Uncertainty looms for developing countries as Climate Change negotiations start

Campaigns and Advocacy, Climate Change, Media Releases, News article written on the 25 Nov 2012

Rich countries have been stalling promised climate finance that would help poor countries tackle climate change and reduce emissions, according to new Oxfam research.

The research, released ahead of this week’s UN Climate Change Negotiations in Doha, Qatar, reveals that developed countries have not met their commitments for new and additional funds to help poor countries adapt to the escalating impacts of climate change.

Oxfam Australia Climate Change Policy Advisor Kelly Dent, in Doha for the negotiations, said that severe funding shortfalls and recent extreme weather should force political leaders to work with urgency and ambition to increase climate finance.

“From the Sahel to the Pacific, communities are already being forced to adapt to a changing climate,” Ms Dent said.

Developed countries, including Australia, committed to pay US $100 billion per year of climate finance by 2020 at the Copenhagen talks in 2009 and made a down payment of US $30 billion for 2010 – 2012 (called ‘Fast Start Finance’).

At the 2011 Cancun talks, the Green Climate Fund was established to channel the US $100 billion commitment. In just over a month, the Fast Start Finance period will end and the Green Climate Fund remains empty.

Ms Dent said that despite an agreement in Copenhagen that climate finance would be ‘new and additional’, Oxfam estimated that only 33 per cent of Fast Start Finance could be considered new – the remainder of the money was pledged before the Copenhagen conference – and at most only 24 per cent was additional to existing aid promises.

Just 43 per cent of known Fast Start Finance has been given as grants; most of it was in loans that developing countries have to repay at varying levels of interest. Only 21 per cent of known funds have been earmarked to support adaptation programs to help communities become more resilient to the effects of climate change.

“Adaptation finance is needed to help poor farmers access faster maturing or drought-tolerant seeds, install small-scale irrigation systems, access reliable weather and climatic forecasts or prepare for increased disasters,” Ms Dent said.

According to Ms Dent, spending money now would save money long term:  “By adapting to climate change, we’re increasing disaster preparedness, and every $1 spent on disaster preparedness saves $7 in disaster response.”

Ms Dent said Australia had so far met its ‘fair share’ of climate finance, and that our contribution was notable for the proportion allocated to adaptation over mitigation, as well as for reporting transparency, the priority given to the most vulnerable communities and for being fully grants-based.

However, she added that like all developed countries, Australia needed to be clearer on its further commitments and provide developing countries with the confidence that finance would continue to be scaled-up.

“Developing countries are heading towards a climate ‘fiscal cliff’ without any certainty about how they will be supported to adapt to climate change after 2012,” Ms Dent said.

“This year’s UN Climate Change Negotiations come hot on the heels of Sandy, a superstorm made more severe by climate change.  This is an example that highlights how important it is for developed nations to find new sources of funding outside aid budgets to honour their US $100 billion commitment without diverting money from other anti-poverty priorities like health and education.

“Political leaders must genuinely consider propositions for new income streams, such as a fair charge on shipping emissions or new taxes on financial transactions in order to generate revenue for the Green Climate Fund.”

The Kyoto Protocol is also at a crossroads, with its first commitment period finishing in 2012. Oxfam is calling on leaders to adopt and finalise its second commitment period with rigorous rules and further measures to cut emissions.

Kelly Dent is available for interview.   A copy of Oxfam’s briefing The looming climate ‘fiscal cliff’: An evaluation of Fast Start Finance and its lessons for the future is available here.

For interviews or more information, please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801