Oxfam says poor countries left in the dark on climate finance

posted in: Africa

Photo: Andy Hall/Oxfam


Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – Poor countries are being left with little idea about what money is available to help them cope with climate change, because of murky accounting and a lack of transparency by rich countries, international agency Oxfam said Monday.

“Rich countries must make it clear to poor countries what money is available now and in the coming years to help them adapt to climate change and reduce their emissions,” said Oxfam’s Climate spokesperson Kelly Dent.

“Uncertainty from one year to the next makes it impossible for vulnerable countries to take the action they need to protect their citizens. This murkiness will only heighten distrust around the negotiating table,” Dent cautioned as the UN Climate Change talks (COP 19), of which climate finance is an important issue on the agenda, began in Poland Monday.

Looking at how much money the biggest climate finance contributors have committed between 2013 – the end of the Fast Start Finance period – and 2015, Oxfam has found that 24 developed countries have still not confirmed their climate finance for this year.

For 2014, the situation is even worse as countries which together provided 81 percent of Fast Start Finance have still not announced any figures.

Oxfam estimates that the total climate finance contributions claimed by developed countries in 2013 amounted to US$16.3 billion, though the actual net budget allocations may be closer to US$7.6 billion as some countries have counted loans that will be repaid to them.

Only US$8.3 billion has been formally announced at the UN climate change negotiations, and many question marks remained over the figures, especially as countries now include contributions that weren’t counted during the Fast Start period.

According to Oxfam, US$7.6 billion-US$16.3 billion was well below even the lowest estimate of what it is going to cost developing countries to adapt to climate change, which ranges from US$27 billion to well over US$100 billion.

By comparison, developed countries spent US$55-90 billion a year during 2005 -2011 on fossil fuel subsidies; the Netherlands is spending €1 billion to protect its low-lands from flooding; and Australia will spend US$12 billion till 2018 on adapting to domestic water stress.

“It is impossible to say how this year’s commitments compare to previous years because the accounting methods involved are so complex and opaque. However, for most countries finance levels appear to have either plateaued (e.g. the Netherlands) or decreased (e.g. Sweden),” the agency said.

Also, Oxfam observed that rather than being additional money for climate action, much of what was being counted has instead been redirected from overseas aid budgets, or climate-related development aid which is not principally focused on climate action.

Only the US, European Union, Japan and New Zealand adhered to last year’s agreement to say how they would increase funding to reach their share of the US$100 billion a year promised by 2020.

“However, their submissions raise more questions than they answer and fail to provide reassurance that the US$100bn will ever materialise,” said Oxfam.

According to Dent, “the rich are protecting their own backyards while continuing to invest heavily in polluting energies which is fuelling climate change.

“Greater transparency, accountability and a plan that sets out how countries will increase funding is essential. Rich countries cannot be allowed to kick this vital issue down the road again.

“If they do, it will mean more hungry people, more damaging climate change emissions, and a further breakdown in trust that could bury hopes for a global climate deal in 2015.”