New figures due out early next month are expected to show how much funding to help developing states address climate change needs to be drummed up to meet a 2020 pledge of US$100 billion a year, dispersing the fog surrounding the numbers.
The estimates, produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), are to be the first to use a definition agreed by donors, intended to avoid duplication and help clarify the complex picture of international climate finance.
Ensuring wealthy nations are on the road to meeting their 2020 commitment, made at a UN conference in 2009, is seen as crucial to the success of Paris talks in December, expected to produce a new global agreement to curb climate change.
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said she expected donor governments to outline plans for reaching the US$100 billion goal at a meeting of finance ministers in Lima on Oct. 9.
“Climate finance has been a source of some tension between donors and receiving countries. Donors always think they give and recipients always think they have not received,” Giza Gaspar-Martins, an Angolan government official who leads negotiations for the least developed countries, told journalists in London this week.
Rich nations are hoping the fresh estimates help lay those tensions to rest.
On Sept. 6, ministers and government officials from donor countries, including the US, European nations, Australia and Japan, issued a statement outlining their common view on what should be counted toward the US$100 billion goal.
According to the statement, it would comprise public money provided by donor governments through a range of institutions and instruments, as well as private money for climate-relevant activities mobilized by public finance and public policy.
The methodology would exclude money raised by developing countries, avoid counting funding more than once and encourage the most effective use of the finance.
“It is a useful step in the right direction,” Gaspar-Martins said, adding that the poorest countries had been calling for such an exercise for some time.
For years, researchers have decried the lack of an international system for tracking climate finance, arguing that ambiguity in the numbers has undermined trust between rich and poor countries in UN climate negotiations.
The new methodology should go some way toward tackling that problem — though it might still have some flaws.
Brown University professor of environmental studies J. Timmons Roberts said that developing nations were not involved in deciding it. It also includes elements, such as non-concessional loans, that some might not agree with.
“The good thing about it is that [donors] admitted the need for increased transparency in reporting,” Roberts said. “It is a start, but I am concerned that perhaps it cannot be a definitive number.”
Donors have already flagged this possibility, admitting that data and methodological limitations prevent them accounting for all flows toward the US$100 billion goal, especially those resulting from public policies.
“Any near-term estimate produced will necessarily be partial and will omit some — and possibly a substantial amount — of climate finance mobilized,” the statement said.
CPI senior director Barbara Buchner said there was still much work to be done to collect and analyze data. More accurate estimates would only be available toward the end of next year, she said.
Recent advances by multilateral development banks in setting out their own methods for tracking climate finance had spurred on donor governments, she added.
“It took a long time because it is a very complicated issue,” she said.
Previous estimates of how much climate finance is flowing to developing countries — to help them cope with extreme weather and rising sea levels, and adopt clean energy — have varied considerably.
However, according to a well-regarded annual report from the CPI, the amount flowing from developed to developing countries fell to US$34 billion in 2013, down US$8 billion from 2012.
Other estimates have been a source of controversy.
For example, donors said they had exceeded their commitment to provide US$30 billion in “fast start” funding between 2010 and 2012. Yet a study by international think tanks said almost 80 percent of this was also reported as official development assistance, causing experts to question whether it was “new and additional” as promised.
An analysis by Brown University found that less than half the US$2.7 billion in aid OECD donors marked as targeting climate adaptation in 2012 was destined principally for that purpose.
NO MORE TARGETS?
History suggests the new estimates of climate finance due to be unveiled on Oct. 9 — which are expected to show an increase for last year — might again spur debate on how much more donors need to raise to meet the US$100 billion goal by 2020.
Researchers suggest the Paris negotiations could set up a work program to further pin down the numbers, although there is already a committee tasked with doing this.
Then there is the thorny issue of the amounts that would be needed after 2020, when the Paris pact is due to take effect.
Experts following the negotiations say funding would clearly have to rise, but it might be in the interests of both rich and poor countries not to put firm targets in the new deal.
At this month’s round of talks, developing countries stressed that climate change scenarios could shift in the next five years, making it hard to work out now how much money would be needed to help them cope with warming impacts after 2020.
Developed nations, meanwhile, pushed for poorer countries to create an “enabling environment,” including better transparency and changes in policy to help them access financial resources and boost private investment in low-carbon projects.
“No one wants to put any numbers on the table, thinking: ‘What if we ask for too little, or what if we offer too much?’” said Kashmala Kakakhel, a consultant working on climate finance with the Women’s Environment and Development Organization.
Additional reporting by Laurie Goering
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