Developing states left in dark on 2020 climate finance goal

By Megan Rowling LIMA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Major questions persist over how rich countries will boost funding for poorer nations to tackle climate change in the next five years, after U.N. climate talks failed to decide on clear plans. Back in 2009, wealthy governments promised to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 from public, private and other sources to help vulnerable states adapt to more extreme weather and rising seas, and to develop cleanly. The intended recipients of the money - from Africa to South Asia and the Pacific - have pressed donors to give a timeline for ramping up their assistance from levels now estimated in the low tens of billions of dollars per year. Some developing countries had also wanted interim targets, an idea rebuffed by governments – including the United States and many in Europe – that have that have been forced by economic woes to tighten spending. “Rich countries should not kid themselves that they can get away without a plan to deliver the $100 billion a year they promised back in 2009. It’s time to say how they’re going to pony up,” Nick Mabey, CEO of environmental think tank E3G, said in a statement after the negotiations ended. There had been hopes this month's negotiations in Peru would yield a robust process for increasing climate finance in the years up to 2020, before a new global climate pact due to be agreed in Paris next year would come into force. But decisions approved in Lima at the weekend fell short, many said. "We are far away from a reliable roadmap towards the $100 billion goal," said Sven Harmeling, climate change advocacy coordinator for development group CARE International, describing the agreed language on finance as "pretty weak". Experts said the wording was vague and had been watered down from earlier drafts. It was unclear why developing countries accepted this, although it could be part of a strategy to keep finance as a bargaining chip for the key Paris conference, some said. The Lima decision on finance merely recognizes the $100 billion commitment, and then requests developed countries in their next submissions on increasing climate finance to 2020 - due in 2016 - to "enhance the available quantitative and qualitative elements.” It says countries should put more emphasis on the transparency and predictability of funding. But "it provides zero clarity on how developed countries are going to meet their $100 billion promise, so countries in need of support in the battle against climate change are left in the dark," said Jan Kowalzig, senior climate change advisor with Oxfam Deutschland. BIGGER SHARE FOR ADAPTATION? More positively, the decision called on developed countries to channel a "substantial share" of public climate funds to adaptation activities, which are measures to help at-risk communities adjust to wilder weather and rising oceans. Adaptation has received less than a fifth of allocations through international government-backed climate funds since 2003, figures show, with the vast majority going to mitigation, or actions to reduce planet-warming emissions. There was disappointment in Lima, however, that no percentage was specified for the proportion of public finance that should go to adaptation. Several countries at the talks - including Belgium, Australia, Peru and Colombia - put new pledges on the table for the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Those brought total contributions to the fledgling finance mechanism to nearly $10.2 billion from 27 countries, reaching an informal target. And Germany contributed 50 million euros (around $62 million) to the Adaptation Fund, which was set up under the U.N. climate change convention and has committed $265 million to climate resilience projects in 44 countries since 2010. The fund aims to raise $160 million in 2014 and 2015, but has received only the German pledge so far. RESTORING FAITH While welcoming the commitments of funds to the Green Climate Fund, many developing countries have pointed out that $10 billion is nowhere near enough to protect people from growing climate change impacts and provide renewable energy to the millions who lack electricity, while transitioning their economies away from the use of polluting fossil fuels. Saleemul Huq, director of the Dhaka-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development, criticized donor governments for failing to top up another fund meant to bankroll the adaptation plans of the least-developed nations to the tune of $2 billion. It remained less than half full, he said. These poorest countries have been "left high and dry", he said, exacerbating the feeling of "bad faith" over climate finance promises in recent years. Earlier in the Lima talks, the U.N. climate change chief, Christiana Figueres, said governments should start working out what flows of money could be counted towards the $100 billion goal, and highlighted the need for further research on climate finance after an initial report revealed knowledge gaps. But little concrete progress was made on the issue of definitions and transparency in Lima. "Everybody measuring in the same way is very important," Rachel Kyte, the World Bank's special envoy for climate change, said on the sidelines of the talks. "It’s the only way you’re going to build trust in the process, and it’s the only way you’re going to really have any faith in any numbers.” (Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Laurie Goering)