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UN Environment Boss Warns Economic Crisis Will Diminish Climate-change Commitment

Reuters | Updated on Nov 08, 2008

The global financial gloom would make citizens of rich nations reluctant to use taxes to fight global warming, and any plan to help poor nations should make the polluters pay, the UN’s climate boss said. The warning cast doubt on a Chinese proposal to ask the world’s rich nations to devote up to 1 per cent of their economic worth to pay for cleaner expansion in poorer countries.

“It is undeniable that the financial crisis will have an impact on the climate change negotiations,” said Yvo de Boer, who heads the UN Climate Change Secretariat.

More than 190 nations have agreed to seek a new UN treaty by the end of next year on greenhouse gases. He said the polluters should be directly targeted as a source of revenue to help developing countries.

Speaking ahead of a conference on climate technology transfer in Beijing, Mr de Boer warned the rich world that under a road map for a climate deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, they had to create revenue to help developing nations fund greener growth.

The plan accepted in Bali last year committed poor countries to curbing emissions if rich governments helped with technology so they did not sacrifice economic growth.

He praised China’s leadership in negotiations and its effort to firm up demands for technology.

“This is a great opportunity for the country that has put so much emphasis on this issue to really focus the debate on how technology transfer can be part of the long-term … response.”

While the financial crisis threatened efforts to tackle global warming, he said, it could also give impetus to talks aimed at forging a climate-change pact.

The crisis has also highlighted the benefits of a trading system, favoured by most rich nations, that sets pollution limits but allows companies to buy and sell quotas to meet their targets.

The auction of credits to pollute could fund cleaner development in poor nations, he said.

A flat carbon tax would be more efficient than the current system, but more complicated to implement, he added.

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