EU won`t reclaim climate leadership with accounting tricks and dated pledges

The Copenhagen Accord has limped through its first test. The 31 January deadline for parties to associate with the accord and submit their emissions pledges to the UNFCCC passed with just 55 parties signing up.

While the UNFCCC pointed out that those parties account for almost 80% of global emissions, UN climate chief Yvo de Boer also underlined that the pledges are insufficient for meeting the goal of limiting warming to below 2°C. (see the submissions of industrialised and developing/emerging countries)

As for the EU, it simply submitted the same old pledge: a 20% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2020 from 1990 levels, which could be increased to 30% under ill-defined criteria (see official letter). We are shortly approaching the 3 year anniversary of this dated pledge. While almost all other parties have changed their positions over the past 12 months, the EU is still stuck in its rut - despite our efforts to change this.

Clearly, some member states like the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands, were pushing for the EU to move to an unconditional 30% target. However, on the other side there are countries like Italy and Poland trying to scale back the ambition, with even the European Commission playing an unhelpful role.

Next week, EU leaders will meet in Brussels, with a discussion on the aftermath of Copenhagen on their agenda. More detailed discussion will come from environment ministers next month. Draft `conclusions` of the council indicate they will discuss a range of important issues, including the emissions targets and climate financing from the EU to developing countries.

At Copenhagen, the EU pledged to provide €2.4 billion per year in `fast-track` climate financing to developing countries (from 2010-12), below the pledge from Japan. Provision of climate financing, which should be additional to existing development aid budgets, is a crucial measure for the EU`s credibility in the international negotiations and ensuring the developing countries` support.

There have been fears for some time that EU member states would engage in accounting chicanery: simply recycling funds from existing development aid budgets and re-labelling them as climate aid. Reports from France and the UK indicate that this is exactly what key governments intend to do.

The draft council conclusions indicate that the EU is ready to submit preliminary reports on its fast-track financing to the UNFCCC, ahead of the Bonn meeting in June. It is not yet clear what this reporting will mean, however there are concerns that it will be an elaborate exercise to try and mask the wholesale recycling of development aid. Financial voodoo of this kind would be disastrous for the EU`s already flagging credibility in the UN climate process.

In short, the EU cannot try to pull a fast one to evade its responsibilities on climate financing for developing countries. If EU heads of state and government want to demonstrate climate leadership, they should promise that all climate financing will be new and additional to development budgets.