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Oxfam calls on world's richest to lead way in battling climate change

AFP / Eric Feferberg | Performers wearing effigies of world leaders gather for a breakfast organized by the NGO Oxfam on November 28, 2015 in Paris, on the eve of the COP21 United Nations conference on climate change.

The richest 10 percent of people produce half of the Earth’s fossil-fuel emissions, while the poorest half contribute a mere 10 percent, British charity Oxfam said in a study released Wednesday.

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Oxfam published the numbers as negotiators from 195 countries met in Paris to hash out a climate rescue pact.

Disputes over how to share responsibility for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions and aiding climate-vulnerable countries are among the thorniest and longest-running issues in the 25-year-old UN climate process.

“Rich, high emitters should be held accountable for their emissions, no matter where they live,” Oxfam climate policy head Tim Gore said in a statement.

“But it’s easy to forget that rapidly developing economies are also home to the majority of the world’s very poorest people and while they have to do their fair share, it is rich countries that should still lead the way”, Gore said.

The report found that an average person among the richest one percent emits 175 times more carbon than his or her counterpart among the bottom 10 percent.

Rich and developing nations remain deeply divided on the issue of “differentiation” how to share out responsibility for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, which are derived mainly from burning coal, oil and gas.

Developing countries say the West has polluted for much longer and should shoulder a bigger obligation for cutting back.

They are also demanding assurances of financing to help them shift to less-polluting renewable energy, shore up defences against climate impacts such as sea level rise, droughts and superstorms, and to cover unavoidable damage.

Heeding the call to aid developing countries with the transition to greener energy,  François Hollande announced Tuesday that France would give African countries two billion euros ($2.1 billion) over the next four years to develop renewable energy and replace the fossil fuels that drive global warming.

"France will devote six billion euros between 2016 and 2020 for electricity provision on the (African) continent," the French president declared at a meeting of African leaders on the sidelines of the COP21 UN climate conference in Paris. One third of that six billion euros will be spent on renewable energy – twice the amount France provided in the preceding five years.

For Oxfam France spokesman Romain Benicchio, Hollande's announcement struck a positive chord, although he still had reservations.

"This announcement seems to be a positive signal that shows France has taken into account the demands of African countries, including their financing needs on the ground, to adapt to the consequences of climate change", he said.

He noted that the monies cited by Hollande were not new funding, but merely the implementation of a package that had already been announced at the UN General Assembly in September.

"It is also important to note that for the moment these commitments are far from meeting the financial goals stated in the Paris Agreement: at least $30 billion by 2020 to allow vulnerable populations to adapt as well as concrete financial commitments for the period post-2020," Benicchio said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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