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"EU leaders are failing poor countries on climate change" - Swinson

May 19, 2009 5:00 PM

In the House of Commons today, Jo urged the Foreign Minister to appeal to EU leaders to give help to the world's poorest countries in taking climate change action.

World leaders hope to reach an international agreement on measures to prevent climate change at a conference in Copenhagen in December. However, Greenpeace estimates that for any agreement to be effective, the world's least developed countries will need around €110 billion a year by 2020 from industrialised countries to help them adapt to climate change and make the transition to low-carbon technologies. The UN's senior climate change official Yvo de Boer puts it closer to €160 billion.

EU leaders meeting in Brussels in March failed to come up with plans for financing the agreement, putting the decision off until the next EU summit in June. EU Foreign Ministers reportedly agreed that they would not offer money to the poorest countries until emerging economies such as China and India have committed to reduce their carbon emissions. Jo urged the Foreign Minister David Miliband to persuade other EU leaders to change their position at the June summit and commit funds to help developing countries.

Commenting, Jo said:

"Historically, Europe is second only to the US in the amount of carbon emissions we have produced, and we should be at the forefront of efforts to address the climate crisis which we have helped to create. Waiting for other countries to take action first shows that EU leaders are not taking this responsibility seriously enough.

"If we do not come up with the funds to help poor countries do their part to reduce carbon emissions then we cannot expect them to act, and we are unlikely to reach any international agreement. I sincerely hope that the EU summit in June will come up with a plan as to how to finance this agreement ahead of the Copenhagen conference in December."

The text of Jo's questions to the Foreign Minister appears below:

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): What recent progress has been made on his Department's goal of working with other countries and international institutions to shift rapidly towards a lower carbon world.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): All our efforts are dedicated to bilateral and multilateral contributions to a successful Copenhagen summit in December. The G20 commitment to "build an inclusive, green, and sustainable recovery" was welcome. The European Union's decision to ring-fence €9 billion to build 12 carbon capture and storage plants around Europe was also important. Our work has been much helped by the constructive approach of the new United States Administration, and we continue to work with them and others towards an ambitious deal in December.

Jo Swinson: I thank the Foreign Secretary for his reply, and particularly for his words about the vital importance of a good deal at Copenhagen in December. However, given that the March meeting of EU leaders ended in a refusal to commit financial support to the world's poorest countries to help them to adapt to climate change and limit their emissions, and given that that refusal could seriously undermine progress in international negotiations, will he tell us what diplomatic efforts his Department is undertaking to persuade our EU counterparts to change their position at next month's summit?

David Miliband: I think that the hon. Lady is being a little unfair. The March European summit agreed that both the Mexican and the Norwegian proposals for the raising of carbon finance were particularly important and needed to be explored, and the European Union is at the forefront of ideas for the generation of finance for both mitigation and adaptation. As it happens, the hon. Lady and I take exactly the same stance on this issue. We agree that the advanced industrialised countries need to show real leadership, that they need to generate funds in innovative ways, and that incentives are needed for the achievement of the kind of low-carbon transition in developing countries that the industrialised world failed to achieve in the 20th century.

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