Climate Battle Moving At Glacial Speed
Countries are meeting in Berlin today to announce how much they will give to the UN’s climate change adaptation fund. The pledges are seen as a vital step towards countries agreeing a new global climate deal in Paris next year. Twenty-one countries have pledged money to the fund, generating a little over $9 billion so far.
The Global Climate Fund (GCF) was established at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 with the aim of channeling money to help developing countries implement climate policies. When the fund is fully operational, world leaders have committed to contributing $100 billion a year to fight climate change and extreme weather. That should happen by 2020.
Today’s pledging conference gave countries a platform to announce their contributions to the GCF’s initial resource mobilization period, that runs for three years between 2015 and 2018. The GCF had originally aimed to get countries to pledge $15 billion in seed funding by the end of this year, but it lowered the target to $10 billion in September.
Today’s pledges fell just short of that goal, reaching $9.3 billion, according to the Green Climate Fund. Many of the pledges were made in countries’ national currencies, meaning the overall value alters depending on the exchange rate.
Of the money channeled through the GCF, half will go to funding adaptation measures in developing countries, such as better flood defenses, drought monitoring schemes, and water management systems. And at least half of those funds will go to countries that are most at risk from the impacts of climate change. The other half of the GCF’s money will go towards helping developing countries curb their emissions, by taking as much carbon out of their energy and transport infrastructures as possible.
The GCF is politically important. It is the most high profile mechanism that allows developed countries to transfer climate-linked money to more vulnerable states. Many of the nations who will be beneficiaries of the fund have said they can’t commit to cutting emissions unless developed economies honor their promises to contribute to the fund.
The UK has pledged to fund 12 per cent of the GCF up to £720 million, or about $1.1 billion, over three years. It has pledged the most of any European nation. Earlier this week, prime minister David Cameron told journalists the pledge was not “new money,” and would come out of the UK’s existing climate aid budget. That means the pledge contributes towards the UK’s commitment to use 0.7 percent of its gross national income for overseas development assistance.
However, the government has been reluctant to discuss the details of the contribution. This reluctance has been linked to the politicization of climate aid in the UK. Earlier this week the Daily Mail ran an article claiming some Tory MPs were “furious” the prime minister was giving funds to “Third World flood defenses.”
The pledge comes the same day as the Rochester by-election, in which the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) is expected to win at the Conservatives’ expense. UKIP is staunchly climate skeptic.
The US has pledged $3 billion over four years. The New York Times says it is “unclear” whether the funds would be drawn from existing or new sources. If the president wants additional funds, he will have to ask Congress. But the Senate’s new Republican leadership has made it a priority to roll back Obama’s climate action plan, and would almost certainly block any requests for extra financial aid to fund climate efforts.
If a Republican wins next year’s presidential election, they would also have the power to override the pledge. So whether the US will deliver the money is far from certain.
Germany has pledged €750 million to the GCF. Germany was one of the first countries to announce its pledge. Germany hoped that by announcing early, it could set a high benchmark for other countries’ contributions.
“In Germany we are accepting our responsibility for pollution, global warming climate change,” Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel said when she announced the contribution last July.
France matched Germany’s pledge of $1 billion. The contribution will be spread over four years, starting in 2015, Reuters reports. Like Germany, France announced its contribution in advance of the Berlin pledging conference. France’s president, Francois Hollande, made the pledge at UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit in New York in October. Speaking at the summit, Holland said, “We need to define a new economy for the world. You can’t fight climate change without development.”
South Korea has pledged the most to the GCF out of the world’s smaller economies: $100 million. Only half of that is new money. The country had already pledged around $50 million to get the fund up and running. It has an extra incentive to do so: The GCF is based in Songdo in South Korea.
Canada last week made the unexpected announcement that it would be contributing to the GCF. It didn’t pledge today, however, saying it would announce in the near future.
That will come as something of a blow to Australia, which was perhaps the most notable absence from the pledging conference. The country’s climate skeptic prime minister Tony Abbott said the country was already contributing to global efforts to tackle climate change through the country’s green bank and foreign aid. It’s close neighbor New Zealand today pledged $3 million to the GCF.
Japan has offered to contribute the second largest amount to the GCF: $1.5 billion. Japan made the pledge one day after the US at last week’s G20 meeting in Australia.
Rounding off the European countries’ contributions: Denmark pledged $70 million, The Netherlands $125 million, the Czech Republic $5.5 million, Switzerland $100 million, Luxembourg $6.3 million, Spain $16.3 million, Italy $313 million, and Monaco $0.31 million.
In addition to Sweden’s contribution, scandinavian countries Norway andFinland pledged $130 million and $100 million, respectively. Norway’s pledge was more than it previously announced. Poland said it would announce its pledge by the end of the year.
Mexico has pledged $10 million and Indonesia has pledged $0.25 million. Neither country was expected to pledge to the fund, but chose to do so voluntarily. Panama today pledged $1 million, while Mongolia has pledged $0.05 million.
What counts as a ‘fair’ contribution is ultimately subjective. But Oxfam has calculated possible ways to divvy-up contributions to the GCF among nations, taking account of each country’s historical contribution to climate change and their current capacity to finance climate action. Oxfam’s analysis looked at fair shares for the GCF’s earlier $15 million target. We’ve adjusted the figures for the GCF’s current $10 billion goal.
Oxfam’s analysis suggests the US, Germany, and France are all paying a fair amount, given their contributions to other international funds. The UK is paying about $500 million more than its fair share, according to Oxfam’s criteria.
Sweden is the biggest outlier, pledging $500 million or four and half times what it’s fair share might be. Sweden’s international development minister argues that pledges to the fund shouldn’t be seen as an expense, but an investment to secure a safer, more prosperous future for everyone.
Each country will have taken a range of factors into account when working out how much to pledge, Oxfam previously told Carbon Brief: from how much of its existing budget can be channelled towards climate change efforts, to how much political will it has for a new global climate deal in 2015.
No-one is sure how much money will be needed to help countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.
That’s partly because it depends on how much countries emit in the coming years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that if countries take more action to curb emissions, the impacts of climate change and associated costs are likely to be lower in the future. That means there’s a wide range of estimates of how much may need to be spent in the future to fight climate change.
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