At Bali conference, climate change victims note aid is tiny fraction of needs

"Adaptation Fund" developed under UN climate agreements to enable poorer countries to adjust to warmer world, drawn a mere $67 million so far.

climate cook 224 ap (photo credit: AP)
climate cook 224 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Victims of climate change, real and potential, appealed Tuesday for a vast increase in international aid to protect and compensate them for rising seas, crop-killing drought and other likely impacts of global warming. "We cannot wait. We need to do something now," said climatologist Rizaldi Boer of Indonesia, some of whose farmers are already suffering from unusual dry spells blamed on climate change. The "Adaptation Fund," being developed under UN climate agreements to enable poorer countries to adjust to a warmer world, has thus far drawn a mere US$67 million (€45 million) for a task the World Bank estimates will cost tens of billions of dollars (euros) a year. The almost 190 nations assembled here for the annual U.N. climate conference are taking up the fund's future among other issues on an agenda aimed chiefly at launching a two-year negotiating process to seal a deal to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. That 175-nation accord requires 36 industrial nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, key source of global warming, by an average 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The United States is the only industrial nation to reject Kyoto. The European Union and others are seeking a post-Kyoto agreement that would mandate much deeper reductions by industrial nations - including, they hope, the US - in carbon dioxide and other such emissions by power plants, factories, vehicles and other sources. Many here also want to see China and other major emerging economies take steps to curtail the growth of their emissions. The two weeks of talks promise to be difficult, with success far from guaranteed. Operation, control and funding of the Adaptation Fund has been debated for years at these meetings of U.N. climate treaty parties. The U.N. climate chief, Yvo de Boer, told reporters Tuesday he hoped it was possible that this meeting would finally make the fund operational, "so that perhaps in as little as a year before real resources for adaptation can begin to flow to developing countries." The fund is expected to finance climate-change projects ranging from sea walls to guard against expanding oceans, to improved water supplies for drought areas, to training in new agricultural techniques. All acknowledge, however, that the available money is relatively paltry. The fund is financed by a 2-percent levy on revenues generated by the Clean Development Mechanism, the program whereby industrial nations pay for "carbon credits" produced by emissions-reduction projects in the developing world _ credits then counted against reduction targets at home. Those levies thus far are "tiny compared to the need," said Kate Raworth, a senior research with the Oxfam International aid group. Oxfam and other advocacy groups favor a broadening of Adaptation Fund revenue sources, perhaps to include aviation taxes or direct taxes on all fossil-fuel use. "The money should come from the countries most responsible and most capable," Raworth said, listing the United States, the European Union, Japan, Australia and Canada. An Oxfam news conference was joined by a representative of the people of Papua New Guinea's Carteret Islands, in the far western Pacific, believed to be among the world's first "climate refugees." As seas expand from warming and from the runoff of melting land ice, higher and higher tides are eating away at tiny places like the Carterets, a sandy atoll of a half-dozen islands. Its 3,000 people, no longer able to grow taro, their staple crop, are preparing to abandon the islands over the next several years, resettling on designated land on nearby Bougainville island. The islanders have a relocation appropriation of 2 million kina in local currency (US $800,000, €540,000), but to move 600 families that "doesn't go a long way," said their representative, Ursula Rakova. "We still need more money, from people like America," she said.