Billionaire investor George Soros says a deadlock in global negotiations over aid to poorer countries adapting to climate change could be broken if resources of the International Monetary Fund were used to help financing.
The American financier-philanthropist, one of a number of international notables visiting the 192-country meeting in Copenhagen, told reporters on Thursday a $10 billion-a-year fund proposed to assist poor nations adapt to climate change is not enough to get the developing world behind a new agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
He suggested redirecting International Monetary Fund resources from providing liquidity to the stressed global financial system to a new mission to finance projects in developing countries that work with clean energy or work toward adapting to the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels.
A one-time infusion of about $100 billion could be raised in this way, said Soros.
He said such a deal might be necessary to salvage negotiations at the conference, which seeks to deliver a global pact on emissions to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
"I think it is already becoming apparent in the negotiations that there's a gap between the developed and developing world on this issue which could actually wreck the conference," said Soros.
U.S. approval a likely roadblock
The major roadblock to the financier's plan is getting approval for any reallocation of funds, particularly from the United States.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama had difficulty getting approval in the U.S. Congress for the IMF's $200 billion in new Special Drawing Rights to deal with the global financial crisis, and would likely face greater hurdles in any effort to change the destination or purpose of those funds.
"It is possible to substantially increase the amount available to fight global warming in the developing world," said Soros. "All that is lacking is the political will. Unfortunately the political will be difficult to gather because of the mere fact that it requires congressional approval in the United States."
Industrialized countries were proposing to get developing countries to sign on to a pact by providing three years of funding at about $10 billion a year, an amount Soros described as "more than nothing, but not much."
Europe debates climate fund
Developing nations have pressed Europe, the U.S., Japan and other wealthy countries for more upfront money and assurances of long-term financing.
Meanwhile, at a European Union summit in Brussels, countries in the 27-nation bloc debated how much Europe should contribute to the fund.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country has committed $1.2 billion over three years, called on all EU members to aid the fund.
"Europe should take its fair share," said Reinfeldt, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.
Britain has said it will contribute $1.3 billion over three years, and Germany has said it would contribute, but has given no figure. But cash-strapped eastern European countries have been reluctant to commit to ambitious contributions to the fund.
U.K. scientists defend climate science
The summit's aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions comes in response to warnings from scientists working with the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which in 2007 warned of the impact of rising temperatures.
The panel found that man-made greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide were likely the cause of warming temperatures around the globe, and that rises in temperature could pose severe environmental changes in some regions.
The science behind the warning recently has come under fire after hackers got access to and published emails from an English university that climate skeptics say are evidence that scientists have conspired to hide trends that don't match their theories.
On Thursday over 1,700 scientists in Britain responded, signing a statement saying they have confidence in the evidence for global warming "and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities."