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« Elegant in Cancún | Main | Bolivia's Morales calls out capitalism on climate crisis »

December 09, 2010

"Perfectly just is not going to happen here"

"The perfect cannot be the enemy of the good. What we needed is 'good enough.' And 'good enough' is not 'perfectly just.' 'Perfectly just' is not going to happen here." These are the words yesterday of Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at an event here in Cancún presenting climate finance options to governments at the U.N. global climate talks.

The report from the High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing (AGF) was requested by Secretary General of the U.N. a few months after last year's failed negotiations in Copenhagen. The AGF's mission was to identify climate finance options for negotiators to help reach the goal of $100 billion a year by 2020 (a goal that most feel is not enough). Climate finance is critical as countries, particularly their agriculture sectors, become more and more affected by climate change. Here in Cancún, we've heard from farm groups in developing countries who are already experiencing extreme droughts and floods associated with climate change.

Last month, IATP and partner organizations sent out a press release critiquing the AGF report for being much worse than "good enough." We wrote that the report "unwisely emphasizes carbon markets and other private finance options, while irresponsibly advocating an increased role for multilateral development banks. Despite concluding that public sources of climate finance are available and promising, the report’s findings downplay the role that public finance can and must play in helping developing countries deal with climate change."

IATP's Steve Suppan said, “The AGF recommendations are unfortunately based on unduly optimistic econometric projections and a blind faith in the capacity of highly volatile and unreliable carbon price signals to induce long-term investments in low carbon energy production and manufacturing. A better start on climate finance would be for developed countries to make good on their $30 billion pledge for immediate funding to allow developing countries to adapt agricultural production and water management systems to the imminent ravages of climate change.”

The AGF does have several recommendations worth considering, including various international carbon and financial transaction taxes. But overall, these public approaches are downplayed relative to a push for more carbon markets.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Zenawi described the difficult compromises in writing the report, and the differing perspectives of the 20-person committee are reflected in the text. He characterized the process as a "dry run" for the type of compromises that will be needed for governments to reach an agreement in Cancún. Those who are working for a just response to climate change hope not.

Ben Lilliston

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