Nick Stern On Poor America: “You Can’t Expect The U.S. To Offer Money At This Stage.”

  • Date: 07/12/12
  • Tom Whipple, The Times

Sir Nicholas Stern said that he had some sympathy with the US position. “They are about to go off a fiscal cliff,” he said, referring to the US budget crisis. “You can’t expect them to offer money at this stage.”

There are just a “precious few hours” to save the climate talks in Doha from collapse, developed countries have been warned, as disagreements about aid for poorer nations threaten to kill any chance of agreement before tonight’s deadline.

After two weeks of “slow if unremarkable progress”, according to Greg Barker, the Climate Minister, talks appear to have completely stalled. “The process is moving very slowly and we need greater political will to bring this conference to a successful conclusion. As things stand the clock is ticking.”

The pressure was felt on the floor of the conference, where a negotiator from the Filipino delegation broke down in tears. He had been calling for the delegations to settle their differences and reach agreement after the deaths of hundreds of people in his country from a typhoon that some have attributed to climate change.

Yeb Sano, head of the Philippines climate commission, later criticised Western inaction. “We have a few precious hours; a few precious hours left to ensure we are on the right trajectory to address the climate crisis,” he said. “As we speak the death toll is rising, there is widespread devastation.

“Hundreds are missing. Hundreds are buried. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos are in evacuation centres right now. And we refuse to make that a way of life for Filipinos.”

Developing nations are calling for at least $10 billion a year until 2020 to help them to introduce low-carbon technologies. With Britain one of the few countries to have provided a financial commitment, the dispute was creating an impasse in what is meant to be the final day of negotiation.

The talks have been widely criticised for their lack of ambition; much of the process has been about providing a framework for a legally binding agreement in 2015, and it had been expected that the low stakes would have led to easy agreement.

However, a source on one of the negotiating teams told The Times that there were still far too many versions of the main text being proposed by different nations, and that talks would almost certainly overrun, if they were completed at all. The United States was a particular target for those trying to explain why the gaps between the different parties remained so big.

Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International, said: “The US under President Bush held back these negotiations. Under Obama we expected a greater sense of global solidarity and vision. The reality is that the US negotiators have been a stumbling block to these negotiations consistently.

“When they and delegates from other developed countries packed to come to Doha they forgot to pack their consciences. We don’t need words. We need actions backed by money, by targets.”

Sir Nicholas Stern, the economist who produced the 2006 Stern Review into the economics of climate change, said that he had some sympathy with the US position. “They are about to go off a fiscal cliff,” he said, referring to the US budget crisis. “You can’t expect them to offer money at this stage.”

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