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Billionaire proposes $100b fund to unlock climate talks

CARTOON
By | December 12th 2009

Copenhagen, Friday

Billionaire financier George Soros said he had found a $100 billion route to unlock climate talks in Copenhagen, while one business group complained the talks were "tone deaf" to the private sector.

Environmentalists welcomed Soros’ idea. "The proposal is an exciting initiative that deserves consideration," said ActionAid’s climate justice co-ordinator Tom Sharman.

Under the plan, developed countries would invest $100 billion in IMF special drawing rights in carbon-cutting projects in developing nations.

Carbon market

The IMF originally made the rights available to help combat recession and add liquidity after panic froze debt markets.

The invested projects would repay the proposed $100-billion loans, to be spent over the next decade, from earnings, which they would make under an assumed global carbon market.

IMF gold reserves would guarantee the principle and interest. Soros acknowledged a series of obstacles to his proposal, including US Congress approval, IMF director approval and a global carbon price.

UN talks in the Danish capital meant to agree the outline of a new climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol are stuck on splitting the bill to cut carbon emissions and prepare for more droughts and rising seas.

Poorer nations want rich countries to spend one per cent or more of their national wealth on emissions cuts in the developing world, or at least $300 billion annually, about double the closest estimates by industrialised countries.

"I have found a way for someone else to pay ... to mobilise reserves that are lying idle," said Soros, on the sidelines of the December 7-18 conference, which world leaders will attend in the closing two days.

"This $100-billion fund I think could just turn this conference from failure to success."

Soros plans to invest $1 billion of a total of his own $25-billion funds in low-carbon assets. His initiative was only focused on filling a gap in short-term funding for emissions cuts in developing nations and relied on International Monetary Fund.

UN estimates suggest more than three-quarters of the money to fight climate change must come from the private sector, since governments cannot mobilise the $10.5 trillion extra energy investment needed to 2030 to cut carbon emissions.

An additional $100 billion a year is needed for developing nations to prepare for a warmer world.

Private sector

But some in the business sector say the Copenhagen talks have paid too little attention to initiatives to mobilise private sector funds and scale up existing carbon markets.

"This process is sometimes disconnected from the way technology is deployed and business transacted," the President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Lisa Jacobson said. "There are a few good private sector initiatives but it’s tone deaf in the conference documents."

Henry Derwent, head of the global carbon market lobby group, the International Emissions Trading Association, said delegates were too focused on negotiations and not enough on how the private sector would implement them.

—Reuters

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