Recalling the devastation that Typhoon Haiyan wrecked in his country, Yeb Sano, the climate change commissioner and lead negotiator from the Philippines, spoke powerfully at the opening of COP 19 in Warsaw. “The climate crisis is madness,” he said, imploring negotiators to act ambitiously in pursuing an international climate action agreement.

Indeed, poor people around the world are continuously exposed to the devastating impacts of extreme weather and climate events. Unless decision-makers in Warsaw lay the groundwork for securing a strong, international climate agreement by 2015, heat waves, sea level rise, extreme weather, and other disastrous impacts are poised to intensify.

Strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change’s impacts will be costly, so success at COP 19 hinges on making progress on climate finance. It’s important that negotiators pursue three actions: scaling up adaptation finance; developing pathways to secure $100 billion in climate finance by 2020; and moving the Green Climate Fund forward.

Pursuing Collective Climate Action

An effective international climate agreement will require collective action—from both developed and developing nations. At this meeting, the discourse on climate finance is changing from one where developing country governments rely on finance and support from developed countries to one where they take the lead in acting first. Many countries are already doing this. The Philippines, for example, has allocated 2 percent of its GDP for climate action.

Of course, their efforts—while commendable—are not enough to meet the scale of the climate change challenge. Developing nations require significantly increased support from their developed country partners—especially those historically responsible for releasing large amount of emissions. This need seems even more urgent against the backdrop of Typhoon Haiyan.

3 Ways to Secure Finance for Collective Climate Action

Addressing three key finance issues in Warsaw will help secure climate action in both developed and developing nations. These critical steps include:

  1. A commitment to rapidly scale up adaptation finance and discuss mechanisms to address loss and damage. Investments in adaptation have been lackluster from both developed and developing nations’ governments. Developed country governments had committed only $7.5 billion for adaptation in the developing world—far short of the amount needed to meet the scale of the challenge. There could not be a better opportunity to scale up adaptation finance and open the debate on mechanisms to address losses and damages caused by climate change’s impacts. A strong resolve in Warsaw on these two issues would be an undoubted success.

  2. Providing further clarity on pathways to secure $100 billion a year. Developed countries have pledged to provide $100 billion in climate finance annually by 2020. From 2010-2012—the Fast Start Finance (FSF) period—developed nations provided roughly $10 billion a year. Negotiators will need to figure out how to bridge FSF with the 2020 goal. There is no one pathway to securing $100 billion, and governments cannot act alone. Providing further clarity on what these possible pathways are and agreeing on milestones along the way will make the collective $100 billion commitment more achievable. Discussions at a recent ministerial meeting in Copenhagen examined the role that different types of financiers—such as development finance institutions and export credit agencies—can play in mobilizing climate finance. However, many are of the view that further clarity is needed—particularly on how much developed countries will collectively provide, and how much they will mobilize from the private sector.

  3. Infusing momentum into making the Green Climate Fund (GCF) operational. The Green Climate Fund is expected to become the main vehicle for delivering climate finance, yet much progress is needed to make this Fund truly operational. The GCF Board agreed at its last meeting to complete eight essential requirements that will pave the way for contributors to commit resources to the Fund by 2014. Negotiators should endorse the Board’s decision in order to strengthen the GCF’s mandate. This will generate the political momentum necessary to actually make the GCF operational. Furthermore, the Board agreed to start preparing countries to access and effectively use the GCF’s resources for both adaptation and mitigation actions. This preparation would set the stage for rapidly scaling up countries’ investment efforts once the GCF is fully operational. Getting political momentum and resources behind this work in Warsaw will also demonstrate real progress.

A Key Meeting for Climate Finance

For the first time at the international climate negotiations, ministers will gather for a roundtable discussion specifically to discuss how to mobilize finance. Adaptation finance, the pathways to $100 billion, and the GCF will be quite squarely on their minds—as will the tragedy in the Philippines.

With every crisis comes an opportunity. The events in the Philippines provide an opportunity for politicians from both developed and developing countries to show their resolve to act. If ministers at the roundtable send a clear, unequivocal message on how to make progress on climate finance, it will give negotiators the political impetus they need to reach tangible, meaningful agreements in the negotiating room. We hope that Warsaw sets a new tone – one of ambition, urgency, and collective responsibility.