The leaders of Britain and France gave their backing Friday to a global fund that would provide billions of dollars to poor countries to help them reduce the output of greenhouse gases linked to climate change.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the wealthiest nations should set aside the money as part of a climate agreement at next month's U.N. summit on the issue in Copenhagen.
Sarkozy told reporters at a Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Trinidad that the fund should provide $10 billion annually for the next three years to help poor countries fight deforestation and reduce their carbon emissions as well as address effects of climate change. He also called for the creation of a "world environmental organization" to monitor progress on curbing pollution.
"We can no longer afford to be unambitious," he said of global climate efforts. "What is at stake here is the future of our planet."
Brown called on the international community to create a $10 billion "Copenhagen launch fund," and said Britain would contribute $1.3 billion over three years. He said it would help reassure developing nations that wealthy countries are serious about helping them address climate change.
"We have got to provide some money to help that," Brown said. "Britain will do so, the rest of Europe will do so and I believe America will do so as well."
Financing to assist developing countries is one of the key areas of debate around next month's summit, which 80 world leaders have so far agreed to attend. Despite recent pledges by the U.S. and China to reduce greenhouse gases, experts say far more is needed to avert global warming.
Sarkozy was making what he said was the first appearance for a French president at the biennial meeting of the Commonwealth, a group of mostly former British colonies that comprises about a quarter of the world. He said he was motivated by the urgency of the environmental crisis facing the world.
He also urged President Barack Obama to reconsider his decision to attend the climate conference in Copenhagen only on Dec. 9, before traveling to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. Sarkozy said his American counterpart should return for the decisions to be made during the final days of the Dec. 7-18 meeting.
"If we are not all there at the same time, then what kind of solution can we possibly come up with?" he said.
Sarkozy said he had spoken at the Commonwealth meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a key player in climate talks, in hopes of persuading him to go to Copenhagen and to agree to substantial cuts by India in its carbon dioxide emissions. India's leader told him he was still consulting with his Cabinet on the matter, Sarkozy said.
Discussion of climate is dominating the Commonwealth meeting, with Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also in Trinidad to lobby the leaders in the 53-nation organization.
Loekke Rasmussen said financial aid for poor countries should be a key part of any agreement, and he insisted it should not come at the expense of other international efforts to reduce poverty.
"If developing countries are to be successful in the long run in their efforts to combating climate change we will need to provide substantially scaled up, new and additional financial resources for both mitigation and adaptation," he said. "Copenhagen will have to provide an adequate answer to this."