Tue, Sep 22, 2015 - Page 9 News List

Progress in climate finance remains mystery

New methodology might help improve transparency in the international tracking of climate finance

By Megan Rowling  /  Thomson Reuters Foundation, BARCELONA, Spain

Illustration: Yusha

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.

CONTROVERSIAL FIGURES

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.

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