As a key United Nations meeting got underway, Brazil, China, India and South Africa said they were disappointed in rich countries’ failure to make good on a promise six years ago to mobilise $100bn a year by 2020 for climate finance. Rich countries are very, very far from raising the billions they promised to help poor countries fight climate change, jeopardising the prospects of reaching a global warming deal at Paris, the world’s rising economies warned.
The funds, intended to help developing countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for sea-level rises, extreme weather and other consequences of climate change, are seen as a crucial element to reaching a global warming agreement at the end of the year.
Monday’s high-level meeting of the UN general assembly – including an appearance from Robert Redford – was intended to help build momentum for a Paris deal that would keep warming to 2C, the internationally agreed limit to avoid dangerous climate change.
But some of the key players among the 193 countries taking part in the negotiations – and two of the world’s biggest carbon polluters in India and China – say they are frustrated with rich countries’ failure to come up with a clear plan for raising the cash to fight climate change.
By some estimates, there is less than $20bn a year in public finance making its way to developing countries for climate action – or less than a fifth of the $100bn target.
“We will say that that is very, very far from what has to be mobilised by the year 2020,” Edna Molewa, South Africa’s environment minister, said. “It is important therefore that this scaling up happens … there is still a lot of money that is required.”
Rich countries have been promising since 2009 to help rising economies develop technologies to cut greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and protect their people from consequences of climate change.
But a joint statement from the four countries expressed “disappointment over the continued lack of any clear road map to provide $100bn per year by 2020, as well as on substantially scaling up financial support after 2020”.
Climate finance has been a major sticking point in negotiations for a global warming deal at Paris. The last round of negotiations, in Bonn earlier this month, ground along without really managing to zero in on the key components of a deal.
There is widespread recognition that rich countries will need to help developing countries, which did the least to cause climate change, but will suffer the most severe consequences.
“If rich countries can show they are making good on their $100bn promise, there will be a much stronger foundation of trust for the Paris talks,” said Tim Gore, Oxfam’s international climate adviser. “We need to see real funding increases.”
But it’s unclear how much rich countries will pay, and to whom. Developing countries are also pushing rich countries to make more funds available for future protections against climate change – not just cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
But by Oxfam’s estimates, just $2.5bn to $4.5bn of current climate finance is going towards climate protection measures.
Countries in sub-Saharan Africa are already spending about $5bn from their own budgets to prepare for climate change – much more than they were receiving in climate finance from rich countries, according to Oxfam.
The four countries said they were working hard to try to put a climate deal in place, but that finance was a crucial element to reaching an agreement.
“There is still a clear expectation and so I hope the developing countries can fulfill their commitment before the Paris meeting,” Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate change envoy, said.
“We need to avoid what happened in Copenhagen”, which failed to reach a comprehensive climate deal, Izabella Teixeira, Brazil’s environment minister said.
But the four countries made it clear developing countries could not be expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions without help. “Without the flow of technical support … it will be impossible to move onto any such trajectory in the near future,” said Ravi Prasad, India’s climate change negotiator.