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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Poor countries need billions to cut emissions

Poor countries need billions to cut emissions

Calls for increased investment from rich countries in low-carbon technologies for the world's poorest regions have intensified in Bali, as new reports point to the climate risks related to the rapidly accelerating energy demand in developing countries.
Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, developed countries are to take "all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how to developing countries".
One mechanism, created under the Kyoto Protocol to help foster technology transfers to developing countries, is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which has been linked to the EU's carbon-trading market.
Under this "flexible mechanism", EU countries are entitled to partly meet their own greenhouse gas reduction targets by financing emission reducing projects in developing countries – which also allows them to achieve cheaper emission cuts than they would do at home.
However, the take-off of the scheme has been relatively slow.

The idea of a "technology transfer fund" that industrialised nations would have to pay into and developing countries could draw from in order to finance clean energy technology projects or buy patents, is being mooted by China, as delegations from 187 countries gathered in Bali for the 3-14 December UN climate conference.
While the Asian giant - now the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases – continued to fend off calls for binding CO2 reduction targets for developing countries, it insisted that rich countries should be doing more to encourage the spread of clean technologies.

Last year, the Clean Development Mechanism succeeded in directing $5 billion investment into cutting greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries. However, the UN estimates that climate mitigation efforts will require an annual investment of $200 billion by 2030, with nearly half of that in developing nations.

A report published on 3 December by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD) also notes that, although the CDM has succeeded in bringing clean energy technology to some countries in the developing world, hundreds of projects have been "stopped at the starting gates" due to lengthy approval processes, uncertainty regarding commercial returns and worries about intellectual property theft.
The result is that projects have focused on a select group of countries like China, Brazil and India, where existing market potential is high, whereas the African continent has only succeeded in attracting 3% of all CDM projects - primarily within South Africa.

The global business association points out: "Unless policies change and ways are found to facilitate investments in lower carbon technologies at all stages of their development and deployment, developing countries are expected to follow the same carbon-intensive development pathways of today's industrialised nations. This would constitute a lost opportunity of immense proportions, as the consequences of carbon- and energy-intensive investment decisions made today lock in those emissions for decades."
Indeed, the risk of a technology lock-in is particularly worrying considering that the demand for energy in developing countries is expected to increase by a factor of 2.3-5.5 between now and 2050. India, for example, is already the world's fifth largest emitter, despite the fact that nearly half of its population has no access to electricity and 85% of its population lives on less than $2 per day.

According to a parallel study published on 3 December by US think tank the Centre for Global Development (CGD), cumulative emissions from developing countries alone would be sufficient, by 2060, to push carbon dioxide levels over the 450 parts per million threshold that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change associates with large, irreversible climate impacts.

According to Martin Khor, director of NGO Third World Network (TWN), a key question resides in intellectual property rights (IPRs) over climate-friendly technologies, which are pushing up the cost of climate-friendly technologies and preventing developing countries from making the switch to low-carbon development pathways: "IPRs confer monopoly rights and can serve as a barrier for introducing or upgrading technologies by private industry or public-sector agencies in developing countries, or simply curb affordable access on account of high prices".
"We should be reminded of how Indian companies were hindered from introducing a new chemical that is not harmful to the ozone layer as a substitute to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) because of patents on that chemical," he cautioned.
Climate specialist Zou Ji of the Chinese delegation to Bali agreed: "It's a trade-off between intellectual-property rights and climate protection."
However, US officials said that while they backed the idea of an "international clean energy fund", they would reject any fund structure that might slash incentives for US companies to develop new technologies. "We do not support a technology-transfer fund that would buy down intellectual-property rights," said head of the US delegation Harlan Watson.

It underlined the EU's central role – as the world's largest carbon market – in making the CDM deliver "real climate and sustainable development benefits", and reminded EU nations that "CDM credits need to be additional to and not be used instead of domestic action".
The NGO concludes that "the use of CDM energy project credits within the EU ETS should be limited to those certified by the Gold Standard" – a quality benchmark established by the international NGO community. source:EuroAktiv

My comment: I like it, I utterly like it. It's the kind of international socialism that I'd like to see from now on more often. But as you can see for yourself, it's not without too little additional strain from the rich countries that are so scared someone in Africa would steal their cake. It's ridiculous and I hope someone will point that out to them and or in any case, force them to find a compromise.

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