EU starts fast, but...

ECO is eagerly awaiting today’s side event at which the EU will present its preliminary report on its fast start finance pledge. Not because the report itself will bring any new information to light -- it was leaked to the press weeks ago -- but to see EU negotiators try to answer the question on the lips of NGOs and developing country negotiators everywhere . . . how exactly is EU fast start finance 'new and additional'? Other developed countries might like to attend and pick up some tips. The EU had the right idea in suggesting a report on whether they were keeping their promises. This might help make up for the fact that most EU Member States have done a pretty good job over the years at breaking long-standing promises to provide finance to poor countries, whether as aid or climate finance under the UNFCCC. The Spanish Presidency started well, collecting information on Member State pledges, but then a problem arose. The EU's commitment first made in Brussels at the December leaders’ summit did not address whether the promises they were making were “new and additional” as required by the Copenhagen Accord.  It is clear that this means over and above the target to provide at least 0.7% gross national income (GNI) in official development assistance (ODA). Climate change imposes new costs on developing countries, so new money is needed to tackle it. Instead of owning up to relabeling old some ODA pledges and then adding them to the new fast-start climate finance total, EU governments thought it best to keep quiet and hope no one noticed . . . but some did.  Failing to ensure that climate finance is new and additional to existing ODA targets takes money that would otherwise have been available for spending on schools and hospitals in developing countries, to name one example. And that at a time when budgets for essential services are already being cut in the face of economic downturn.  And we won't mention more than just this once that most countries aren't even achieving their longstanding ODA pledges. All that said, ECO welcomes the EU’s readiness to face the music in today’s side event. We hope they come clean about recycling past promises and are ready to answer questions on the scale of money going to different countries, and will detail how it will flow through bilateral and multilateral channels, as grants and loans, and for adaptation and mitigation. This is just a preliminary report, and the EU will have another chance to get it right in the annual report due at COP 16. But to provide genuine transparency, and to ensure that the US and other rich countries are held accountable too, they should seek a common reporting framework. The Secretariat could be asked to take that on and add meat to the EU’s bare bones.

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