Climate negotiations undermined by doubts over financing

Developing countries with low carbon emissions are often on the first to suffer from the effects of climate change. [Takver/Flickr]

Developed countries have pledged $100 billion per year to help fight climate change in the global South. But as the Paris UN climate summit approaches, it is unclear where this money will come from. EURACTIV France reports

COP21 is fast approaching, but the delicate question of climate finance remains unanswered. With only two months to go before the Paris Climate Conference, the issue of the $100 billion Green Climate Fund is proving a major stumbling block for negotiations.

An estimated 30 heads of state and government, led by French President François Hollande, planned to meet at the 70th United Nations General Assembly, which began in New York on 25 September.

Climate change and preparation for COP21 will be at the top of the agenda. “The objective of this lunchtime meeting is to bring political impetus to the negotiations, […] particularly surrounding finance and possible ways to implement the agreement,” a source close to the French president said.

>>Read: Climate finance eclipsed by fossil fuel subsidies

France has also asked the OECD to produce a report on climate finance, which will be discussed by finance ministers in Lima on 9 October this year.

Romain Benicchio, Oxfam’s lead climate negotiator, hopes this report will “clear up the question of the $100 billion”. He added that “We have to come up with a common method, because at the moment, each country has its own rules regarding climate finance. And we also need to establish safeguards for private finance.”

>> Read: Green Climate Fund meets amid cash problems

This $100 billion fund, promised by developed countries at the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen, was meant to symbolise the commitment of the global North to helping developing countries to adapt to climate change.

But the disappointing uptake of the plan so far has strained the latest negotiations between the North and South. “For several months, the discussions have focussed largely on the level of ambition in the agreement, and much less on the subjects that matter most to the global South, like financing,” the Oxfam representative said.

Public or private financing

An annual total of $17 to $20 billion of public money have been allocated to developing countries so far, according to Oxfam. And the proportion of the funds that will come from the private sector is yet to be defined.

One criticism often levelled at the climate finance plan is that only 20% of the funds are allocated to adaptation efforts, which are crucial to helping developing countries live with the effects of climate change.

Romain Benicchio said, “If we push very hard today, we can put aside $100 billion per year, but that would be counter-productive from a political point of view.”

For developing countries, climate finance is a fundamental condition for the successful conclusion of an agreement in Paris this December. “And everyone knows that there will be no agreement without an ambitious answer to this question,” the Oxfam representative said.

>>Read: Cities and regions call for access to Green Climate Fund

But the road to success is a long one. With only days to go before the deadline for countries to submit their national contributions to the fight against climate change, only 70 plans have been presented.

Many of the big emerging economies, like Brazil, India and South Africa, may make their announcements at the United Nations General Assembly. But with a total of 195 countries participating, the list of missing contributions is long.

European Parliament weighs in

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has joined the increasingly vocal calls for progress on climate finance and its incorporation into the final Paris agreement.

In their non-binding resolution, MEPs called on the European Commission to devise “predictable, new and additional finance” mechanisms, in order to contribute “towards its fair share of $100 billion a year by 2020”.

Among the ideas put forward by MEPs was a proposal to assign carbon quotas from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme to developing countries, or dedicate part of the revenue from the future Financial Transaction Tax to climate change adaptation.

>>Read: Report: fund climate action through European FTT (in French) 

Negotiations on climate change began in 1992, and the UN organises an annual international climate change conference called the Conference of the Parties, or COP.

Paris is hosting the all-important 21st conference in December 2015.

The participating states must reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the object of which was to reduce CO2 emissions between 2008 and 2012.

Reaching an agreement, whether legally binding or not, is the priority between now and December.

The Green Climate Fund was created during the climate conference in Durban (South Africa) in 2011. The objective for developed countries was to raise $100 billion a year by 2020.

An initial capitalisation objective has been fixed at $15 billion for the next three years. This money will be used to help poorer countries to limit their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change, but it will only go some way towards covering greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The global cost of cutting emissions to sustainable levels is estimated at between €500 and €1,500 billion per year. 

  • 25-27 September 2015: 70th United Nations General Assembly - New York
  • December 2015: 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) - Paris Climate Conference 2015

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