x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Middle East 'needs more green funds'

UN support to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Middle East has proved inadequate.

UN funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Middle East has proved inadequate and will need to be increased significantly at global climate change talks in December, a top official at Masdar, the Abu Dhabi renewable energy firm, said yesterday. But experts yesterday warned a climate change conference in the capital that world leaders would need to go beyond such market-based programmes to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by the amount needed to avoid a "catastrophic" rise in global temperatures.

Under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, developing countries receive funds from firms in industrialised countries for emissions reductions through a programme called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). But Sam Nader, the head of the carbon management unit at Masdar, said funding levels were insufficient. "Through the CDM financial incentives are available, but the progress does not match the ambitions," Mr Nader told the gathering of experts at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.

Emissions reductions achieved with the CDM are to offset increased pollution by firms in Europe and other industrialised regions, allowing them to meet tough emissions targets set within Kyoto. Prominent UAE firms, including Masdar and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, have sought to earn credits for projects across the emirate. "The CDM provides that extra push," Mr Nader said. "That push has not been enough for some projects."

Global leaders will convene in Copenhagen, Denmark in December to write a new climate change treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Mr Nader said his view was that the new treaty would need to create a stronger international institution and offer more funding to support emissions reductions in developing countries. "There should be a regime over and above the CDM," he said. "We need to have some institutional support; we need to integrate policy at a higher level."

Several western leaders including Barack Obama, the US president, have endorsed a "cap and trade" approach to emissions reductions, in which a ceiling on total emissions is set and companies buy and sell credits for the right to pollute above their individual limits. But experts at yesterday's conference suggested a market-based approach may not realise the full quantity of reductions that international groups say is required.

Global leaders want to believe that a free market established through a cap-and-trade system could single-handedly reduce emissions to acceptable levels, but political interference and regulation would make that impossible, said Tom Heller, a climate change expert from Stanford Law School in California. "We don't think the combination of what developed countries can do, and what developing countries will do in their self-interest, is nearly enough to reach the targets," Mr Heller said.

Carbon markets were vulnerable on two fronts, he said. Developing countries can manipulate the value of emissions reductions projects, which has been demonstrated in cases where developing countries were paid for projects to reduce industrial emissions that they would have completed anyway. In the longer run, political pressure would not allow the market to reflect the full cost of the emissions reductions, meaning the full number of reductions would not be completed, he said. Leaders would need to agree to a stricter cap, then come up with public funds to cover the cost.

Bert Metz, a colleague of Mr Heller's on a research project and a member of the European Climate Foundation, estimated that the world would need to come up with between ?65 billion (Dh316.92bn) and ?100bn every year to pay for emissions reductions in developing countries. cstanton@thenational.ae