Climate Finance: From Whom and For Whom?

On the 24th of September 2014, the entire world will shift its attention to the Ban Ki-Moon summit in New York where leaders from various countries will “pledge” their contributions in the global effort to end the looming climate crisis.

Political deadlocks amid crisis
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns us of “irreversible changes” in the world’s climate should we exceed the two-degree rise in global average temperature by 2050. Unprecedented increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, continuous meltdown of the arctic ice caps and severe weather events also provide insight as to how rapid our climate is changing…of how close we are before it’s too late.

In the midst of these environmental tipping points, we are faced with the urgency to sufficiently finance climate adaptation and mitigation measures that address the worsening situation in least developed countries; in communities that contributed the least in historical pollution but now bear the brunt of its disastrous consequences.

Global discussions on climate change have come up with various instruments such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord, but none of these has successfully addressed the subject of climate finance.

Throughout 20 years, the problem of climate change has transformed from being a concern about GHG emission reduction alone into also being a concern for the failure of member countries to meet their UNFCCC obligations, primarily the provision of climate finance to developing countries for adaptation and mitigation.

From the people and for the people
Official climate negotiations have been stalled by political deadlocks and its only achievement so far is the establishment of profit-oriented climate finance mechanisms. Seeing how the negotiations fare in the past years, there is a seemingly strong push to resolve the issue of climate finance by relying on private sector funding.

Considering that privatization entails a transfer of public control and rights to a corporation, private financing for climate could in turn become problematic due to the lack of check and balance mechanisms for transparency and accountability. All these could spell doom to the realization of IPCC’s two-degree global warming threshold target. To a very large extent, this also serves as a vindication to developing countries’ argument for the confinement of climate finance to the public sector alone.

As currently configured, multilateral and bilateral financial institutions may be having undue influence over climate change policy formulation and financial mobilization globally. As evident in climate change plans at the country level, market-based approaches put mitigation and adaptation far below national priorities and distort urgent development needs.

Climate finance should be from the people and for the people. For developing countries, climate finance can neither be any form of economic interest nor can it be aid. Rather, it is a compensatory, obligatory and rights-based public funding from developed countries which results from their responsibility to atone for historical pollution and to adhere with the principles of polluter pays and common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR).

For developing countries, climate finance is primarily about climate change adaptation, and private sources of climate finance are thus just meant to supplement public sources guided by the highest standards of accountability and transparency.

It is clear that climate finance cannot be driven by market forces and that there cannot be a justification whatsoever for a profit-oriented approach. This implies that non-UNFCCC climate finance mechanisms are a risk that must be avoided in the management of global climate change.

Moreover, international environmental governance principles must be observed and that public goods are protected from private interests.

Since it is true that climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution, then occasions like the Ban Ki-Moon Summit provide the right platform through which these principles can be affirmed especially by those who claim leadership at the international arena.

About the Author
Peter Solomon Gichira (@sologish) is a Poverty and Development expert whose research and advocacy focus is mainly on environmental and social exclusion. He is an environmental policy PhD candidate at the Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP) at the University of Nairobi. He is currently the Climate Change Programme Officer at the All Africa Conference of Churches, a member of the CPDE and the Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS) Global Partnership’s working groups on climate finance. He has more than 14 years of experience in the field of climate change policy.

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