Clinton pledges climate funds in bid to break deadklock

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States will help mobilise $100 billion dollars a year by 2020 for the fight against climate change if a "strong accord" is reached at a deadlocked summit on climate change.

REUTERS - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton improved the atmosphere at climate talks on Thursday by announcing the United States will help support a $100 billion a year fund for poor countries to fight global warming.

The pledge to boost funds for poor nations breathed life into talks that had been sagging before a Dec. 18 deadline for a deal. But before celebrations can start, a few other big pieces must fall into place.


Kim Carstensen, head of the World Wildlife Fund's global climate initiative said: "We are moving out of the valley of death. We are beginning to see the outlines of a compromise, helped by the U.S. offer on finance."

India, an important negotiator in the 193-nation talks, also praised Clinton's move.

"I welcome the announcement of Hillary Clinton, which demonstrates a seriousness on the part of the Americans to recognise that financing is a crucial element of climate change," said Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

But plenty of non-governmental groups were wondering just where the money would come from and how it would be structured.

"Support for poor countries cannot be left to the whims of the markets. It is absolutely crucial that this money comes from public sources and is additional to current aid commitments," said Oxfam International spokesman David Waskow.

Here are other major areas of progress Clinton and counterparts will have to achieve before they can be confident of a deal this week:

* Will developing countries accept U.S. demands that there be tight monitoring and reporting requirements on the carbon emission-curbing commitments they promise?
With one hand, Clinton offered up the $100 billion fund, but with the other she threatened to take it away if tough oversight was not included in a deal.

* What will be the overall level of carbon pollution reduction by 2050 and will countries agree on a peak year for emissions? It's unlikely Clinton or President Barack Obama can improve on the U.S. part of that equation, a 17 percent reduction by 2020 from 2005 levels.

Many other countries say that offer, which works out as a 4 percent cut below 1990 levels by 2020, is inadequate.

* Will Obama, as expected, arrive here on Friday with a few billion dollars in his pocket -- the U.S. share of a short-term financial aid deal for developing countries?

There's talk of a $10 billion a year fund for three years. The European Union and Japan have made their offers known. It's time for Washington to fill in that blank.

* Can developing countries prevail on their desire to extend the Kyoto Protocol agreement and sign off on a separate series of long-term promises that covers the United States?

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If the answer to these questions is yes, Friday should see Obama and over 100 other leaders seal a political pact.

But if Clinton's announcement on Thursday of support for the $100 billion fund helps pave the way, she and her boss could face some political turbulence at home.

High unemployment and a fractious debate over healthcare have combined to push down Obama's job approval ratings to around 50 percent or lower and talk about billions of dollars of funds to foreigners during economic hard times may not help his standing.


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