EU pledges climate cash to poor nations: Reinfeldt

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has announced that the European Union's member states have agreed to give €7.2 billion ($10.6 billion, 75.3 billion kronor) to help developing nations tackle climate change.

EU pledges climate cash to poor nations: Reinfeldt

“The EU total is equal to €2.4 billion per year,” over the next three years, with voluntary pledges coming in from all 27 EU member states, Reinfeldt said after a two-day EU summit in Brussels, held under the auspices of the Swedish EU presidency.

The ‘fast start’ money is Europe’s contribution to helping the developing world to adapt to global warming over the next three years and to encourage the ongoing UN climate change conference in Copenhagen to do more.

“It was also possible through the night to get contributions from all 27 member states,” and the European commission, Reinfeldt said, as the voluntary pledges topped the €6 billion target set by the Swedish EU presidency.

EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barros said he hoped other nations would now match the EU’s ambitions. British premier Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy also demanded that leaders in Copenhagen agree a treaty that would be “legally binding within six months,” and issued a new target for a global reduction in deforestation, which should reach 25 percent by 2015.

Brown raised recession-mired Britain’s contribution to £1.2 billion ($2 billion), with Sarkozy all but matching the figure, meaning that between them Britain and France pledged €2.5 billion.

Downing Street said Britain would boost its contribution further “if others are equally ambitious in Copenhagen.” The British Prime Minister said a final Copenhagen deal must be consistent with a Group of 20 leaders’ commitment to maintain global warming to a maximum of two degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial times.

Towards that end, the EU should commit to reduce its emissions by 30 percent by 2020, he added, although his peers in Brussels have said that should be conditional upon similar movement from other big polluters like China and the United States, which is not yet the case.

EU figures published last week showed confirmed pledges from developed nations outside Europe would mean carbon dioxide cuts of just 13 percent. Sarkozy said the boost to Europe’s financial pledge was important to “give credibility to rich countries’ commitments towards African countries, which we need (to come on board) in order to get an ambitious deal.”

“What’s expensive is doing nothing. What is costly is immobility, is failure,” he said. The French leader said he and Brown will host a dozen African heads of state from the Congo basin on Wednesday “to tell them that we want to help them fight deforestation.”

Environmental group Greenpeace gave the EU cash pledge a cautious welcome. “Short term funding is necessary but there is a risk that this will be used to greenwash an outcome which is weak and doesn’t have any structural needs-based funding. Climate change will not be beaten in three years,” Greenpeace EU campaigner Joris den Blanken said.

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Man tries to smuggle tortoises disguised as desserts through Berlin airport

A man tried to bring three tortoises into Germany by disguising them as sweet treats.

Man tries to smuggle tortoises disguised as desserts through Berlin airport
The man placed the tortoises in a baked goods box. Photo: Hauptzollamt Potsdam

Customs at Schönefeld Airport in Berlin stopped the 69-year-old man who had arrived by plan from Cairo, Egypt, according to the Hauptzollamt (main customs office) Potsdam.

The 69-year-old wanted to leave the security area without declaring that he was carrying any questionable goods. However customs officers asked him to stop, and after checking, found a suspicious package in his luggage.

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The package appeared to be for baked goods but the contents didn't look like the average cake or tart.

When officers asked the man what the contents were, he explained that it was chocolate. However, when the package was opened, three living Moroccan tortoises were discovered.

Since the animals are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention, they were confiscated and placed in the care of the border veterinarian.

The incident happened on March 2nd, authorities said. The Hauptzollamt said further investigations will be carried out by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation.

It's not the first time passengers have tried to smuggle animals through German airports. In 2014, a 44-year-old Mexican man was arrested at Frankfurt Airport after attempting to smuggle 55 tortoises, 30 arboreal alligator lizards, four horned vipers and one spiny-tailed iguana in a single suitcase.

Meanwhile, in 2016 customs officers did a double-take at Munich airport when a suitcase belonging to a man arriving from Thailand turned out to contain the skull of an unfortunate ape.

The 650-gramme, 23-centimetre souvenir had not been properly cleaned, resulting in the grim stench that assaulted the officers' nostrils.

SEE ALSO: Customs seize stinking ape skull from traveller's luggage