Stabilizing the global climate is one of the most urgent challenges in coming decades. Our warming world affects all people and ecosystems, particularly the poor who already suffer disproportionately from climate-change impacts.
Now is a critically important time for the world to focus on climate finance. Developing nations—those least responsible for causing global warming but most vulnerable to its impacts—need funding to adopt clean energy, protect infrastructure from sea level rise, and engage in other adaptation and mitigation strategies. But these activities are costly—the world will need to figure out how to fund them now in order to protect countries from future climate change.
The problem is that it’s hard to draw attention to a topic that’s difficult to understand. The issue of climate finance is decidedly complex. Several entities--think-tanks, banks and other financial institutions, international institutions, governments, and public sector agencies--are involved in myriad activities related to climate finance. Understanding how they operate, interact, and contribute can be confusing. Even the vocabulary that defines climate finance can be inconsistent, abstract, and nebulous at times. These complexities make climate finance an issue that’s hard for people--even experts, sometimes --to wrap their heads around.
Introducing the Climate Finance FAQs Series
That’s where WRI’s new blog series, Climate Finance FAQs, comes in. Our experts will attempt to shed light on basic climate finance issues through a series of blog posts. By explaining these topics in plain language, we can make climate finance more accessible--and hopefully, draw broader attention to the pressing issue of how to pay for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
UPDATE 4/11/13: After this blog post was published, the OECD released updated figures for 2010 and 2011. The data still shows a decrease in commitments for adaptation, mitigation, and climate finance, as this blog post states. However, adaptation expenditures were 3 percent higher in 2011 than in 2010, as opposed to unchanged. (View updated figures.) The changes in the numbers are a result of donors entering new data for previous years or updating their old data. Preliminary data for 2012 shows that aid to developing countries continued to fall. Detailed figures for 2012 will be released in June 2013.
At the 2009 U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen, developed nations committed to provide a collective $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change’s impacts. Recently, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) released some surprising new data on this pledge. The figures indicate that developed nations’ recent climate finance contributions have fallen rather than risen toward the level of their 2020 commitment.
A Look at the New OECD Data
The OECD is a consortium of 34 wealthy countries. Among other joint initiatives, it provides a platform to monitor and share statistics on aid flows and climate finance contributed by its members. Most OECD members report both their climate finance expenditures and commitments using the “Rio Markers” (see text box), and the OECD secretariat periodically makes these numbers public. OECD members’ climate finance contributions represent a significant portion of the collective $100 billion commitment, so the numbers reported by the OECD give a good indication of developments in the climate finance field.
Surprisingly, new OECD numbers show that while adaptation expenditures in 2011 remained the same as in 2010, expenditures for mitigation activities decreased. Plus, the total commitment for climate finance decreased from $23 billion in 2010 to $17 billion in 2011.
While a “commitment” refers to the total amount of money a country will spend on an adaptation/mitigation project over a multi-year period—which is reported at the beginning of a project—an “expenditure” refers to the amount a country spends in a particular year on adaptation/mitigation activities. In January 2013, the OECD updated its data for 2011. It is difficult, of course, to predict or analyze trends based on only two years of data (the only data that’s currently available on OECD climate finance commitments). But given developed nations’ agreement to scale up climate finance significantly by 2020, this decrease is surprising—and could be concerning.
Research shows that developing countries will need about $531 billion of additional investments in clean energy technologies each year in order to limit global temperature rise to 2° C above pre-industrial levels, thus preventing climate change’s worst impacts. While developed countries have pledged to provide $100 billion of climate finance per year, this amount is well below what’s needed to help developing nations mitigate and adapt to climate change.
So how can countries bridge this funding gap? The answer lies in part on how well developing countries implement “readiness” activities, as well how effectively developed nations and international institutions like the Green Climate Fund (GCF) can mobilize finance to support them.
The Need for Readiness
To attract investments on the scale required, developing country governments must provide an attractive investment climate—one that encourages public and private sector investors to put their money into climate-friendly projects like solar and wind energy. On their end, developed countries need to offer financial and technical support for “readiness” activities that create the right conditions for said investments. Readiness includes any activity that makes a country better positioned to attract investments in climate-friendly projects or technologies. A few examples include: developing a policy to promote energy efficiency in industry; passing a law that gives a new or existing institution the mandate to promote renewable energy; conducting an assessment of a country’s wind energy resources; or strengthening a bank’s capacity to lend to small businesses in low-carbon sectors. International institutions such as the GCF can play a big role in supporting readiness activities, thereby helping developing nations attract the investments that will help them transition onto a low-carbon, climate-resilient development path.
In a little more than one generation—by the time your grade-schoolers will be seeing their own kids off to school—our planet will be home to 9 billion people. This will create an unprecedented demand for water, food, and energy--and stress the supporting infrastructure required for life in the 21st century. How are we to meet this demand while respecting planetary boundaries? And importantly, how will we pay for it?
Under current OECD growth projections, the world will need to invest $5 trillion annually until 2020 in the water, agriculture, telecommunications, power, transport, buildings, industrial, and forestry sectors. However, solely delivering this investment to maintain “business-as-usual” economic growth will not lead the world onto a sustainable growth path. We need to find ways to “green” our growth to cope with resource scarcity and alleviate risks from climate change and environmental degradation. Greening this investment will require a mix of appropriate policies and capital. The lion’s share will need to come from the private sector, given the scale required.
The “Green Investment Report” estimates that an additional $700 billion will be needed annually to green the business-as-usual investment in the global economy. This is a large sum, but relatively insignificant compared to the cost of inaction as negative environmental impacts increasingly take their economic toll.
However, some question whether these funds are going to the right places and meeting real needs. Is adaptation finance being directed towards the nations that need it the most? Is it being used to support projects that will allow people to adapt to climate change’s impacts?
The Question Is: Where Should Adaptation Finance Go?
The easy answer is that adaptation finance should go to activities that strengthen the resilience and reduce the vulnerability of countries most susceptible to climate change’s impacts. People in developing countries will likely be hit hardest by global warming.
The Doha negotiations that just concluded earlier this month have again drawn attention to the urgent need for climate adaptation and emissions reductions. Government representatives, civil society stakeholders, development aid organizations, and corporates agree that the world must make big strides—soon—if we are to have any hope of keeping global average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
One problem, though, is how to generate enough finance to fund these activities. A new WRI working paper aims to address this challenge by examining the role multilateral agencies can play in mobilizing private sector finance for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Leveraging the Private Sector to Bridge the Climate Finance Gap
Developing countries—those most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts—will need $300 billion annually by 2020 and $500 billion annually by 2050 for mitigation activities alone. The newly established Green Climate Fund (GCF), meant to channel $100 billion annually into climate-relevant investments starting in 2020, is a significant first step, but does not fill the gap of what’s needed.
The public sector cannot tackle this challenge alone, and indeed, the GCF already envisions funding from a mix of public and private sources. The key, then, is to mobilize the private sector to create new investment opportunities and new markets.
This piece was written with analysis from Athena Ballesteros, Edward Cameron, Yamide Dagnet, Florence Daviet, Aarjan Dixit, Heather McGray, and Clifford Polycarp.
Expectations were low for this year’s UNFCCC climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar (COP 18), which concluded last week. It was scheduled to be a “finalize-the-rules” type of COP, rather than one focused on large, political deals that went into the early hours of the morning. Key issues on the table included finalizing the rules for the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period; concluding a series of decisions on transparency, finance, adaptation, and forests (REDD+); and agreeing on a work plan to negotiate a new legally binding international climate agreement by 2015. The emissions gap was also front-and-center, as the new UNEP Gap Report showed that countries are further away than even a year ago from the goal of keeping global average temperature rise below two degrees C.
Decisions made at these meetings are critically important for the funding of climate mitigation and adaptation activities in developing nations. They’ll have important implications for meeting the immediate investment needs of developing countries, as well as for long-term global climate finance. The meetings will mark the start of discussions on how to sunset the CIFs and transition to a new global climate finance mechanism—the Green Climate Fund.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that our best chance of containing global temperature rise to 2°C is to keep atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide below 450 parts per million (we’re currently at 390 ppm). In addition to several other climate mitigation strategies, sticking to this cap will require significant new investment in low-carbon infrastructure and activities in developing countries.
Experts estimate the cost of funding this development to be about $300 billion annually by 2020, growing to $500 billion by 2030. The problem is, there’s a huge funding gap when it comes to meeting these costs—industrialized nations have only committed to mobilize $100 billion of new funds annually by 2020 to meet these needs. The world will need to figure out a way to come up with the rest of the funding if we’re going to prevent developing nations from feeling climate change’s most severe impacts.
Introducing WRI’s Climate Finance and the Private Sector Project
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) Board wrapped up its second meeting on Saturday with a major decision: selecting Songdo City in South Korea to host the Fund. The decision, which was adopted by consensus of the Board, was greeted with joy by the Koreans, who spared no effort to provide an offer of the highest quality to earn the confidence of the Board. The UNFCCC Conference of Parties will have to endorse this decision at its next meeting in Doha later this year to confirm the selection.