The German conservative-liberal coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel (who in an earlier incarnation was portraying herself as international climate policy champion) has apparently decided that in the face of budgetary shortfalls and fiscal consolidation its international climate finance commitments can be considered nill and void. This seems the only explanation for the cabinet’s recent decision to appropriate in its draft budget for 2011 and its projection for 2012 under the budget lines “Climate Protection Measures in Developing Countries” for the Development Cooperation and Environment Ministries only one dismal figure: ZERO.
In the 2011 budget draft, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, faced with the Euro crisis and rising financial investor panic over mounting government debt, did not spare the mere € 70 million, which were left in truly new funding for international climate change activities in an already constrained 2010 budget . Indeed, in a display of creative accounting, most of Germany’s climate aid for 2010 had already been “recycled” (see an earlier blog post for more details). Now it becomes clear that for 2011 and 2012, the recycled climate finance amount will reach 100 percent. This trick — making old money appear as new money — is achieved by counting the full amount of credits for climate change activities to developing countries as climate aid, not just the grant equivalent, as it was up to then recorded…
Under the tough love that Minister Schäuble is administering with the blessing of Chancellor Merkel, neither the Development Cooperation Ministry nor the Environment Ministry will see any new money for international climate activities in 2011 and 2012 — let alone the € 420 million per year that Germany had promised as “new and additional” money for this purpose from 2010 to 2012. In total € 1,26 billion is the German share of the larger European commitment of € 7.2 billion in so-called Fast Start Finance. The Copenhagen Accord had promised that industrialized countries would pay a total of US$ 30 billion over the next three years to developing countries so that they could start urgent mitigation and adaption actions.
Observers are outraged; the parliamentary group of the German Greens in a press release (only in German) sees international climate policy “back-stabbed” by the cabinet’s decision and worries that other industrialized countries (who were likewise playing footloose with their climate finance commitments…) will follow suit. This would surely undermine the trust of developing countries in the climate negotiation process further, just when North-South trust-building, not trust-destroying measures are needed the most ahead of the COP 16 in Cancun.
Staff at the German Environment Ministry, speaking privately and confidentially, could likewise not hide their disappointment and dismay, worrying about their credibility with international colleagues in the UNFCCC negotiations. Their only hope: that the decision — under public pressure and through the scrutiny of the parliamentary budget oversight process — might be rescinded come fall, when the German Bundestag will go have to approve or change the government’s budget proposal. German parliamentarians of all political coleur will hopefully realize that there is more on the (budget) line then some € 70 million.
Cutting this sum does constitute only a laughably insignificant saving of less than 0.022 percent of Germany’s projected 2011 budget of €321 billion. However, this decision — if not reversed — will cost Germany dearly. I never thought that Germany’s role as one of the fore-thinkers and country leaders in international climate policy could be worth so little in the minds of its reigning politicians, and thus could be bought off so cheaply.