Roundup: Fast Start commitment doubted at Doha climate talks

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Donors of the Fast Start finance are touting their "fulfillment" of the promised aid to poor countries on fighting climate change, while developing countries and green campaigners are questioning the quality and effectiveness of their money.

On the sidelines of the ongoing UN climate conference in Doha, developed countries announced at a joint press conference that they had paid about 33 billion U.S. dollars for the Fast Start program, surpassing the set goal of 30 billion dollars.

Respectively, the European Union(EU), the United States and Japan contributed 9.3 billion dollars, 7.5 billion dollars and 17. 4 billion dollars to the scheme during 2010-2012, according to their statements.

Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland are also among the donor list to the three-year program that was initiated in Copenhagen in 2009.

The fund also serves as a transition towards a more ambitious support scheme.

The Green Climate Fund, a major outcome of the 2010 Cancun talks, was designed to upgrade developed countries' annual climate aid to 100 billion dollars by 2020.

However, the long-term support scheme is still largely a shell and its fund-raising, an important issue in Doha, looks unlikely to be worked out any time soon.

Even the nature and genuineness of the short-term Fast Start are questioned by participants of the current UN climate talks.

Nathan Thanki, a representative of Earth in Brackets at the press conference, criticized the provision of the Fast Start finance as "fragmented across many channels," which made its access and accountability extremely difficult to monitor.

Many people suspect that there was a lot of re-packaging of old financial support in the Fast Start program, which violates the rules set up in Copenhagen that all the finance should be new and additional.

According to a recent report by Oxford-based Oxfam, only 33 percent of the money pledged for Fast Start is "new," and no more than 24 percent is "additional."

Part of the money came from private sectors rather than public finances, another violation against the Copenhagen spirit, the report added.

ECO, a newsletter circulated at the Doha conference, particularly pointed to some re-packaging by the United States of its food security programs into a Fast Start support for developing countries' adaptation to climate change.

The newsletter also said Japan included billions of dollars in private finance towards their pledge to the scheme.

Thanki warned that the Fast Start finance is being considered as Official Development Assistance (ODA). "Repackaged ODA represents a missed development opportunity for the poor nations."

More alarmingly, Thanki said some funding "often imposes conditionality which forces the recipient countries to alter their national policies, making the process donor-driven."

Meanwhile, many representatives from developing countries criticize the financial support, both short-term and long-term, for not being strong enough and urge rich countries to scale up their pledges.

Some developed countries cited the global economic downturn as an excuse for not pledging further assistance in climate change adaptation and mitigation, but for Thanki, this is far from the fact.

"Military spending, fossil fuel subsidies, and the war in Iraq have all required trillions of dollars from the public purse," he said.

Kimaren Riamit, an representative of environment group from Kenyan, said even if the pledge of 100 billion dollars per year was met in 2020, the support would not be in line with the real needs of developing countries. "It's just like peanuts," he said.

African countries are only responsible for four percent of the CO2 in the atmosphere, but they are among the most vulnerable to some specific impacts of climate change.

Since the start of global warming, Africa has been experiencing visible and continuous desertification, sea level rise, reduced freshwater availability, coastal erosion and deforestation.

For a continent still struggling for poverty eradication, the extra task of combating and adapting to climate change needs strong support from the developed world, Riamit said.

"The developed countries need to translate their words into enhanced actions," he said. "It's time to stop the game of figures. " Endi

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