Green Climate Fund offers glimmer of hope

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Though no extension of the Kyoto Protocol is in sight as the Durban climate talks proceed to the end of the second week, negotiations on the Green Climate Fund (GCF) during the high-level segment of the conference offer a glimmer of hope.

The 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) to the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) began its high-level talks here Tuesday, as efforts to bridge differences on major issues bogged down.

The high-level talks focused on two thorny issues left unsolved at the lower level of talks -- the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and the establishment of the GCF.

In an address to the delegates, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the international community to "keep up momentum" in the fight against climate change.

"Time is not on our side" and the world must take "collective action" to meet the challenge of climate change, Ban said at the opening of the high-level segment of the UN climate talks.

One of the goals the UN chief laid out for the Durban talks is to "ensure tangible progress in short-term and long-term financing to the Green Climate Fund with 30 billion dollars as start-up and 100 billion dollars annually to the year 2020."

"It is essential we stick to our commitment to create the fund," Ban said. "I appeal to all industrialized countries to allow this fund to work immediately."

However, efforts to set up the green fund hit snags after the United States rejected a proposal on how to raise the 100 billion U.S. dollars earmarked for poor countries to develop low-carbon economies and deal with the effects of global warming.

Regardless of some major economies' rejection of the GCF, negotiators from the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) have pledged to remain united on major climate issues.

Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation, said launching the GCF should be regarded as an important task of the climate talks.

"Fast launch of the Green Climate Fund agreed on in Cancun under a supervisory regime" is one of the five conditions for China to accept a legally binding arrangement, he said.

"India wants and is hopeful that the Green Climate Fund will be established at Durban," Indian Environment and Forest Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said at a joint press briefing of the BASIC countries Tuesday.

"Developed countries who have commitment to provide resources should agree to capitalize the fund and also to the structure of long-term sources of finance for the GCF," Natarajan said.

"As BASIC we want to leave Durban with a fully functional Green Climate Fund, not just an empty shell," Brazil's climate negotiator Luiz Alberto Figueiredo said.

"The four countries that are presented on this table are committed. We are doing our part, and we hope everybody will do the same," he said.

Mexico, which hosted the 2010 Cancun climate talks and presented the idea of the green fund at the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks, is also optimistic about the GCF and is bidding with Germany to be the planned fund's headquarters.

On Wednesday, the European Union (EU) also gave its support to the second commitment of the Kyoto Protocol and the fund.

"We're committed to the second commitment even when the U.S., Canada, Japan and Russia have said they are not," Connie Hedegaard, member of the European Commission, said. "The last two days of Durban must be used to make progress."

Responding to a question about the EU's commitment to the GCF, Hedegaard said, "First of all, the fund must be operational."

Only when the fund is set up would the countries know how much money they could put into it, she said. "Before the end of the conference, you'll hear what different pledges European countries will make to the fund."

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