Developed world falls short of $100B commitment to help poorer countries fight climate change: report

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Smoke rises from the Feyzin Total refinery chimneys outside Lyon, central France, on Oct. 15. (Laurent Cipriani/The Associated Press - image credit)
Smoke rises from the Feyzin Total refinery chimneys outside Lyon, central France, on Oct. 15. (Laurent Cipriani/The Associated Press - image credit)

The developed world has failed to deliver on its commitment to send some $100 billion a year to help poorer countries fight climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report jointly drafted by Canada and Germany ahead of the COP26 summit.

The report, prepared by Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and his German counterpart, Jochen Flasbarth, documents the progress richer countries have made to date in financially supporting other countries with climate change mitigation efforts, but notes the 2009 goal to deliver $100 billion US a year in support by 2020 was almost certainly not met and more aggressive action is needed over the next half-decade to spur change.

The U.K., the host of COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, tasked Canada and Germany with preparing this report ahead of the crucial climate summit to help identify the developed world's shortcomings and propose solutions to meeting the long-promised financial target.

The $100 billion annual commitment was first made more than a decade ago at COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, based on the recognition that the developed world is largely responsible for producing climate change-causing emissions that have now disproportionately affected poorer countries.

The money was pitched as a way to right past wrongs and strengthen collective action to combat climate change — it was also a crucial bargaining chip to get some lower income countries in the "global south" to sign on to emissions-reduction targets set at the Paris climate summit in 2015.

"Over the past several months, we have heard rising concerns that the $100 billion US goal was not met in 2020. We share the disappointment about this," Wilkinson and Flasbarth write in the report titled "Climate Finance Delivery Plan." "The significance of meeting this goal cannot be overstated."

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At a press conference Monday, Wilkinson said that by falling short of the financial commitment, the developed world has "eroded trust."

"We have done a lot collectively but we fell short. Delivering on the $100 billion is essential to keeping trust on all sides," Flasbarth said.

Some countries have pledged more than planned

But the two men said that since Canada and Germany set out to track progress on this financial commitment, some countries stepped up with more money than they had originally planned — which means the developed world may actually meet its original target in three years' time.

"Just a few months ago, there was significant concern that the developed world would not meet this goal. I hope my friend Jochen does not mind me saying that when we were first asked to take on this role, I believe he described our task as essentially amounting to Mission Impossible," Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said additional pledges for climate financing have emerged in just the last six weeks and there are "a couple of countries that we expect may yet come forward."

"Today, I am very pleased to say we are delivering on this important goal that was established years ago," he said. "The delivery plan we have submitted to the COP presidency reflects the collective effort of many countries who stepped up to increase their climate finance budget with substantial new pledges from a number of countries in order to ensure that climate finance ambition is at an all-time high."

Canada, Germany and the U.K. are among the countries that have made aggressive new funding commitments.

In June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada will double its international climate finance commitment to $5.3 billion over the next five years. Last year, the U.K. also doubled its original promise, earmarking some $19.25 billion between 2021 and 2025 for climate mitigation efforts abroad. Germany is spending some $5.8 billion a year for the next five years on international climate financing.

Based on recent estimates from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), climate finance provided and mobilized by developed countries increased from $58.5 billion US in 2016 to $79.6 billion in 2019 — with countries on track to hit $100 billion by 2023.

To meet and exceed the $100-billion mark, the two environment ministers suggested richer countries have to commit more money on a faster timeline. "Those who have not yet made a pledge should follow suit and come forward with an ambitious climate finance commitment as soon as possible," the ministers wrote in their report.

There must be "robust conversations" at COP26 to pinpoint "ways to ensure countries are collectively doing what is needed to deliver on the goals of the Paris agreement," the ministers said, referencing the historic document that committed the world to keeping temperature increases below 1.5 C to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

When the promise was initially made in 2009, and reaffirmed in 2015, world leaders envisioned financial commitments being matched by private entities — but they too have fallen short. Indeed, the report finds, "private mobilization is not where it was projected to be," which has hindered the global community's efforts to curb climate change.

"We do need to see the private sector step up," Wilkinson said.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press
Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Environmental groups say the $100 billion commitment is not enough to help developing countries stave off the effects of rising greenhouse gas emissions. African nations believe the financing should be scaled up more than tenfold to $1.3 trillion per year by 2030, an African climate negotiator told Reuters this month.

"The $100 billion of climate finance is not only a lifeline to poor and vulnerable communities on the front line of a climate crisis they did not cause, it's also the bare minimum that rich countries need to do to hold up their end of the bargain at COP26," said Mohamed Adow, director of Nairobi-based environmental think-tank Power Shift Africa.

Much of the money already committed has been funnelled through the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a South Korea-based entity set up by the United Nations, and multilateral institutions like the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Among the dozens of projects already completed or underway, the GCF has helped the Federated States of Micronesia, an island nation in the South Pacific and one of the countries most vulnerable to a changing climate, build local "adaptive capacity" and address rising sea levels. In the Asian country of Timor-Leste, money from developed countries has built early warning systems and "disaster risk reduction mechanisms." In the African country of Niger, the GCF has helped improve irrigation systems to prevent flooding.

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