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UN cash crunch means poor face climate envoy funding axe

Negotiators for poor countries often say they are at a disadvantage at UN summits, lacking the numbers, technology and institutional support of richer countries.

For example, at the latest round of UN climate talks in Bonn in May, Bangladesh sent 4 officials, Burkina Faso 3, Ethiopia 5 and Uruguay 6 compared to 25 for the UK, 31 for the European Commission, 58 for Japan and 44 for the US.

At the Paris climate talks in December 2015, I met a diplomat from Botswana who said he had to cover four sets of complex negotiations on his own.

These could have ranged from carbon market provisions and finance flows to the specifics of a new climate action reporting system. By the end of the meeting he looked half dead.

Poorer countries traditionally receive support from the UN to bring extra negotiators, allowing them to cover these myriad negotiating streams of the global talks.

The UN climate body's head of communications Nick Nuttall explains what's happening:

"There are perhaps several reasons for this, but certainly it is true that many donor governments around the world are facing difficult budgetary conditions domestically-and this is perhaps reflected in the fact that all international organizations are finding budgets constrained or diminishing.

"In terms of participation, it is true to say that current resources available are not sufficient to offer the same level of participation as in past years.

"We are currently able to support participation from one delegate from each eligible Party-instead of the traditional 2- plus an additional delegate from Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.

"We hope that payment of some pledged contributions will allow us to increase the number of participants that can be supported but we will have to wait and see.

"In respect to COP22 in Morocco, we do not anticipate any significant issues except in the area of participation-but we are confident that there will be 15-20,000 participants in Marrakech and there will be a full programme of negotiations and events."

Voluntary contributions from leading economies have fallen dramatically through 2016, down to $80,000 compared to $300,000 at the same point in 2014.

It's possible - as Nuttall explains - there may be a surge in contributions, but it raises questions over how well represented poorer nations will be at November's climate summit in Marrakech.

That's a critical moment, given in Morocco countries will start developing the rules for the Paris climate agreement, which may or may not have entered into force by the time it starts.

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