By Manuel Pulgar-Vidal
Imagine, as a leader of a small developing nation, you are faced with the oncoming existential crisis that is climate change, but every time you try and implement a new policy your Treasury tells you the coffers are empty.
I say imagine, but for many of us in the developing world this is a reality. This dream is the nightmare we face, and it’s one climate change will make much darker, much deeper.
Developing countries want access to clean, cheap energy. To kitchens that do not make their cooks cough and splutter, to lighting that allows our kids to do their homework.
The good news is many of us are taking a lead, investing in future energy systems instead of being locked into polluting fossil fuels like the developed world. And the good news also is there is money flowing from rich countries to help. Not enough, but we acknowledge it is flowing.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) report to COP24 suggests a broad set of countries are benefiting as a result.
Fifty-seven of the GCF’s 93 projects and programmes worth over $3 billion are targeted at least developed countries (LDCs), small island developing States (SIDS) and African states.
Nearly half a billion dollars is being invested in Indian mitigation and adaptation projects as a result of the GCF, well over $1 billion in Brazil, while billions more is heading to multiple countries in Africa to help transform their financial systems and make it easier for them to access funding.
Released last week, the UN’s latest climate finance assessment is — broadly speaking — something we can all cheer.
Public finance from developed to developing countries reached $57 billion in 2016. That’s an increase of $14 billion from 2014.
If you then take into account — as we agree you should — private finance mobilised by public support, flows reached over $70 billion in 2016.
Still: it is clear that support for adaptation is lacking. Projects to protect vulnerable communities receive just a quarter of public climate funding.
Yet if their funding continues to scale up at this rate, developed countries are on track to meeting the $100 billion goal in 2020.
They are not there yet — and the current US administration’s decision to cut support to the Green Climate Fund is deeply regrettable — but we are nearing the end of this long walk to the $100 billion.
The question is: What next? Can we as a global community relax when we get to the top?
The answer to that lies in the 2015 Paris Agreement and the 2018 IPCC 1.5 degrees Celsius report, which must now be our guides as we walk our new journey.
Both emphasise the need for transformational shifts in mobilising finance to deliver the systemic changes across the planet to avoid dangerous levels of warming.
As the New Climate Economy report earlier this year details bold global action to reap an economic benefit of $26 trillion by 2030.
The world is now on a journey to make financial flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development. Everywhere you look this is slowly happening, from high street banks offering green bank accounts, central banks warning of financial risks linked with fossil fuels, multinational development banks refusing to invest in polluting projects.
To rest now would be to undermine all the work we have achieved so far, and to ignore the fast growing low carbon economy on every continent.
But for the next stage of our journey we also need to reframe the climate finance debate.
The fixation with the $100 billion target has obscured the huge gaps in support that are emerging across the world. While the overall funding flows towards clean energy continue to rise, huge gaps remain — especially across Africa.
The recent study by the UN’s energy agency SE4ALL makes clear that “committed finance stands at only half of the $52 billion that is needed annually to deliver electricity access to the 500 million still without power”.
It adds: “Already abysmal levels of clean cooking funding have declined, and now account for less than one percent of the projected funding needed to end the several millions of deaths caused annually from traditional biomass cooking.”
As we build a set of rules to implement the Paris Agreement, let us commit to ensuring that the most vulnerable and those most in need start receiving more support.
Let us commit to ensuring that as the global economy grows, and as wind and solar energy become cheaper and easier to deploy, these technologies are shared.
(Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s former Minister of State for Environment in Peru and president of COP 20 and is leader of the Climate and Energy Practice of WWF International. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])