise in coming years to $750m (393m); and who controls the fund is a major issue.

Japan, Switzerland and Norway, endorsed by other industrialised nations, want it to be administered by the Global Environment Facility (Gef), an international institution based in the US and closely tied to the World Bank.

Developing countries including Bangladesh and the Philippines have argued for governance which gives them more control.

"The root cause of the disagreement is that the Gef has very strict criteria," said Cynthia Awuor, a researcher with the African Centre for Technology Studies in Nairobi.

"Some developing countries perceive that if the Gef were left to manage the Adaptation Fund, then it might be difficult for them to access the funds and implement projects in a timely manner."

Western delegates, speaking off the record, said their concerns centred on good governance, transparency and accountability if a body such as Gef did not hold the reins.

Distracting talks

Some environment and development groups are concerned that the emphasis on the Adaptation Fund row, and on adaptation in general, is distracting from a much more important goal: securing a further agreement on emissions cuts for the period after the current Kyoto Protocol targets expire in 2012.

An oil refinery in California
The US remains opposed to binding emissions targets

"After last year's relatively successful [UN climate] meeting, there is a feeling here of people resting on their laurels," said Andy Atkins, advocacy director of the development agency Tearfund.

"Our feeling is that unless they get agreement here on when to start discussions on post-2012 targets, they're in danger of not having post-2012 targets.

"Given the history of the UN talks, we don't see how they can get something in place in time unless they agree on starting the process now."

The US mid-term elections may have brought changes to the US Congress, but the Bush administration remains resolutely opposed to even talking about any binding targets on its greenhouse gas emissions.

While that situation remains, the prospects of major developing countries agreeing cuts is slim.

Figures released at the end of last week showed a sharp upturn in global greenhouse gas emissions in the past five years.

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