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Climate Crisis Finance: Poor Countries Are Left In The dark

By Countercurrents.org

11 November, 2013

The climate crisis talks could collapse because of a lack of financial support from rich nations. Murky accounting and a lack of transparency by rich countries has left the poor countries with little idea about what money is available to help them cope with climate change, says Oxfam. The NGO claims developed nations spend up to US$90 billion on fossil fuel subsides, but have slashed climate crisis finance support.

A briefing After the Fast Start: Climate Finance in 2013 and beyond issued by Oxfam looks at the amount of money the climate finance contributors have committed between 2013 - the end of the Fast Start Finance period - and 2015.

As the UN climate change talks open in Warsaw, Oxfam has called for clear and ambitious financial commitments that will help poor countries to reduce their emissions and cope with the dangerous impacts of climate change. These commitments are a crucial building block in order to construct a global agreement by 2015.

Oxfam has found:

- 24 developed countries have still not confirmed their climate finance for this year. For 2014 the situation is even worse as countries which together provided 81 per cent of Fast Start Finance, have still not announced any figures. Just one country, the UK, has announced its plans for climate finance in 2015.

- The total climate crisis finance contributions so far committed by developed countries in 2013 amounts to as little as US$7.6 billion for grants and US$16.3 billion including loans. This is a fraction of what is needed to enable developing countries to adapt to climate change, which is well over US$100 billion per year.

- By comparison, developed countries spent US$55-90 billion a year during 2005-2011 on fossil fuel subsidies; the Netherlands is spending €1 billion to protect its low-lands from flooding; Australia will spend $12 billion until 2018 on adapting to domestic water stress; and estimates for climate protection in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in the US ran to hundreds of billions of dollars for Florida state alone.

- Rather than being additional money for climate action, much of what is being counted as climate finance is not new and additional, but has instead been redirected from overseas aid budgets.

Oxfam calculates as little as US$ 7.6 billion may have been provided in 2013, with some wealthier countries such as Canada and Australia offering nothing at all. That’s around US$ 24 billion less than was delivered in the previous two years.

There was a commitment in Copenhagen for the rich countries to scale up to climate finance of US$100 billion per year by 2020.

However, there has been little transparency in the initial "fast start" period, and little clarity about what comes next.

After a brief peak in 2010-2012, when US$ 30bn was delivered to help climate-related initiatives in the Global South, contributions have fallen off sharply.

In 2012 the UK committed to doubling its climate finance levels up to 2015 while Germany and France have also offered increases up to 2014.

But elsewhere the picture appears bleak, with the USA’s chief climate diplomat Todd Stern admitting last month that the “hard reality” was funding was unlikely to rise soon.

“The fiscal reality of the United States and other developed countries is not going to allow it,” he said in a speech in London.
“This is not just a matter of the recent financial crisis; it is structural, based on the huge obligations we face from aging populations and other pressing needs for infrastructure, education, health care and the like.”

"Rich countries must make it clear how they are going to fulfill their commitments to support the poorest countries in reducing their emissions and adapting to climate change impacts," said Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director, Barry Coates.

"As Oxfam’s research has shown, effective work on mitigation and adaptation requires a long term approach, and uncertainty from one year to the next makes it impossible for vulnerable countries to take action to protect their citizens and adapt to a changing climate. This murkiness over the funding available, and the terms under which it is provided, will only heighten distrust around the negotiating table," Coates added.

The re-labelling of existing aid is not what was agreed in Copenhagen. The intention was not to reduce funds for urgent needs like health care and education in order to address a problem that the poorest countries did little to cause.
Developed countries undertook to provide "new and additional funds" for climate change to support poor countries.

Internationally, the issue of climate finance is being regarded as one of the essential elements to move the negotiations forward towards a global deal in two years’ time.

"For all the rich countries at the Warsaw negotiations, greater transparency, accountability and a plan that sets out how countries will increase funding is essential. Without this fundamental building block, there will be a further loss of trust that could bury hopes for a global climate deal in 2015. "Anything less than urgent action will mean more damaging cyclones and typhoons, more sea level rise and storm surges, more floods, more droughts and bushfires, and many more people in the poorest communities who suffer from inaction by the major polluting nations," concluded Coates.

The NGO says the ability of developing nations to build ‘green’ economies that can cope with projected impacts from global warming is being put at risk by this funding shortfall.

“Rich countries must make it clear to poor countries what money is available now and in the coming years to help them adapt to climate change and reduce their emissions,” said Oxfam’s Climate spokesperson, Kelly Dent.

“Uncertainty from one year to the next makes it impossible for vulnerable countries to take the action they need to protect their citizens. This murkiness will only heighten distrust around the negotiating table.”


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