EU climate aid: The politicians are the only winners in this deal

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Today’s announcement in Brussels on climate aid is a necessary step towards a deal, but also a model of what we can expect as countries gear up for crucial political talks on global warming in Copenhagen in December.

Ahead of the Brussels meeting there were gloomy reports of a split and warnings of a likely crisis, quickly followed by a political huddle and talk of the need to compromise. A few hours of discussion later and his colleagues were able to emerge with handshakes and announce almost what everybody had expected all along. Job done.

As revealed in the Guardian on Tuesday, the EU has announced that poor countries need to receive some €100bn a year by 2020 from the world’s rich nations to help them cope with the likely impact of global warming. Up to half of this will come from taxpayers with the rest coming from the private sector.

The agreement is a model of political negotiation, in that each national leader gets to go home and report victory to their domestic audiences. Brown, the UK prime minister, gets the credit for forcing through an overall figure, while the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, can point out that Europe has not actually committed itself to provide any specific funds, keeping that card up its sleeve. Meanwhile the heads of the member states most reluctant to put their hands in their pockets, such as Poland, have won concessions on what they are expected to pay upfront.

Against this realpolitik, campaign groups are doing what they do best – pressuring their leaders to do more and to ensure the promised money is not pilfered from existing aid budgets.