The commitment and sincerity of developed countries to provide climate finance will determine whether the Paris Agreement will succeed in combating climate change

The home of Shumona (right) in Bangladesh has been destroyed by storms four times in the past five years (Photo by Mahmod/ActionAid)

The home of Shumona, 9, and her grandmother in Patuakhali in southern Bangladesh has been destroyed by storms four times in the past five years. She and millions of climate change victims like her in the developing world remain oblivious to the fact that behind her suffering is unthinking industrialisation.

Started in the late 18th century, the unregulated emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases have gone well beyond the safe limit, causing irreversible global warming. The rise of average global temperature by about 1 degree Celsius above preindustrial levels is held responsible for increased events and potency of weather related disasters, observed in the last few decades.

Last week, the leaked draft report of UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due to be released in October, cautioned, “If emissions continue at their present rate, human induced warming will exceed 1.5 degree by around 2040.” The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, which also highlights the impacts caused by increased warming, urged that countries can limit the temperature rise only with “rapid and far reaching” transition to clean energy.

“The IPCC draft report is warning us that the climate pledges taken by governments so far are nowhere near enough to avoid catastrophic climate impacts for much of the planet,” Teresa Anderson, Climate Policy Officer for ActionAid International, told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “The rising sea levels, cyclones, droughts, heat waves and floods that countries are already experiencing will become more frequent, more intense, and affect many more countries unless action is scaled up dramatically. The IPCC report must serve as a global fire alarm, to wake up sleepwalking governments.”

Yet, developed countries, whose historical emissions are primarily responsible for the climate crisis, have refused to take up emission reduction targets corresponding to their fair shares, delaying climate action. A joint report from civil society organisations released last December underscores that the US and the European Union’s climate action plans each amount to just about a fifth of their respective fair shares. In contrast, the targets put forward by emerging economies like China and India are either slightly above or roughly in line with their fair shares.

Lack of adequate finance from developed countries leaves developing countries with an additional burden of greening their economies alongside their efforts to eradicate poverty, gains of which are often reversed by increasing climate change induced events.

Obligation, not aid

In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) legally obligated developed countries to “assist the developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change in meeting costs of adaptation to those adverse effects.”

In 2015, the Paris Agreement, under the convention, further reinforces that developed countries “shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention.”

However, developed countries continue to sidestep responsibility of meeting their 2009 commitment of providing climate finance and raising it every year to USD 100 billion annually by 2020.

“There is a brutal disconnect between the resources developing countries have to adapt to climate change and the increasing risks they face. Adaptation continues to be neglected in favour of mitigation, making up only around 20% of public climate finance, according to Oxfam’s analysis of the latest numbers,” Tracy Carty, Climate Change Policy Co-lead for Oxfam International, informed indiaclimatedialogue.net.

This neglect, she adds, “is compounded by the fact that desperately needed grant based support is only around a quarter of public climate finance, and Least Developed Countries continue to receive a small share of the pie.”

According to Oxfam, Least Developed Countries, who are among the most vulnerable to climate change, are only receiving around USD 9 billion per year. If that were shared equally among the 48 LDCs, it amounts to a mere USD 190 million each to cope with climate impacts and reduce their emissions.

Real money for real action

Serious concerns have been raised around the methodology used by developed countries to demonstrate their climate finance support and how they intend to meet USD 100 billion per year goal by 2020. The road map provided by them in 2016 was heavily criticised by developing countries and civil society organisations for its lack of transparency and deceitfully including loans, guarantees and export credits to inflate the numbers.

Such disingenuous actions bolstered the demand of a UN process to arrive at an agreed definition of climate finance and transparent accounting rules by the end of 2018. At the latest round of climate talks this May, developed countries shied away from constructively engaging on such issues and adhering to a Paris Agreement clause demanding predictability on the flow of finance to developing countries.

The December climate summit (COP24) in Poland will be a significant political moment. The implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement — commonly known as the Paris Rulebook — is expected to be concluded by then to ensure that it gets operational on schedule in 2020.

Several other issues related to finance, including second round of replenishment of cash-starved Green Climate Fund as well as preserving the hard-won attributes of the Adaptation Fund; and the unfinished agenda of pre-2020 climate regime must be resolved for realising ambition and support in an equitable manner.

The statement from the recently concluded Petersberg Dialogue in Berlin, attended by 35 ministers from developed and developing countries, along with the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, stressed on the importance of making more public climate finance available to support climate action in developing countries.

“It was good to hear German Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirming the commitment to double German climate finance budget for developing countries by 2020. This should push other donors to further scale-up as well,” Sven Harmeling of CARE International, who is based in Germany and followed the meeting closely, told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “The discussions on the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund are slowly generating attention… and we need a strong signal of higher levels of additional funding before COP24, to increase support for climate change adaptation in poor countries in particular.”

The trade war by US President Donald Trump outshined the climate agenda at the summit of G7 nations, a club of rich countries. Being a climate denier, he announced last year of pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement, shirking the largest historical emitter’s responsibility of providing climate finance. The remaining countries of the G7, however, ignored Trump by reaffirming their commitment on climate finance and hoping to achieve a meaningful outcome at the upcoming climate summit.

While there are positive signals from some of the global political processes, these must now genuinely change the national level policy landscape and convert positions of developed countries at the December UN climate summit to deliver real money for real action.

“Despite Trump’s betrayal, climate finance collectively promised by the developed countries needs to be delivered urgently, with more focus on adaptation funding for the most vulnerable countries,” Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh, told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

Harjeet Singh is Global Lead on Climate Change at ActionAid International and is based in New Delhi. He tweets @harjeet11. Views are personal.

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