Limping to Paris
The Amazing Disappearing Climate Fund

The Paris climate summit might be dead before it even begins. That’s because a fund created by the last major climate meeting (the disastrous Copenhagen conference of 2009) meant to be paid into by the developed world and distributed to at-risk countries to deal with the effects of climate change remains, well, underfunded. That fund is supposed to reach $100 billion annually by 2020, but so far just $10.2 billion has been pledged towards that goal. That’s already unimpressive, but consider too that almost half of that pledged $10.2 billion hasn’t actually been paid, and that’s almost entirely because of the United States. With Congress holding the purse strings, it’s not looking likely that the U.S. is going to pony up for what many in the developing world consider an essential condition to signing on to any Global Climate Treaty. Reuters reports:

President Barack Obama had requested $500 million in the 2016 budget for the first tranche of its $3 billion pledge into a UN-administered Green Climate Fund (GCF) that would help poorer countries make a transition to clean energy technologies and adapt to climate change.

But Congressional Republicans have vowed to oppose that spending request, and the wider dispute between the President and Republicans over the federal budget has raised the possibility that Obama will not be able to guarantee that U.S. funding before the December summit. Some U.S. officials have started to warn island states and developing countries – among the fund’s main potential beneficiaries – of the looming shortfall. […]

So far, 43 percent of the $10.2 billion pledged to the climate fund has not been fulfilled, with the United States responsible for most of that shortcoming. “If there’s not a firm commitment to financing, there will be no accord, because the countries of the (global) south will reject it,” French President Francois Hollande said this month.

On the one hand, developed countries are wary of committing to a blank check to the rest of the world, to paying in to what could amount to a bottomless money pit for goodness knows how long. And on the other, poorer countries don’t want to sign on to a deal that puts green goals over economic growth without any sort of financial compensation. Both sides are entrenched in their positions, and it’s hard to see either budging enough to push a binding treaty through.

A fog of mistrust hangs over these talks already. The disparity in responsibilities for and exposure to climate change between the developed and the developing worlds is the largest problem negotiators have in front of them, and this $100 billion annual climate fund is a crucial component for papering over those differences. The fact that the rich world has not met the obligations poorer countries are demanding is bad news for anyone hoping for a breakthrough in Paris.

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