Aid cuts undermine French COP 21 position

School children in Central African Republic, one of the major recipients of French aid. [hdptcar/Flickr]

Cuts to the French development aid budget are jeopardising its COP 21 commitments. For Jean-Claude Juncker, cutbacks from member states are “unacceptable”. EURACTIV France reports

Paris is coming under increasing pressure over its official development assistance (ODA) budget. The Commission chief used the opening of the European Development Days in Brussels to take a jab at France, whose aid budget is set to fall for the fifth year in a row.

“It is unacceptable that certain member states are reducing their aid to developing countries,” Juncker said on Wedensday (3 June).

>>Read: French development aid falls below EU average

European Parliament President Martin Schulz also used the opportunity to remind EU members of their commitment to assign 0.7% of their gross national product (GNI) to official development assistance. Despite recently enshrining this target in law, France is as far as ever from achieving it. French ODA has fallen from 0.47% of GNI in 2005 to 0.36%.

But with the COP 21 round the corner, the link between development and climate is now clearer than ever.


French President François Hollande first called on OECD members to increase their ODA contributions at an address in Martinique on 9 May.

“I have warned the rich countries. I told them: if you do not find the finances for the poorest and most fragile countries, they will not follow you,” Hollande said, making an appeal he would repeat at the Peterseberg Climate Dialogue later that month.

>>Read: MEP Pedro Silva Pereira: Austerity-minded countries are wary of providing more ODA

NGOs have repeatedly warned of the image problem that this contradiction will cause for the COP 21.

According to Laurence Tubiana, France’s lead negotiator for the conference, “this should be a real cause for concern for Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius and Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal. France should assume its development aid responsibilities, this would send out a strong message.”

Some see Paris’ development budget cuts as ill-judged in light of the recent increases to the culture and defence budgets.

Climate diplomacy as development aid?

The French government has defended its climate credentials by deflecting attention towards its intense diplomatic efforts.

Sources close to the president blamed the ODA cuts on austerity, but added that “France has promised to donate €1 billion to the Green Climate Fund, which could serve as an example to others.”

Part of this contribution will come from the existing ODA budget, which will remain unchanged, but the government plans to raise most of it from the air ticket levy and the hypothetical Financial Transaction Tax by 2017. French efforts to lead the way with innovative financing methods have so far brought only modest results. The Financial Transaction Tax has been stuck in difficult negotiations for four years, and the air ticket levy is capped.

A loan of €285 million is the sum total of the contribution Paris has so far delivered to the Green Climate Fund contribution.

France wants to be an example to other countries when it hosts the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, known as COP 21.

Negotiations from the participating states will try to reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, wich set objectives for reducing CO2 emissions between 2008 and 2012.

The most advanced countries need to provide large aid commitments and innovative financing methods to help the poorer countries decarbonise and adapt to climate change.

Aid to developing countries grew steadily from 1997, to a first peak in 2010, according to OECD figures.

It fell in 2011 and 2012, as many governments took austerity measures and trimmed aid budgets.

Aid budgets rebounded in 2013, and even taking into account the five countries that joined the DAC that year (Iceland, Poland the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia), official development assistance commitments from DAC members reached a historic high.

In 2013, almost €100 billion was spent on aid.

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