Green climate fund needs rescuePoor countries were promised billions to help them adapt and go green. Fed up of waiting, the most vulnerable are acting, says researcher Saleemul Huq.
Saleemul Huq: One is the ‘fast-start climate finance’ from 2010-2012, supposed to be 30 billion dollars across adaptation, mitigation, and deforestation activities. Then there is about 100 billion dollars a year, starting from 2020, to be channeled into the Green Climate Fund.
But there is also significant activity in developing countries not dependent on international funding. The impression that unless there is money they won’t do anything is wrong.
Bangladesh is implementing a Climate Change Strategy and Action plan with 200 million dollars of its own money. It needs billions of dollars which it doesn’t have, but it has started. This is also true for many other countries.
How effective has the fast-start climate finance been?
It is too early to say. When we researched fast-track finance it was very difficult to find out how donor countries allocated it. We need transparency rules so countries must tell everyone where they are putting this money.
It is going to be years before we see the results. And because of delays getting these funds developing countries are taking steps themselves.
One has to start small, learn by doing, and then ramp up. Large amounts of money are certainly required but not immediately. What’s needed immediately is to start things off and stop arguing for years before delivering the first cent. So far, the first cent hasn’t really arrived.
So ‘fast-start climate finance’ is a misnomer; it is not fast?
Not at all fast. The one fast bit was when donor countries, once they made pledges in Copenhagen and Cancun, relabeled money they had already given as development assistance as having fulfilled the new climate promises. They are double counting dollars.
So these pledges are an accounting trick?
Correct, although some countries double count more than others. The UK will only double count 10 percent, the French will double count everything, the Norwegians and the Swedes won’t double count.
The problem is there is no clear and agreed definition of “new and additional” finance. For developing countries, it means over and above any development assistance.
When developed countries say “new and additional” they just mean it is new because they have given it this year and didn’t give it last year, although it varies between countries.
And this poison has seeped into the Green Climate Fund negotiations?
Correct. At Cancun it was agreed there would be a green fund. A transitional committee was set up to nail down the mechanics of how this fund would work before the Durban talks.
They had almost reached a consensus text but at the very last minute it was vetoed by the US delegation. So at Durban the whole thing opens up again and once you have 190 countries debating everything you have chaos and don’t get agreement.
What was the problem, why did the US veto it?
It is a governance issue. It’s about who calls the shots.
The US basically wants a standalone fund, a model like the World Bank, where the countries that give the money make the rules as to what gets spent and how it gets spent. They don’t want it to be under the COP or the UNFCCC.
Developing countries, and many developed countries, are happy for it to report to the COP. The model would be that some countries put money into the pot and then everybody has an equal say over what happens to that money. It’s a much more democratic governance system.
Which of these models has been most effective historically?
It’s very difficult to say because the more democratic model doesn’t really exist. The only one is the Adaptation Fund under the UNFCCC, but it’s only been up and running a few years.
I would say it’s a better way in the long run because it lends legitimacy to decision making whereas when givers can pick and choose who gets money that is invidious in itself.
Exactly: aid money is all political. The biggest recipient of US aid is Israel. The British give to their ex-colonies, the French give to their ex-colonies.
When you play favorites you can’t say you are giving on any kind of objective criteria. Developing countries and the UNFCCC say access to funds should be based on who needs funds not whether they are politically palatable or not.
Where should money go: places where it can have the most impact on climate change or places most vulnerable to climate change?
This is precisely the type of debate going on in the Adaptation Fund. Some people may need it more but don’t have the ability to use it; some may need it less but have the ability to use it.
And they are discussing imposing conditions on getting additional funds. Every country is entitled to the first carrot. But the second carrot depends on what they did with the first one and they have to report back on that. This is the principle being adopted in the Adaptation Fund.
I tell recipient countries: Get 5 million dollars and spend it well and you will get 50 million dollars. Spend that well and you will get 500 million dollars. Just saying “I am poor and vulnerable” is not going to get you 500 million dollars.
What would you like to come out of Durban, how optimistic or pessimistic are you?
Despite the recent debacle, I think we can get the ball rolling with climate finance. There is money on the table so let’s do what we can, start implementing and learning. By taking a more pragmatic view we can make progress and there are good outcomes to be had in Durban.