Negotiators at Bonn Climate Change Conference, 29 April 2013

Negotiators at Bonn Climate Change Conference, 29 April 2013. Photo: UNclimatechange / Flickr .

SEI at Almedalsveckan 2013

Sweden is a global leader in development aid, and in recent years, it has made significant investments in climate change mitigation and adaptation around the world as well. But is it enough? That is the question that the Church of Sweden asked SEI to answer in a new report: Footing the bill: What is Sweden’s ‘fair share’ of global climate finance?

On 2 July 2013, author Clarisse Kehler Siebert, an SEI Research Fellow, is presenting her findings as part of a discussion at Almedalsveckan, Sweden’s largest political gathering. Here she offers a preview.

Q: Why did the Church of Sweden commission this report?
A: The idea is that climate change should be higher on the political agenda for the next elections, which take place in 2014. It’s not a sexy topic, but I think many Swedes – and certainly the Swedish government – are proud of Sweden’s strong record in official development assistance (ODA). This report shows that ODA and climate finance are intimately linked.

SEI and the Church of Sweden share an interest in this topic that goes beyond the actual “fair share” question. This is a chance to highlight the role of climate finance in reaching a global climate deal, and in building trust amongst developed and developing countries. We hope that this will lead to a substantive and constructive dialogue.

Q: Can you summarize your findings?
A: In short, the report shows it is really hard to say what is a given country’s “fair share” of global climate finance, as both operative terms – “climate finance” and “fair share”, are undefined and subject to value judgements; there is no objective measure. Sweden has also not defined those terms for itself, and inadequate reporting systems make it hard to measure what Sweden currently provides as climate finance. The data suggest that Sweden does provide large sums of money to address climate change, but different approaches to estimating Sweden’s “fair share” suggest it is likely much more than it currently provides.

Q: You note that how to allocate the climate burden – the question of “equity” – is a major area of disagreement within the UN climate talks. How important is it for the Parties to resolve this issue?
A: The jury’s out – in the international climate negotiations and for me, too – about whether the “equity” issue needs to be taken by the horns and wrestled with, or whether it is so divisive that it needs to be bypassed. If the latter, then an “agreement to disagree” is needed within the negotiations, or else the equity card will be played again and again.

On Sunday here at Almedalen, Connie Hedegaard, the EU Commissioner for Climate Action, emphasized that climate finance is the key issue to address for a global agreement is to be reached. She said the EU needs to demonstrate that it has delivered on climate finance but gave no insight to how this should or will be done.

Q: Why is it so important?
A: In the report we mention political-science and economic research that indicates “perceived fairness” by all parties is a prerequisite to the enforcement/ sustainability of an international agreement. From this (theoretical) perspective, either an agreement on burden-sharing, or an acknowledgement that countries bring such different understandings that agreement isn’t achievable now –would work. The former is preferable, but the second may be likelier.

Q: What are the policy implications of your findings for Sweden?
A: If Sweden wants to continue to be perceived of as a leader in environmental issues, it should set a high standard for itself, and invite its EU peers and other developed nations to follow its example. Sweden can take a unilateral decision to be clear about what it considers climate finance and improve the clarity (transparency?) of its reporting so that the question of what it provides as climate finance could be clearly answered. Sweden can also decide to define its fair share. This can mean a percentage of gross national income (GNI), a formula or political commitment to ramp up climate finance to a high level by 2020, or something else. What’s important is to be clear about what it is talking about when it says “fair share”.

Q: Your report is geared to Swedish audiences, but could the lessons apply to other EU countries and beyond?
A: Yes, all developed countries can dare to demonstrate what they do and don’t do in terms of climate finance. If all countries were explicit about what they think is fair, obviously there would be conflicts. But at least there would be a starting point showing a range between least and most ambitious, and the agreement would fall somewhere in between, which is more than we have today.

Read the ‘fair share’ report »