Use IMF funds to fight climate change, says George Soros


AS CONSERVATIONISTS warned that marine life is increasingly threatened by acidifying oceans, billionaire financier George Soros yesterday revealed plans to unlock $100 billion in funding to fight climate change.

“I’ve found a way for someone else to pay . . . to mobilise reserves that are lying idle,” he said, calling on developed countries to donate their special drawing rights (SDRs)from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), issued last year to help them cope with the financial crisis.

He estimated that the 15 richest developed countries hold $150 billion worth of these SDRs, sitting largely untouched in their foreign reserve accounts, and said most of this money could be donated to a fund that would invest in low-carbon energy and rainforest protection.

“This is a win-win opportunity for developed and developing countries to work together,” added Mr Soros, who made a fortune from currency speculation and now chairs the Open Society Institute, established to promote tolerant democracies with accountable governments.

The Hungarian-born financier said the release of SDRs would make an immediate impact in breaking the funding deadlock in Copenhagen.

“All that is lacking is the political will to fight global warming in the developing world by using the existing allocations of SDRs.”

Oxfam International’s Robert Bailey said: “Finally someone is showing the kind of innovative thinking needed to make this deal worth its salt. Soros’s proposal shows exactly the kind of ambition and urgency we need to see from rich country governments themselves.”

Greenpeace International’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo, said money was “one of the keys to a good outcome in Copenhagen”, adding that every world leader should study Mr Soros’s proposal so they could “put the money on the table by the end of next week”.

Meanwhile, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said “deep and immediate cuts in emissions are needed to stall ocean acidification and prevent mass extinction of marine species, food insecurity and serious damage to the world economy”.

An IUCN report released yesterday in Copenhagen said increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were “making seawater more acidic and is threatening ecosystems and species precious for our food and economy”.

It pointed out that previous episodes of ocean acidification were linked to mass extinctions of some marine species, saying it was reasonable to assume that the latest evidence of a “souring” of the oceans would have similar consequences.

“Ocean acidification can be best described as the evil twin of climate change,” said Dan Laffoley, marine vice-chairman of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas.

“We hope this guide acts as a wake-up call to decision-makers to place the ocean centre stage.”

The rift between developed and developing countries was underscored again yesterday when Tuvalu, the tiny low-lying island state in the South Pacific which fears being wiped out, continued to insist on the need for a legally binding treaty to cut emissions.

Tuvalu’s stand, which is being opposed by both China and India, won the support of aid and environmental groups.

“A fine-sounding political declaration from Copenhagen without a legally binding outcome is like a shark without teeth,” said Barry Coates of Oxfam.

Sorley McCaughey of Christian Aid said all developing countries wanted to save the Kyoto Protocol: “What they are disputing right now is the tactics to ensure that Kyoto survives the all-out onslaught from industrialised countries who, it is evident, want to ‘kill Kyoto’.”

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer conceded that Tuvalu had a point.

The country, which has a population of just over 12,000, was “afraid that their very clear treaty proposal will drop off the table while something more ambitious, more substantial, is not yet in sight”, he said.