Wednesday 24 Sep 2014
A BBC World Service investigation has discovered that a significant financial pledge made in 2001, known as the Bonn Declaration, to assist poorer nations with the impact of climate change, cannot be accounted for.
The investigation for BBC World Service’s Shortchanging The Planet (Wednesday 24 November, 8.00pm GMT) also uncovers the deep level of mistrust among developing nations about the financial pledges made by rich countries.
The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has accused rich countries of failing to keep their promises to pay poor nations to adapt to climate change. In an interview for the documentary, Mr Ban says: "There have been promises which have not been fully materialised. There is an issue of trust."
In Bonn, Germany, in 2001, 20 industrialised nations made a "political declaration" to provide climate change cash to help poorer nations deal with the impact of climate change. The countries of the European Union, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland said they would contribute $410 million a year to the cause of climate change adaptation until 2008. The money would be made available in a variety of ways, including through special UN climate change funds. This statement became known as the Bonn Declaration.
Eight years on, this investigation found that these funds have only ever received $260 million in contributions. A BBC analysis suggests that there could have been up to $2.9 billion in these special funds - more than 10 times the amount paid to date (see Notes to editor).
In the documentary, Richard Myungi, a climate change negotiator for the least developing countries, has told the BBC: "We feel betrayed".
Boni Biagini, who runs the UN funds, also told BBC World Service that she believes there should have been much more in the pot: "These numbers don't match the $410 million per year. Otherwise, we'd be handling billions of dollars by now."
This argument is disputed by the industrialised governments that drew up the Bonn Declaration. They say they never intended to put the $410 million a year solely into the UN funds. The Declaration allowed them to spend it in "bilateral and multilateral" ways. Artur Runge-Metzger, from the European Union, told BBC World Service: "We can say we met the promise".
As revealed in the programme, however, neither party is able to provide figures to prove its point of view, leaving confusion and mistrust on both sides.
Shortchanging The Planet reveals how the Bonn Declaration was drawn up and why it may have been deliberately designed to be opaque. It also assesses its impact on current negotiations to reach a deal in Copenhagen.
One of those responsible for drawing up the original Declaration, Dr Marc Pallemaerts, tells the BBC World Service that some developing countries "may have been genuinely misled" into thinking the $410 million would go solely into the special funds.
To avoid any such confusion in the future, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, tells the programme any deal struck in the Danish capital must be "measurable, reportable and verifiable".
Shortchanging The Planet goes to Liberia to find out what financial support is needed to deal with the effects of climate change. Most of the country's population lives by the ocean, but the sea level is rising.
Carlton Miller, a minister in Liberia's government, says: "It's about time these donors and countries stopped paying lip service. We live every day with this situation. Our homes are being destroyed, lives are being lost and livelihoods are being taken away. We want to see some concrete action."
Shortchanging The Planet on BBC World Service, Wednesday 25 November, 8-8.30pm GMT.
Any use of the above material must credit BBC World Service.
A full transcript, or CD, of the documentary is available upon request, as well as images.
Links to original UN documents are also available upon request.
What is the Bonn Declaration?
In Bonn, Germany, in 2001, 20 industrialised nations made a "political declaration" to provide climate change cash. The countries of the European Union, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland said they would contribute $410 million a year to the cause of climate change adaptation until 2008. The money would be made available in a variety of ways including through special UN climate change funds. This statement became known as the Bonn Declaration. (The Bonn Declaration: page 6 of http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/cop7/misc04.pdf)
What are these funds?
At the same meeting, a number of special bank accounts were set up for the purpose of transferring money from rich countries to poor nations. The Least Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund were to be administered by the UN. The idea was that countries responsible for emitting the most climate change-causing gases would use the funds to give cash to those that historically have not been major polluters but are vulnerable to the changing climate.
How much has been paid in to the special climate change funds?
UN figures show that as of 30 September 2009, $260 million has been paid in to the two funds. Developing countries say there should be much more in there. According to a BBC calculation, if $410 million a year had been paid into the UN funds from 2001 to 2008 a total of $2.87 billion could have passed through them.
There is an argument, however, over the start and end dates. At the very least, there could have been $1.6 billion dollars according to another calculation. Boni Biagini from the Global Environment Facility, which runs the UN funds, says: "If you put $410 million per year times four (2005-2008) you should have $1.6 billion dollars in hand. This is not the figure we have." (The status of the funds: www.gefweb.org/uploadedFiles/Documents/LDCFSCCF_Council_Documents/LDCFSCCF7_November_2009/LDCF.SCCF.7.Inf.2%20Status%20Report%20on%20the%20SCCF%20and%20LDCF_v.6(1).pdf)
So does that mean rich countries have failed to keep their promise?
That depends on where you stand. Poor nations say that rich countries have failed to keep their word. Developing countries say they thought all of the $410 million every year would go into the special climate change funds. Rich governments say that was never their intention; they had always planned to spend a lot of the money outside the funds. The small print of the Bonn Declaration allowed them to contribute money through "bilateral and multilateral funding". The EU, for instance, says it has met its end of the bargain. Artur Runge-Metzger from the European Union says they were clear from the outset that they would spend the money in several different ways. "We can say we met the promise, climate finance has really been stepped up." However he could not provide figures to verify this.
A recent study by the Institute for European Environmental Policy has tried to track EU funding to poor countries for climate change adaptation and concludes, "it is very surprising that there is not a single official document issued by the EU with reliable and verifiable information on the total level of financial support to developing countries for climate change mitigation and adaptation purposes provided by the Union and its Member States. This lack of transparency is clearly inconsistent with the EU's claim to global leadership in the climate change process." (The IEEP report: www.ieep.eu/whatsnew/newsitem.php?item=190)
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