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Money Key To Tackling Climate Change

A general view of the opening of an informal ministerial meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, bidding for progress on climate finance, 02 Sep 2010

Ministers from 45 countries are meeting to discuss the long-term financing of mitigation and adaptation measures needed to tackle climate change. The two-day meeting, which is jointly hosted by the governments of Switzerland and Mexico, hopes to come up with a plan to advance climate negotiations at the forthcoming talks in Cancun, Mexico, in December.

The new executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change has been on the job for only two months. But, in that short period of time, Christiana Figueres says events making the news have provided a vision of a future of intense global climate disasters no one wants.

"Floods in Pakistan and fires in Russia, so dramatic that many other major weather disasters in the Americas, Asia and Africa, which would normally have made front-page news, were relegated as secondary events," said Figueres. "Science will show whether and how those events are related to the climate change that is caused by humanity's greenhouse gas emissions. But, the point is clear, we cannot afford to face escalating disasters of that kind."

And, the bill for taming these catastrophic climate events is huge. Slowing global warming will take billions of dollars. During the two-day meeting, environmental ministers and experts will try to reach a long-term financing agreement for climate action.

Issues under discussion include a new fund for the environment, ways to bring the private sector into financing and finding new sources of finance.

Figueres says funding for developing countries holds the key to action.

"Industrialized nations pledged $30 billion in fast-track finance from the year 2010 to the year 2012. And, developing countries see the provision of this fast-track financing as a key sign of industrialized countries commitment to the negotiations. Industrialized countries also pledged to find ways and means to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 and concrete proposals on how to do this are now required," she said.

Critics say some of the $30 billion pledged last December at the Climate Conference in Copenhagen was old funding dressed up as new. Figueres says developing countries expect the funding to be completely new and additional.

She says developing countries do not want industrialized countries to divert money allocated to other poverty issues to climate change because this will take money away from other critical programs.

The Kyoto Protocol, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, runs out at the end of 2010. The Copenhagen Conference failed to reach a global agreement to follow or extend Kyoto.

The United Nations will try again to achieve a Convention during the next Climate Change summit in Cancun, Mexico in December.