Dirty technology will lead to bigger economic crisis: UN

By Joydeep Gupta, IANS,

Poznan (Poland) : The climate crisis is much bigger than the current economic crisis and will lead to a far worse recession, the UN and international NGOs warned here Friday.

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As over 9,000 delegates from 186 countries and over 400 NGOs at the Dec 1-12 summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) continued to grapple with the issue of finding money to help developing countries reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer warned: “Cheap, dirty technology will become the new subprime”.

Industrialised countries that have been responsible for most of the extra GHG in the atmosphere now are trying to renegotiate their commitments to pay developing countries to combat climate change due to the ongoing economic crisis.

This is being opposed by developing countries, leading to a bitter struggle at the Poznan summit, though it is still largely behind closed doors.

Alluding to this, Frances Seymour of the umbrella NGO group Climate Action Network said: “The economic crisis will go away, but the climate crisis won’t, unless we act now.”

That point of view has been echoed by delegates from India and most other developing countries, and also by de Boer, who pointed out that “$1 invested in green technologies today saves $7 later” in having to cope with the environmental and health impacts of dirty technology.

As climate change affects farm output, increases frequency and severity of droughts, floods and storms and raises the sea level, mainly in developing countries, de Boer said these countries “need much larger and more predictable sources of funds” to deal with the multiple crises.

The UN Development Programme estimated last year that developing countries would need $86 billion annually till 2015 to adapt to climate change effects. The only source of money now is a two percent levy on the so-called Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which are projects under the carbon-trading scheme.

But they do not add up to even one percent of the $86 billion today, and industrialised countries have made it clear at this summit that they are unwilling to pay more.

So where will the money come from? Preety Bhandari, director of financial and technical support at the UNFCCC secretariat, said that by 2020, an extra $0.3-1.7 billion could be generated a year if the CDM levy was increased from two percent to three-five percent.

Delegations from Norway and Mexico have proposed at this summit that another source of funding to help developing countries combat climate change could be auctioning of emission rights.

While the proposals are being debated, de Boer said money would have to be found from both public and private sources and would have to be deployed “at the right place at the right time”. It was essential to find the money, he added, because “it is our once in a century chance to turn the world around”.

(Joydeep Gupta can be contacted at [email protected])