Climate Action

Failed climate finance goals could cast dark shadow over COP26

people in developing countries, like this woman with her baby here, need additional climate finance for their country to cope with the effects of climate change

"In a year when they face compounding crises - health, climate and debt - support is more crucial than ever to sustain the transition," - David Levai, associate researcher at IDDRI. Image: UNSPLASH/Annie Spratt

Megan Rowling
Journalist, Thomson Reuters Foundation
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SDG 13: Climate Action

  • Wealthy nations' annual $100 billion goal to provide climate finance to developing countries (which is due to be met from 2020) will not be reached until 2023.
  • Concerns have been raised about this issue negatively impacting progress at upcoming U.N. talks, including COP26.
  • At COP26, more clarity will be needed on how to ensure the world's most vulnerable nations receive a fair share of finance to cope with climate change.

Wealthy nations that promised climate finance for vulnerable countries conceded that an annual $100-billion goal, due to be met from 2020, will not be reached until 2023, which campaigners warned could thwart progress at upcoming U.N. talks.

Alok Sharma, the senior British official who will preside over the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow starting on Sunday, said a delivery plan - put together by Germany and Canada - aimed to "restore trust" between richer and poorer governments.

But he admitted the failure to meet the 2020 deadline for raising the yearly sum - which wealthy governments committed to back in 2009 - was "a source of deep frustration" among developing countries, though some welcomed the plan.

Based on analysis from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the plan forecasts that developed countries "will make significant progress" towards the annual $100-billion goal in 2022 after missing it in 2020 and 2021.

It projects the target likely will be met in 2023, and then exceeded in 2024 and 2025.

But many green groups branded the plan a failure, saying richer nations had not kept their word to give much-needed support to countries from Africa to Asia to adopt clean energy and adapt to wilder weather and rising seas as the planet warms.

"It is shameful that rich countries are only now – one week before COP26 – trying to explain how they intend to try to make good on a commitment they have known about for 12 years," said John Nordbo, senior climate advisor with aid group CARE International.

David Levai, associate researcher at the Paris-based think-tank IDDRI, said the plan would not reassure developing countries that their concerns over a lack of resources to deal with worsening climate impacts would be addressed.

"In a year when they face compounding crises - health, climate and debt - support is more crucial than ever to sustain the transition," he said.

He urged rich nations to deliver what was promised on time, including increased funding for adaptation and improving access to the money.

"If not addressed urgently by the UK presidency (of the U.N. talks), this issue risks toxifying the COP," Levai added.

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More to come in 2021?

According to the donor plan, since the $100-billion goal was set at U.N. talks in 2009, developed countries have scaled up their support "significantly", reaching $79.6 billion in 2019.

Final figures for 2020 are not yet available but it is becoming clear that, amid the economic woes of the COVID-19 pandemic, developed countries did not mobilise $100 billion jointly by last year's deadline, the report noted.

"Over the past several months, we have heard rising concerns that the $100-billion goal was not met in 2020. We share the disappointment about this," German and Canadian ministers wrote in a foreword.

Jochen Flasbarth, state secretary at Germany's environment ministry, said "a lot of work remains" to make good on the climate finance pledge, which stretches to 2025 when a new, higher goal - yet to be agreed - is due to kick in.

"However, it is my strong hope that with this plan we can show the international community that developed countries remain committed to deliver on their promises," he added.

The report notes that some additional pledges from developed nations are expected this year, without naming the countries. Such new commitments would increase the overall projections, it said.

British and German officials told journalists on Monday that, between 2021 and 2025, a total of more than $500 billion in climate finance is forecast to be delivered.

That would surpass an average of $100 billion a year, with the annual figure projected to rise to nearly $120 billion in 2025.

But researchers at London-based think-tank E3G highlighted a key expectation from vulnerable countries and civil society that initial shortfalls must be made up in later years.

As the plan shows only that an annual average of $100 billion will be delivered from 2021-25, it "stops short of accepting responsibility for compensating" for the whole gap starting in 2020, they noted.

E3G chief executive Nick Mabey said developed countries had come up with a "just about credible plan" to deliver on the long-standing climate finance promise "at the last minute".

"This should hopefully support collaboration between 'high ambition' countries going into the crucial COP26 negotiations," he said.

But "more clarity will be needed in Glasgow on how to ensure a fair share of finance goes to helping the most vulnerable countries and communities respond to rising climate impacts", he added.


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Aid agency Oxfam said the roadmap provided no robust commitment to increase the share of climate finance for adaptation - which receives only a quarter of funding now - or to provide more support in the form of grants.

"It is unacceptable that poorer countries that have done little to cause the climate crisis are being forced to take out loans to protect themselves from surging climate disasters like droughts and storms," said Jan Kowalzig, Oxfam's senior climate policy advisor.

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