By Simona Sikimic

BEIRUT: The recent UN climate meeting in Cancun may have raised hopes by promising to inject billions of dollars to help developing countries face global warming challenges but whether or not Lebanon will see an influx of cash remains to be seen, Environment Ministry representatives said Monday.

“The mechanism [for receiving funding] is not there yet and nothing is really known except that the details will follow later,” Vahakn Kabakian, project manager for the Environment Ministry-run Second National Communication to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Project and part of Lebanon’s delegation to the Mexico summit told The Daily Star.

Speaking at an American University Beirut (AUB) event “Assessing the Cancun Climate Change Summit: Views from Within” – held to evaluate the impact of the latest round of the convention – Kabakian stressed that tentative progress had been made but that much more remained to be done.

In order to avoid the worst affects of climate change countries have now, for the first time, firmly established 2 degrees Celsius as the ceiling on global temperature increases. With the help of advocacy from several nations, including Lebanon which personally pushed for “annual temperatures to be [kept] as far below 2 degrees Celsius as necessary” this number is also open to revision downward pending scientific reevaluation.

The problem with Cancun, like its much-publicized predecessor in Copenhagen last year, remains a lack of legally binding limits. Alongside other developing countries and many climate scientists, Lebanon has proposed that developed countries adopt at least a 40 percent emissions reduction based on 1990 levels by 2020 and an 80 percent cut by 2050.

Presently only the EU has promised to achieve a 20 percent target by 2020, which may be extended to 30 percent if other countries commit to tangible reductions, with the US – bogged down by opposition in Congress – lagging behind. Rapidly industrializing countries, namely India and China, have now conceded to make sacrifices but will only do so if Europe and America take the lead.

“If scientific predictions are to be believed, even if all the pledges made at Cancun were fulfilled we will still fail to meet the 2 degrees temperature increase target,” said Kabakian. “At this pace we are heading toward a much higher increase of 3.2 degrees.”

Such a rise above pre-industrial levels would cause global sea levels to rise up to 50 centimeters and would almost certainly increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, storms and wildfires, as witnessed recently in Lebanon.

“What we have seen thus far is a collection of pledges and not commitments, and near total absence of the numbers we had hoped for,” said Kabakian.

Developed countries made headlines by promising to establish a fast-start green fund which would provide some $30 billion for adaptation and mitigation projects until 2012 in preparation for the $100 billion a year climate fund expected to materialize by 2020.

A mere week after the conclusion of talks, however, and fears are already running high that this cash may have simply been “repackaged” and that the murky funding application process will prevent governments from accessing the funding.

“One of our main issues was that any funding had to be additional and separate from past development spending,” said UN Development Program project assistant Lea Kai, who was part of Lebanon’s Cancun negotiating team. “There seems to be a lot of confusion from all over, with even the donor countries unsure what money has been allocated where. We are now left wondering if it’s actually the same money.”

The next UNFCCC meeting is scheduled for November 2011 in Durban.