Climate finance at COP21: where world views collide

Global transition

After six days of negotiations at the UN climate summit in Paris, the baton has been handed over to environment ministers who will begin high-level discussions this week. As anticipated, a number of troublesome issues continue to cause concern among Parties and NGOs as they work within the walls of Le Bourget conference centre. Among those issues is climate finance, an infamously controversial topic where the division between developed countries and developing countries is put under the spotlight.

After weeks of discussions in the run up to COP21, some of the key sticking points continue to crowd out the room; namely the question of pays up in a post-2020 world as well as increasing the scale and predictability of financial support.


At a stock-take on Wednesday December 2nd the Group of 77+China – the coalition of developing countries across the world – made a strong statement regarding the positions and language being taken by their developed country counterparts. The statement expressed disappointment that developed countries were not engaging properly and genuinely committing to advance on climate finance.

This has been disputed by the EU, which claims it will continue to scale up climate finance, and include public finance in the mix. It showed further will to support developing countries with numerous announcements of climate finance at the Leaders Event last Monday.

With that said, the division raises its head when the EU stipulates that it will continue to play its part on the condition that more countries join the effort to put cash in the climate piggy bank. Phrases and expressions such as “expanding the pool of donors”, “countries in a position to do so”, and even “countries willing to do so” causes concern among many developing countries who believe that the fight against climate change should continue to be bank-rolled by developed countries. As many developing countries still grapple with severe poverty at home, the pressure to put more money forward – numerous developing countries are paying towards climate action in one way or the other – is not a prospect they are ready to consider.

CAN Europe recognizes that increasing the number of contributors to climate finance after 2020 will be beneficial overall for developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable and the least developed countries. But it must be clear that developed countries continue to take the lead to enhance the implementation of their obligations. This could then be complemented by other countries with comparable levels of historic responsibility and economic capability. Developing countries need to be assured that they can continue to tackle domestic challenges such as poverty and inequality whilst also pursuing the overall objectives of the UNFCCC.

Scaling up support in an adequate way:

Another important issue that ministers can inject progress into is the topic of scaling up predictable climate finance after 2020. The current text on climate finance contains a section that speaks to this very process. Setting collective targets – which are distinct from individual commitments that donor countries would not accept – would greatly increase predictability of climate finance. Collective targets would also enhance adequacy if they could be connected to support requirements laid out by developing countries in their climate action plans (INDCs). These financial goals could also be reviewed and modified to ensure that adequate levels of support are being provided in order to ramp up mitigation and adaptation in recipient countries.

As advocated by NGOs and developing countries, predictable support for adaptation should also be further prioritised. Even if we succeed in limiting the global temperature rise, vulnerable countries will face insurmountable impacts, including social and economic setbacks as a result of those impacts.

As we advance into Week 2 of COP21, it is clear that the world views of developed countries greatly diverge from those of developing countries. Ministers will need to overcome this in order to anchor trust and political will for a meaningful agreement. The EU has a vital role to play in this process – it can and should be a bridge-builder, and it should stand with vulnerable developing countries that already suffering the severe impacts of climate change. It has made an initial step through endorsing that the current 2020 target of 100 billion dollars should a floor for future action. But it will need to be more forthcoming and vocal about its commitment to continue its support for developing countries in a predictable and adequate way.

Environment ministers will have their work cut out for them this week but when there is a will there is a way; it’s time to see that political will shine.

Maeve McLynn is Policy Coordinator Climate Change and Development