Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels

by Lies Craeynest, Oxfam’s EU climate change expert

European funding to help poor countries adapt to a changing climate is dropping remarkably at a time when it needs to be scaled up in line with UN commitments and people are dealing with increasing impacts of extreme weather events.

As part of an assessment that shows significant cuts in development aid to poor nations, the OECD has just revealed that funding for programs mainly focused on helping developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change fell globally from $3.1 billion in 2010 to $1.8 billion in 2011. Although the OECD has not yet released climate finance figures for 2012, research by Oxfam suggests that levels of public climate finance did not improve last year.

European governments appear to have performed particularly badly, with funding falling from €1.4 billion in 2010 to €619 million in 2011. This shocking 55% drop should prompt renewed action at the Ministerial Meeting on Mobilizing Climate Finance in Washington and meetings of EU climate experts in Brussels next week.

At the 2009 Copenhagen talks, developed countries committed to provide climate finance balanced between adaption and emissions-mitigation programs, yet Oxfam analysis has shown that just 21% of funds have gone to adaptation. The EU’s Fast Start Finance has performed slightly better with a 30% destined for adaptation between 2010 and 2012 but is still far off a balanced 50% mark. OECD figures show that European targeted funding principally for mitigation purposes also declined by more than half in 2011.

In recent years, the climate finance conversation appears to have been increasingly focused on the role of the private sector in climate action in developing countries. But governments can’t leave it up to the private sector to fill the enormous adaptation funding shortfall. The private sector has mostly stayed away from funding some of the most important adaptation programs – which help people gain access to the water, food and basic services diminished by climate change – since they offer little or no short-term return on investment.

While at the UN climate talks in Doha last year, some EU governments like Germany and the UK made announcements on climate finance post the Fast Start Finance period (2010-2012), more substantial answers are now needed. The upcoming EU climate expert meetings as well as the subsequent ministerial meeting on climate finance hosted by the US should therefore not just discuss private finance, but also address the growing shortfalls in public finance. Now would be a good time for the EU to renew its resolve by pressing ahead with new sources of public finance, such as a carbon price on global shipping and aviation emissions or a Financial Transactions Tax.

The period between 2013 and 2015 will be crucial to deliver concrete results on climate finance, as a failure to do so may put at risk a global climate deal in 2015. Oxfam believes developed countries should act at the UN talks (COP19) this December in Poland on these three fronts:

  • First, they should ensure they do not come back empty handed but set out what public climate finance they will provide over the period 2013-2015, and towards 2020.
  • Second, they should pledge funds to the Green Climate Fund at the latest by the end of COP19.
  • Third, they should agree that at least 50% of all public climate finance between now and 2020 will be spent on adaptation.

With such an ambitious agenda to deliver, there is certainly no time to waste.

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