A row has broken out at the Paris climate talks as Indian officials accused one of the world’s leading think tanks of exaggerating the amount of money given to poor countries to help them cope with global warming.
In a recent report, the OECD said that developed countries had mobilised $57bn of climate aid in 2013-14.
But a paper published last week by the Indian ministry of economic affairs said the OECD – known as the “rich man’s club” because it is funded by the world’s 23 richest countries – was “deeply flawed” and only “partially correct at best” . Economic affairs secretary, Shaktikanta Das, said in a foreword that the OECD had “overstated progress”.
Climate finance is a major issue at the UN climate negotiations in Paris, with France’s top climate ambassador warning it is the biggest difficulty in reaching a deal. In 2009, developed countries promised to deliver $100bn of finance each year to developing countries by 2020, to help them cope with and tackle global warming.
However, the Indian ministry said the OECD research showing nearly two-thirds of that $100bn target had been already met was “questionable”.
“Methodologies used were inconsistent with the literature and best practice and even ‘bent’ in ways to find more flows than reality. Meaningful, independent verification was impossible since only aggregate numbers were reported – with lack of transparency. No serious consultations were done with developing countries themselves,” it said.
Officials suggested that the true amount figure mobilised by rich countries may only be $2.2bn, not $57bn. “This is far from the $100bn a year goal,” the Indian paper said, which included a disclaimer that “the views and analysis contained in this discussion paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the government of India”.
The paper, which Indian officials in Paris have referred to, concluded: “The Paris conference and negotiators will unfortunately need to worry about the credibility of the new OECD report.”
The OECD strongly rejected charges that it had not been transparent.
The think tank’s paper, published in October, has become accepted by rich countries as the basis of negotiations and evidence that there has been “significant progress” made towards the $100bn goal.
The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, has said: “Estimates demonstrate that considerable progress has been made. We must mobilise our efforts to provide the remaining $40bn.”
The row is important because it brings to a head the deep lack of trust between rich and poor countries over how climate money is counted and verified.
The South Centre, the intergovernmental organisation for developing countries, echoed India’s concerns and said that its preliminary analysis suggested that the OECD had misrepresented the reality.
“OECD data is not available. We would say to the OECD, if you have delivered so much money, why is the UN adaptation fund begging for money? Why is the fund for least developed countries empty? Where did the money go? This money should be new and additional and predictable. Where is it?” said senior South Centre researcher Mariama Williams.
“There are very real concerns about this new claim that over $50bn per year has been provided,” she said.
Simon Buckle, the OECD’s head of climate change and lead author on the climate finance report, said that the organisation had been fully transparent and that its estimate of the amount of finance delivered was the most robust so far.
“Our report is an attempt to provide a robust and transparent estimate of progress against the $100bn a year commitment, based on developed countries’ own reporting to the UNFCCC and the methodologies used by the multilateral development banks to estimate their climate finance. The developed country commitment explicitly includes finance from a range of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral.”
He added: “We understand this is a hugely political issue. The question of what counts or doesn’t count in the $100bn is not for the OECD to determine. We’ve been rigorous and transparent about what we include. Developed countries have already been reporting on their climate finance since 2011. Our report enhances the transparency of their practices and provides robust estimates of multilateral flows in the context of the $100bn. This is a much more accurate and robust estimate that anything that’s been presented so far.”