The needle on climate finance has moved slowly since 2009, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced at international climate negotiations in Copenhagen that by 2020 the US and other developed nations would “mobilize” $100 billion per year from public and private sources.
In this interview with The Intercept, Kevin M. Adams said industrialized countries should “do more and contribute more” toward the effort of climate finance, which is more important than a focus on the exact figures needed.
“While $2 trillion might be in line with the scale of the climate challenge, it is so far beyond the $100 billion goal currently enshrined in the Paris Agreement and which contributor countries are struggling to meet, it’s hard to see that figure gaining much political traction,” Adams said.
The amount of money needed for “climate finance” is one of the most hotly debated issues between countries and represented one of the most contentious aspects of the Paris Agreement in 2015. Poorer countries have repeatedly said they could make steeper emissions cuts if they were adequately supported by wealthier nations in the process.
As part of that $100 billion commitment, the U.N. established the Green Climate Fund, designed to finance climate mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries like securing the water supply in South Tarawa, Kiribati, and restoring degraded ecosystems in El Salvador.
The fund’s governing board includes equal representation between developing and developed nations, and its first round of funding began in 2013, when 43 countries pledged to raise $10.3 billion for projects. Of that amount, the U.S. pledged to contribute $3 billion over four years.
As countries and experts debate how much climate aid is needed to raise over the long term, the amount of money raised and spent so far is also a matter of great dispute. One reason for that, according to Kevin M. Adams, is that countries generally self-report what they’re providing, and so what developing countries say they receive can differ from what developed countries say they have contributed.
“This can be due to factors like exchange rates and currency fluctuations, fees paid to consultants or other service providers, as well as the financial instrument used, such as grants versus loans,” he explained.
There’s also disagreement over what formally constitutes climate finance, an umbrella term that generally refers to climate mitigation, adaptation, and reparations. The “climate finance” term, according to Adams, is supposed to signify new and additional funding that goes above what countries are already spending (or supposed to be spending) on international development.
Adams said the rhetorical separation between “developmental aid” and “climate aid” is important so countries don’t just “relabel existing funds” they were already contributing. Though in practice, he explained, the distinction between the two can be much more tenuous, “particularly in the case of adaptation [funding] where climate vulnerability is so closely tied to poverty, access to services, and institutional capacity.”