January 25, 2010 / 11:16 PM / 8 years ago

U.S. assessing climate change financing - envoy

A finished wind turbine complex is shown in southern Wyoming in this July 21, 2009 file photo.Ed Stoddard/Files

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is weighing how to help finance the global fight against climate change without having one country shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden, a top U.S. envoy said on Monday.

"What are our priorities? Clearly we are worried that not only one country acts independently and therefore takes political or economic costs exclusively upon itself while others do not," said Jonathan Pershing, the U.S. deputy special climate envoy.

Pershing spoke at a Capitol Hill gathering examining the aftermath of December's global climate meeting in Denmark, which ended with a Copenhagen Accord that offered few details about how and to which countries aid would be distributed.

"We are currently actively looking at the financing in the budget, we are looking at the funds and where they would go," Pershing said.

The United States is figuring out now how to get money to the places most in need, according to the 12-paragraph accord: small island states vulnerable to sea-level rise, the poorest countries in Africa and other developing countries most at risk from the consequences of climate change.

These consequences are expected to include droughts, floods, more intense storms, and food shortages and possible migration as a result.

The Copenhagen Accord was crafted by the world's top emitters of climate-warming greenhouse gases and led by China and the United States and aims to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) above pre-industrial levels. It was not approved as a formal U.N. agreement and was opposed by several developing nations, including Venezuela and Sudan.

HOW TO DIVIDE COSTS

Some developing countries whose emissions are on the rise argue that the richest countries have historically emitted far more greenhouse pollution over time and therefore should bear most of the cost for fixing the problem, allowing poorer countries' economies to grow.

The United States has agreed to contribute to a $100 billion climate change fund by 2020 as long as other countries also contribute. The United States has more than $1 billion in climate aid this year and is a top donor in a 2010-2012 plan worth $3.5 billion to slow deforestation.

Supporters of the accord, including the United States, are due to sign up by Jan. 31 with their promises for reducing carbon emissions by 2020.

"The expectation globally is that in the next three years, the financing would be virtually exclusively from government financing," Pershing said.

In the United States, he said that would mean money the Treasury Department puts into the World Bank and other international funds, and that the U.S. Agency for International Development puts into bilateral assistance.

It would also include other U.S. agencies' contributions to bilateral programs, Pershing said.

"We're in the midst of doing an assessment for how that plays out," he said. "So the collective effort is now under way."

The next step needs to include some discussion about institutional arrangements, including the high-level "green fund" envisaged at the December summit, which does not yet exist.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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