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Direct from Copenhagen: money matters

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Policy

Copenhagen opening panel

Yesterday's opening panel, as the Copenhagen conference began.

Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

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Global leaders are unlikely to strike a treaty at the Copenhagen climate summit, deputy leader of the Australian Greens, Christine Milne, has said.

Speaking to G Magazine direct from Copenhagen, Senator Milne said the best that could come out of Copenhagen would be some sort of agreement that could be formalised by mid 2010.

"The best case scenario we can get out of Copenhagen is a political agreement with an undertaking to convert that to treaty language for ratification by the middle of next year,'' she said.

"That political agreement must have targets for developed countries and it must have the financing mechanism."

Senator Milne also raised the possibility of a carbon tax as an alternative to emissions trading.

She said countries were likely to continue creating carbon trading regimes in keeping with the directive that came out of the Kyoto Protocol. However, many were starting to question whether carbon trading was the correct solution to reducing emissions.

"In recent times, there has been a lot of concerns that trading will create a middle management layer of financing that happened with the global financial crisis with derivatives that nobody understands and the only ones making money are the traders in the middle,'' she said.

"If the Kyoto Protocol remains then carbon trading will remain, but there is a lot of discussion now about the financing mechanism and certainly people are considering carbon taxes as a fall back position so that in the event that we don't get a binding treaty out of Copenhagen that there would be some default mechanism."

Senator Milne said the two deal breakers at Copenhagen were the emission targets and the amount of money developed countries were prepared to pay developing countries to help reduce their emissions. Providing funding is regarded as critical for countries struggling with basic development needs such as access to water, health care, education, civil strife and pulling their citizens out of poverty.

"There has always been an understanding that we need a global financing mechanism to make payments to developing countries to help them mitigate against climate change and adapt and that is on the understanding that developed countries like Australia and the United States have a long legacy of emitting carbon to atmosphere and that we have an obligation to allow developing countries to develop," she said.

She said Britain and the European Union had already put 800 million pounds for the next three years on the table. But while Australia had talked about a total funding pool of $10 billion, it had not yet made a formal commitment to provide any money at all.

However, Senator Milne believed Australia would agree to funding, if only because it was a softer option than those really hard decisions about reducing its dependency on coal.

"They are more likely to come to the table on the financing mechanism than they are on deeper cuts,'' Senator Milne said.

"Australia is totally reluctant to address the issue of coal exports and the amount of money going into the expansion of new coal fired power stations.

"I think they would much happier trying to buy themselves out rather than actually take the action that is needed."