The United Nations climate change talks in Tianjin, China, witnessed some progress on the issue of financing of climate change mitigation and adaptation but there is a significant gap between the level of funding required and what has been committed so far. Fast-paced action on climate financing, including identification of new sources of funds, is essential to bring about an agreement on key issues such as forest protection and aid to vulnerable communities. Only then can a plan for the countries most affected be outlined at the Cancun conference of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change next month. Sustained negotiations on funding can deliver results, since the issue is less contentious than emissions reduction. A modest start was made at Tianjin to identify the modalities for allocation of the $30 billion fund promised for 2012 at last year's Copenhagen conference. Yet the donor countries came up with no big announcement at the Tianjin talks, and failed to convince the least developed and developing nations that they are doing their best. The costs of adapting to climate change in 2010 are estimated by the World Bank to be $100 billion a year. The initiatives outlined clearly fall far short of such sums. Moreover, there is need for clarity on the sources. What is offered should be “new and additional” as outlined in the Copenhagen Accord, and not a reassignment of other development aid.

The Tianjin talks also featured a public dispute between the United States and China on the question of steep emission cuts necessary to meet the goal of the Copenhagen Accord, which is to keep the increase in global temperature below 2° Celsius. There can be little question, as China points out, that the lead should come from the countries historically responsible for accumulated greenhouse gases, led by the U.S. Emerging economies such as China and India can engage in voluntary actions to lower their emissions but it is unrealistic for America or anyone else to expect that these nations enjoying the first fruits of economic growth will accept binding cuts. The way forward is for the industrialised world to cut its emissions unilaterally in the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol, while persuading the newly industrialising countries to reduce the carbon intensity of their growth by liberally sharing technology and providing finance. The good thing is that there is convergence on a major issue such as deforestation, which is estimated to produce more emissions than the transport sector. It is essential, therefore, that a comprehensive REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation+) is formalised at Cancun for implementation post-2012.

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