Climate Finance: Make or Break in Paris Deal

Although proposed language for mitigating climate change was supposed to be mostly set in talks in Bonn, Germany in November, the so-called Congress of Parties, meeting in Paris through Dec. 11 may have stumbled over new language proposed by the United States that developing countries have a responsibility to help finance combating global warming.

Two blocks of 134 developing counties led by China subsequently released a statement that the new language in the negotiating text “threatens the outcome here in Paris.” Beyond that, the 50-page draft is heavily bracketed, meaning essential points of the text are still being debated and have not been resolved by negotiators from parties to the conference, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The world’s leaders, having stumbled on solutions for climate change for the past 21 years, were highly optimistic that the Paris talks would result in a plan for concerted action to hold global warming to an average 2C by 2030. Although virtually all the leaders of the world’s nations have appeared in Paris for the talks, pessimists have felt that goal was unrealistic from the start. They have through Friday to come up with a workable draft.

The Group of 77 developing nations, the biggest negotiating block in the UN, and China “are deeply concerned with the attempts to introduce economic conditions in the finance section currently under negotiation here in Paris,” Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa said. South Africa currently chairs the G77 and China block.

Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, only developed countries have legal commitments to provide funds, including technology transfer and capacity building, to all developing and least developed countries. The fund is aimed to help developing and least developed countries to mitigate carbon emissions and adapt to climate change. This is connected to “differentiation” which recognizes the historical emissions of rich countries.

In simple terms, according to the language, rich countries must provide finance to poor countries because they have caused human- induced climate change. This should not be in form of aid, charity, loan, or development assistance.

“Financial support from developed countries relates to the impacts of historical emissions, which will only get worse with time for developing countries,” said the statement by G77 and China. However, the proposal by United States asks countries with capacity to contribute to the climate fund. This can potentially include China, whose economy has boomed since the UNFCCC was adopted in 1992.

But G77 and China finds this argument problematic.

“As developing countries, we find ourselves confronted with a simplistic narrative that suggests that ‘the world has changed since the UNFCCC was adopted in 1992’ due to the dramatic economic development gains of some of our members and hence that it is time to expand the pool of so-called ‘donors’ of climate ‘aid’ and to narrow the list of those eligible to receive this ‘support’ to only the ‘poorest of the poor,’” Diseko said.

“This narrative serves narrow national interests of developed countries and says little about reality. If the world has really changed so much, we ask why it is that after all these decades all our members remain developing countries with little or no voice in global decision-making processes and institutions?,” Diseko added.

In 2009, world leaders pledged to deliver US$100 billion in climate finance for both adaptation and mitigation by 2020. United Nations Environmental Program estimates that the cost of adaptation alone for developing countries will be US$150 billion annually by 2025/30. This does not include finance needed for mitigation.

However, rich countries have fallen short with this commitment. As of November 2015, the Green Climate Fund has only raised US$10.2 billion equivalent in pledges from 38 state governments.

Barry Johnston, Director of Policy, Advocacy & Campaigns at ActionAid UK, emphasized the responsibility of rich countries to developing and least developed countries.

“Climate change is already destroying the lives of some of the poorest women and children in the world, yet they are the least to blame,” Johnston said. “It’s countries like Bangladesh that are at the receiving end, where climate change has led to loss of homes, livelihoods, safe water, and an increase in saline pollution, disease, and climate refugees. As global temperatures continue to rise this will only get worse.”

“The evidence clearly shows that more climate finance is needed – beyond the US$100 billion a year by 2020 currently promised. It isn’t rocket science, rich countries are responsible for causing global warming and so have a responsibility to help poorer countries adapt to its effects,” he added.

The next days will decide if the world will have a strong climate agreement or not and it looks like developing countries have another difficult battle to face.

Renee Juliene Kurungunan and Jed Alegado are attending the Paris talks from the Philippines