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A drive through Doha – host city for the on-going UN climate summit – is enough to convince anyone there is no lack of money in this part of the world. But when poor nations seek money to deal with climate change effects and move to a greener future, there is so little forthcoming that it threatens any meaningful agreement.

The world is warming because industrialization – mostly in rich nations – has put greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere. This is affecting farming worldwide, making droughts, floods and storms more severe and more frequent and raising the sea level. Poor nations are the worst affected because most of them are closer to the tropics, where climate change effects are most prominent.

That is why at the annual summit of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), poor nations have negotiated that rich nations pay them $30 billion between 2010 and 2012, and then mobilize $100 billion a year from 2020. Now they want a roadmap from 2013 to 2020, with the financing ramped up every year. Britain has pledged post-2013 financing totalling € 2.2 billion, Germany and Sweden are expected to make similar announcements. But most rich nations say they are in no position to make any promise. Jonathan Pershing, deputy head of the US delegation, chose to ignore questions from the media on this.

Negotiators from rich nations are asking their counterparts from the developing world to trust them when they say the money will be forthcoming. But their credibility is in question, with various figures floating around the cavernous Qatar National Convention Centre, in relation to the $30 billion promise. The highest is the one given by Pershing, over $33 billion. The lowest is too low to be taken seriously. The respected think tank International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) made a detailed study of the commitments recently, and came up with $25.9 billion by the end of November.

The report says rich nations have collectively failed to fulfil eight substantive pledges. The money was supposed to be “new and additional” finance balanced between support for adaptation and mitigation activities. IIED says only 20% of it has been allocated to projects that will help poor nations adapt to a changing climate.

“Less than half of the fast start finance is in the form of grants. The rest is loans, which means poor countries must repay with interest the costs of adapting to a problem they have not caused. And rich nations have not provided enough transparent information to prove that their contributions are really new and not just diverted from existing aid budgets.”

“Without transparency about how and when rich countries will meet their climate finance pledges, developing countries are left unable to plan to adequately address and respond to climate change,” says co-author Timmons Roberts of Brown University in the US, whose Climate and Development Lab led the research.

David Ciplet, also of Brown University, adds: “Only two of the ten donors we assessed are delivering their fair share of climate finance, based on their ability to pay and how much they have contributed to climate change through emitting greenhouse gases in recent decades.”

On these measures, Norway has performed best, providing five times its fair share. At the other end of the scale, both Iceland and the US contributed less than half their fair share.

The report says one way to restore trust would be for rich countries to channel their climate finance through funds that the UNFCCC set up as they have a governance structure with equal representation from developed and developing nations. In 2010, all rich countries agreed this should be a feature of funds through which they channel their climate finance. Yet, so far, rich nations have channelled only two per cent of the climate finance through these UNFCCC funds.

Climate Action Network, a coalition of NGOs from around the world, also did its calculations, and says, “Only 33% of the financing given was additional to earlier pledges, and around 24% additional to earlier aid promises. Only one-fifth of finance was spent on adaptation, and less than half was available as grants.”

The network demanded that for 2013-15, “Developed countries should at least double the amount delivered till now.”

International organizations have underscored the need for money. While global investment in renewable power and fuels increased 17% to a new record of $257 billion in 2011, the International Energy Agency recently reported it would actually require an additional $36 trillion of clean energy investments by 2050. The UNFCCC is starting a new partnership with the World Economic Forum under its Momentum for Change initiative to mobilize financing from new sources, mostly through public-private partnerships.



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