US needs to step up on climate finance ahead of COP26, says EU chief

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivering her speech during a debate on 'The State of the European Union' at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France [Julien Warnand / EPA-EFE]

This article is part of our special report #SOTEU: Key issues from von der Leyen’s annual speech.

The United States and other rich nations need to close the climate financing gap in order to increase the chances of success at the COP26 UN climate summit in November, the President of the European Commission has said.

“While every country has a responsibility, major economies do have a special duty to the least developed and most vulnerable countries,” said Ursula von der Leyen in her State of the Union address on Wednesday (15 September).

Climate finance is key because developing countries are most affected by the climate crisis but are the least able to tackle it. Funding is needed both to help them adapt to global warming but also to deploy green technology to cut emissions.

However, a pledge by the world’s richest countries to provide $100 billion per year of climate finance for developing countries has so far failed to materialise.

Those preparing for COP26 have warned that the lack of finance, combined with the lack of vaccines distributed to the Global South, could cause a rift at the UN’s annual climate meeting.

“Closing that gap will increase the chance of success at Glasgow. My message today is that Europe is ready to do more,” said von der Leyen, announcing an additional €4 billion of climate finance until 2027 on top of the current $25 billion provided by the EU and its member states every year.

Europe will also double its external funding for biodiversity, particularly in the most vulnerable countries, she said. But others need to step up, she stressed.

“We expect the United States and our partners to step up too. Closing the climate finance gap together – the US and the EU – would be a strong signal for global climate leadership. It is time to deliver,” von der Leyen added.

Green lawmakers in the European Parliament approved. “Climate financing [is] a big hurdle for success in Glasgow. Finally, [President von der Leyen] addresses the United States explicitly. The US is totally falling behind in their international finance promises,” said Green MEP Bas Eickhout on Twitter.

The COP26 climate summit will be a “moment of truth for the global community” with many ambitions for climate neutrality needing to be backed up by concrete plans, according to von der Leyen.

A failure to deliver on the promised finance could prevent a deal in Glasgow, according to Antony Froggatt, senior research fellow at Chatham House, the UK-based international affairs think tank.

“[Finance] is a deal-breaker and we haven’t been making progress,” Froggatt said at a EURACTIV debate held earlier this year.

COP26 is expected to be the biggest climate summit since the Paris Agreement was signed, with countries expected to come with updated climate goals, aiming at limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Von der Leyen’s call comes against a background of extreme weather events that have caused devastation across the globe this summer.

Climate finance remains a stumbling block on way to COP26

As world leaders prepare for the COP26 climate summit hosted by the UK in November, international finance to help poorer countries tackle climate change remains a key barrier – and the recent summit between the world’s seven richest nations did not bring a solution.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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