Those 100 billion a year nobody has ever seen
by Jacopo Bencini, Policy Advisor, ICN UNFCCC contact point
The second week of intermediate climate negotiations closes after a series of long night sessions (for us Italians) characterized, in many cases, by a repetition of well-known positions on most agenda items, with a few significant steps forward. In particular, the discussion appears substantially frozen on what we expect to be the main themes of COP26 and which concern the very functioning of the Paris Agreement from 2020 onwards (the parts not yet defined in 2018 in Katowice), starting from the very central question on the common timeframes of NDCs and that on the transfer of old Kyoto credits into the new system.
Discontent from many developing countries with the online format continued to mount. Sudden disconnections from the system, network failures, speeches with disturbed audio and, often, the inability to accurately record what was said by delegates from other countries have led to formal protests in many sessions, in particular by island states, countries of the Least Developed Countries group but also countries such as Brazil, India, South Africa and China. In the succession of more or less formal complaints, many sessions were slowed down, as well as by the quality of the connection, by the attempt of some moderators to conduct the sessions in a more streamlined manner by sharing drafts of texts on the screen for the examination of the delegates, texts which, however, had not yet been unanimously approved.
The second week has also been characterized by a discussion – this time more heated than usual – on the topic of climate finance. On Monday 7 June, a workshop on the subject was held. It was the second part of a broader program of comparison and negotiation resumed on 27 November 2020 (online), the Long-Term Finance Work Program (LTF). The LTF program was launched in 2011 during COP17 with the aim of providing delegates with an operational working forum towards realizing the goal, already established in 2009 in Copenhagen, of achieving a steady flow of financial aid on mitigation and adaptation from developed countries to those in the developing world that should have reached 100 billion dollars a year by 2020. In 2015, in Paris, delegates decided to extend the deadline for reaching the goal to 2025; in 2016, with the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, then US Secretary of State John Kerry brought the United States into the Agreement with the solemn promise to achieve the goal quickly.
With Donald Trump’s victory in late 2016 and the US disappearance from the global climate debate for four years, the $ 100 billion per year target has lost one of its main supporters and, to date, it has never been achieved. In fact, research by the Stockholm Environment Institute shows how, despite a positive growth in the amount of financial aid in the last decade, it reached about 80 billion dollars a year in 2018 alone and with a strong imbalance on mitigation compared to adaptation, therefore still very far from the target of 100 billion. But how do we count these aids, these transfers?
The issue of how to count is probably the real heart of the matter. While direct transfers, to international funds or to multilateral development banks can be quite simple to quantify, many doubts remain regarding grants or reporting on individual projects and with respect to loans – the total amount lent can it be counted as a “transfer”, if this must then be repaid, perhaps with interest? How to avoid double counting and currency games that could “inflate” the reporting? Last but not least, as underlined by the Uganda delegate, it will be important to clarify the very definition of climate finance, understood as the mobilization of new resources (as strongly recalled by India) and therefore as a different line of investment and distribution and separate from public development aid.