Europe will hike climate finance spending, insists Cañete

The European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete. [Council]

The EU’s climate chief Miguel Arias Cañete has vowed to increase the bloc’s funding for climate change adaption, pledging that 20% of the EU’s foreign spending would be allocated to climate-related projects.

Speaking at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on Wednesday (17 January), Cañete, the EU’s Commissioner for Climate Action, insisted that EU-provided climate finance to developing countries would increase in 2018.

However, he warned that public money could not form the main contribution to the $100 billion annual target which wealthy countries have promised to invest in renewable energy and climate change mitigation projects in developing countries.

“All the public finance in the world will not lead the revolution. The real revolution will be from private investment,” said Cañete.

“You have to have friendly environments for investment,” he added, pointing to Morocco, which has rapidly become a world leader in renewable energy.

Developed countries pledged to “provide financial resources to assist developing country parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation” as part of Article 9 of the Paris agreement on climate change, brokered in December 2015.

That included a specific promise by wealthy nations to raise $100 billion each year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020.

That met with a sceptical reaction in Paris and the $100 billion target remains a distant prospect, particularly after the Trump administration announced its intention to withdraw from the accord last June.

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The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimated that $43 billion was allocated to the fight against climate change in 2016, but NGOs believe the true figure to be between $20 and $30 billion. Of this, only $3-5 billion was earmarked for climate adaption projects, says Oxfam.

‘We, as Africa, are asking where is the money because we have not seen it,’ Zambian official Richard Lungu questioned at the Paris conference.

Climate finance was again the main sticking point at the COP23 summit in Bonn in November.

For its part, by adding the national contributions of member states, the European Investment Bank and its own, the European Commission estimates that the EU contribution was worth €20.4 billion in 2017.

The EU-backed Electricity Access Fund is one of a number of plans to invest in renewable energy businesses. Meanwhile, climate change mitigation forms part of the Commission’s External Investment Plan, which came into operation last September.

The EU is examining what climate funding should look like in the EU budget, Cañete added. The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has been touted as a prospective ‘own resource’ that the Commission could use. At a meeting on 10 January, however, Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger hinted that changes to the ETS would be prioritised to plug the impending budget gap when the UK leaves the EU in 2019.

“We’re heading for climate chaos in the next 30 years,” agricultural engineer and economist Pierre Larroutorou warned at the EESC debate with Cañete.

“What will Europe do if it has to receive 300 million refugees because of climate change?”

Cañete defended the EU’s record, pointing out that the bloc hadthe most ambitious target (to reduce carbon emissions) under the Paris agreement”.

“We are serious people in the climate fight…the EU is the only jurisdiction to have all its climate legislation in place,” he added.

The Commission is also expected to propose legislation on sustainable finance in March, aimed at forcing the financial sector to report on the climate impacts of its investments.

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