Anger at climate aid ‘blank cheque’: Ministers accused after agreeing global deal to repair ‘loss and damage’ caused by extreme weatherEnergy Secretary Ed Davey pledged to help people in poor countries 'who will be underwater' due to rising sea-levels and melting glaciers
In a deal signed by 193 nations, rich countries accepted responsibility for the consequences of rising temperatures
10:28 GMT, 10 December 2012
Deal: Energy secretary Ed Davey pledged to help those in poor countries who 'will be underwater' due to rising sea-levels
Ministers were accused of ‘signing a blank cheque’ for climate aid to the third world as Britain agreed a global deal to repair ‘loss and damage’ caused by extreme weather.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey pledged to help people in poor countries ‘who will be underwater’ due to rising sea-levels and melting glaciers on the final day of UN talks in Qatar.
In a deal signed by 193 nations, rich countries for the first time agreed to accept responsibility for the consequences of rising temperatures.
It was described as a historic shift for developing countries, which have been disappointed by the failure of the big polluting nations to cut their carbon emissions.
But Tory critics claimed the measure would leave Britain open to paying an unlimited bill in addition to the 6bn already pledged by 2020 in climate aid.
Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, said: ‘It sounds like a blank cheque and I think the Government must have taken leave of their senses. On the one hand they tell us we haven’t got any money, the country is broke.
‘And people accept that they know that, but then to internationally go spraying taxpayers money about as if it’s going out of fashion, my constituents find incredibly offensive.
'They cannot afford this largesse, the Government are going to have to start acting in the British national interest.’
Glyn Davies, MP for Montgomeryshire, said: ‘We have to go through the small print to see what this means, but the whole talks have worried me for the implications of the public finances in Britain.
'Household bills are driving elderly people into poverty and large numbers of jobs are being exported overseas.’
He said Britain’s aid budget ‘should be used to help poorer countries develop industries and look after themselves, which is worthwhile.
'Giving money as compensation seems to be a bottomless pit, and will see people’s support for the whole policy disappear.’
The ‘loss and damage’ clause became one of the most contentious issues of the two-week talks.
Mr Davey, who participated in the final 36-hour stretch of the negotiations, said: ‘It’s about helping the most vulnerable countries, and looking at how they can be more resilient.’
Some lawyers say climate change will unleash a flood of liability claims, although there have not yet been any successful claims.
Analysts from PricewaterhouseCoopers said for small island states and the world’s least developed countries at risk from rising sea levels, storms and droughts, compensation had become a ‘totemic issue – everything they think the negotiations are about’.
Objection: Glyn Davies MP is worried about the implications for Britain's finances
But they said a focus on money was likely to hold back progress on reducing carbon emissions, as scientists are predicting greater than a 2C rise in temperatures by the end of the century.
[keep] However the final text falls far short of any admission of legal liability for climate damage and the US delegation refused to include the word ‘compensation’.
How much money could be needed and how it would be distributed are set to be fiercely contested at future talks.
Mr Davey denied Britain would be taking on ‘unlimited liabilities’ and said ‘we are not an insurance company of last resort and we are never going to be’.
But he said: ‘We have a duty to help people losing their country beneath the waves. The issue for me is that in some countries climate change is not an issue of mitigating or adapting to climate change. They will be underwater.’
Rich nations have already 62bn ($100 billion US dollars) a year by 2020 to help developing countries build renewable energy and infrastructure such as irrigation and flood barriers to adapt to climate change.
But they have stopped short of discussing how much damage is actually being caused by rising temperatures and who will pay.
Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid’s senior climate change adviser, estimated that tackling loss and damage would cost ‘well in excess’ of this amount – to which Britain’s contribution is 1bn.
Ronald Jumeau, negotiating for the Seychelles told the US delegation: ‘If we had had more ambition [from rich countries], we would not have to ask for so much [money] for adaptation, we would not be looking for money for loss and damage. What’s next Loss of our islands’
Another islander said: ‘We didn’t cause the problem, but we are being harmed.’
Ruth Davies, political adviser at Greenpeace said: ‘This is a highly significant move – it will be the first time the size of the bill for failing to take on climate change will be part of the UK discussions.’
The UK has already pledged 2.9 billion during this summit to support wind farms in Africa and greener agriculture in Colombia over the next four years, despite a lack of similar pledges from other countries.
Britain and other European countries also signed up to an extension to the Kyoto Protocol agreement until 2020 although the new pact only covers a sixth of the world’s polluters – and does not require action from the biggest emitters, the US and China.
Mr Davey said yesterday that the climate talks had been ‘a modest step forward’.
He added: ‘Doha addressed a key concern of developing countries by agreeing to establish institutional arrangements to address loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change in particularly vulnerable developing countries.’