Pacific nations continue push for climate finance

The United National Framework Convention on Climate Change 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) was held in Katowice, Poland from 3 to 14 December 2018.

Thousands of delegates from countries around the world met to continue discussions around climate change, the Paris Agreement and the creation of a 'rule book' to ensure all nations are on track to meet the agreement.

Calls for more climate finance for developing countries

Pacific leaders have long expressed their concerns about climate change and the current impacts on their nations.[1] For developing nations and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), climate finance is fundamental. 

Despite this, few new actions were announced in relation to finance at COP24. Private funds and philanthropy are picking up the slack and leading the way, particularly in the Pacific.

In an interview with Radio NZ the Cook Islands Director of Climate Change, Wayne King said Pacific countries needed better access to climate funding.

“For us in the Cook Islands, whatever we do here we need to translate that back home and how we address these particular issues,” he said.

“So climate finance is a critical component; the more inaction that's taking place, the higher the cost.”

Burkina Faso's Princess Abze Djigma told the United Nations that the availability of funding for climate action was still lagging for developing countries.

“The promises have been there but still, we don't have the funding available for least developing countries, small islands, that can allow them to implement their nationally determined contributions (NDCs),” she said.

“Because every country in Africa we sign up, we ratify. But at the end of the day, we are still waiting.”

Climate finance expert Harjeet Singh (ActionAid) spoke to the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation at COP24 on the importance of climate finance.

“Finance is central to everything that we are doing here in Poland, whether we talk about ambition; whether we talk about the rule book and the different aspects of the rule book; whether we talk about transformation that is required in our economies to make them much more greener or about dealing with impacts,” he said.

“The challenge is that we do not have sufficient money neither for the transformation of the economies, nor helping people deal with the impacts.

“Developing countries that do not have any role in causing the crisis are facing the most challenges. They are the ones dealing with the impacts right now on their own.” 

Green Climate Fund – is it enough?

In 2010, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established at COP16 in Mexico. The fund called for developed nations to contribute 100 billion dollars per year by 2020, to fund climate projects and programs in developing nations.

As of December 2018, GCF has a portfolio of 93 projects. The fund is already assisting mitigation and adaptation activities however, Mr Singh said the Pacific requires much more than the pledged amount.

“The impacts are going to run into trillions,” Mr Singh said.

“United Nations Environment came up with a report in 2016 saying we will need $US280 billion by 2030 every year and $US500 billion by 2050 every year.

“Now that's only for adaptation, but what about people who are losing their homes already?”

Mr Singh said there was a real need for a loss and damage fund under the UNFCCC Warsaw Mechanism for Loss and Damage.  

“We cannot just put loss and damage under the current hundred-million-dollar target — we have to have a separate fund and because this fund also requires a different way of working,” he said.

“Once developing nations are hit by a disaster, there has to be an automatic system of providing them support because it's about relief, it's about rehabilitation, it's about reconstruction of their homes and infrastructure.”

Philanthropy and the role of the private sector highlighted at COP

With countries still working towards meeting their initial pledges, there's a significant role to be played by the private sector and individuals.

A large amount of power sits in the hands of organisations, individuals and the private sector. Each have the ability to provide much-needed support in the fight against climate change.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) was founded in 1998 and has funded more than 200 projects since its beginning. The foundation has awarded more than 100 million dollars in grants and supported 132 organisations across 50 countries.

The LDF has made several contributions to climate finance in the Pacific. At COP23, the foundation partnered with the Fijian Government to bring renewable energy to rural communities across Fiji.

“The Fiji Rural Electrification Fund will bring affordable solar power and battery storage to communities with no electricity or that rely on pollution-emitting diesel generators,” the LDF website said.

On the first day of COP24 the World Bank announced a promise to double its commitment to $US200 billion for climate action investment.

Following the announcement, five international banks pledged to match their loan portfolios with global climate goals.

ING, BBVA, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered and Société Générale have pledged to use their lending portfolios to support the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The banks have a combined lending portfolio of 2.4 trillion euro which is equivalent to more than $A3.7tn.

They will transition to lending money to low-emission projects that are in line with the Paris Agreement - eventually meaning no more lending to coal developers and fossil fuel companies.

ING Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hamers said having more transparency and an industry-wide standard would help in the fight against climate change.

“Banks are becoming increasingly ready to take the bold steps needed to play our part in achieving a low-carbon economy,” Mr Hamers said.

“With a co-ordinated global effort… our impact will only become stronger.”

Views from the Pacific

Deputy director general of the Pacific Community Cameron Diver, told Radio New Zealand that the Pacific had always, and would continue to push for the most ambitious climate action.

“I think it's incumbent on us (the Pacific) to help the global community understand the urgency of actually trying,” Mr Diver said.

“Pacific Island countries show a huge amount of leadership here in carrying a message about effects that they've had very little to do with but actually they're the first victims of.”

In a speech at COP24 Vanuatu's Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu said the countries most responsible for climate change were interfering with negotiations on climate action.

Mr Regenvanu said he was extremely disappointed with the US and other developed nations.

“It pains me deeply to have watched the people of the United States and other developed countries across the globe suffering the devastating impacts of climate-induced tragedies,” he said.

“Their professional negotiators are here at COP24 putting red lines through any mention of loss and damage in the Paris guidelines and square brackets around any possibility for truthfully and accurately reporting progress against humanity's most existential threat.”

Mr Regenvanu told the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme that the issue of climate finance was a key negotiation issue at COP 24.

“Of course for us there is the issue of climate finance that is really one of the main issues that we are here to talk about.  We see that there is not enough commitment to the mechanisms that were agreed to in Paris to provide finance for countries like Vanuatu, not only for mitigation and adaptation but also for loss and damage.”

[1] Forty-Ninth Pacific Islands Forum Communique (2018) <https://www.un.org/humansecurity/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/49th-Pacific-Islands-Forum-Communiqu%C3%A9.pdf>

This climate change reporting exercise overseen by the USP Journalism Programme is part of the Pacific iCLIM Project - Phase 2. It involves four student journalists from USP and Griffith University. The Pacific iCLIM Project is a partnership project between Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and Griffith University, funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The Project aims to enable better climate change resilience and adaptation planning in the Pacific by improving the discoverability, storage, access, and utilisation of climate change data and information.

Erin Semmler recently graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism at Griffith University. The 21-year-old participated in a Climate Change Communication Study Tour to Vanuatu funded by the New Colombo Plan. Erin has a keen interest in the Pacific. She currently works as a reporter with the ABC.