29 October 2009

Should Bulgaria Pay Brazil?

The BBC has an interesting article (thx DB!) on an east-west split within the EU on financing adaptation under a potential international climate agreement.
On climate change, the EU is keen to reach a united position ahead of December's United Nations Copenhagen summit, which aims to hammer out a new global climate treaty to replace the UN Kyoto Protocol.

Mr Reinfeldt called on EU leaders to agree a "fixed sum" that would open the way for other rich donors like the US and Japan to make similar aid pledges to help developing nations cope with the effects of climate change.

But just hours before the talks, Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai said sharing the aid costs equally between all 27 EU nations was out of the question. "The burden-sharing proposal is not acceptable in its current form," Mr Bajnai said.

The Polish finance minister, Jacek Rostowski, told the BBC that nine Eastern European nations were ready to block a deal unless they were allowed to contribute according to their means, not to how much they pollute.

"There are countries there like Bulgaria and Latvia, which are considerably poorer than Brazil, and which would be expected to help Brazil in its adjustments to climate change," he said.
This is not the first time that eastern Europe has proven problematic in EU climate policy. But just wait until it comes time for the US to discuss how much money it is going to send overseas as a part of a climate deal. I can't imagine a situation in which this does not become a political lightning rod in the US -- regardless of the policy merits of doing so. (And to be perfectly clear about my views, I wrote in 1998 that the climate "winners" of the world have an obligation to help the climate "losers" - PDF - this post is about the politics of the issue.). Yvo de Boer, head of the UN FCCC helpfully explains that:
“Money, in fact, is the oil that encourages commitment and drives action”
Money also get the attention of voters, especially when you are reaching into their pockets to take it and then sending it to someone else. And in the United States, sending money overseas has never been politically popular, and I don't expect that it will be in the context either. I'll award a prize to the first person who can provide a quote from a U.S. elected official (POTUS, VP or anyone in Congress) advocating sending money overseas as part of a climate deal.