Finance is the key to keeping climate talks afloat

Without money to make sure countries can afford to curb emissions, our global life raft will sink.

davao flooding
Flooding in Davao City, Philippines. Image: Jeff Pioquinto SJ, CC BY-SA 2.0 via IFPR Flickr

The world seems to finally be waking up to the fact we are in the midst of a climate emergency, whether it be the UK Parliament declaring it in Westminster, Sir David Attenborough stating it on the BBC or the UK Government announcing plans for going net-zero by 2050.

The world’s leading climate change and biodiversity scientists have clearly laid out the climactic and ecological crisis we’re facing.

Although this issue is finally getting the public attention it deserves, the good news is there is already a plan in place, albeit an inadequate one; the Paris Agreement. Signed in 2015 in the French capital, it was a triumph of diplomacy and global collaboration.

A series of national plans were submitted by each nation with these pledges to be strengthened and improved on every five years. As well as plans to cut national emissions, richer nations also acknowledged that poorer countries would need financial help to forgo the dirty development that has caused this climate emergency and switch to cleaner, safer forms of energy and infrastructure, whilst also adapting to the inevitable climate impacts.

Analysis conducted by the International Justice Initiative, shows that developing countries need more than $4.4 trillion to fund their national climate plans. While not all of this is expected to be provided through international climate finance, the funding need of developing countries is far greater than the $100 billion per year that rich countries have pledged to mobilise by 2020.

This funding is the lifeblood that will keep the Paris Agreement alive and kicking. The $100 billion promised so far is not linked to the actual needs of developing countries, so countries must now lay the ground for a new target for climate finance that takes into account the actual needs of developing countries, particularly those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

One place where part of this vital money is channelled through is the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The GCF is more than just a fund. It is a vision, agreed by countries of the UN climate body, for how the world can come together to address our gravest challenge. It’s the most important financial entity within the UN climate body that helps countries address climate change. Certainly, in this climate emergency the GCF is one of our life rafts to safety.

But this life boat is running low and we need to see the GCF coffers filled this year. Climate campaigners have called for all initial pledges to be at least doubled – this is an important down payment. Truth be told, this level of funding is a tiny drop in the ocean in the context of ongoing climate change and the actual funding required to tackle it. But it is an essential injection of public money that can help countries take more ambitious climate action.

The GCF is more than just a fund. It is a vision, agreed by countries of the UN climate body, for how the world can come together to address our gravest challenge.

Yet so far only Germany and Norway have led the way and announced that they would double their original contribution. The UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Rory Stewart, has said that he wants to see the UK increasing its climate funding contribution, but so far France has not committed money to the fund so if President Macron wants to see the Paris Agreement live up to its name he must step up to the plate and commit to its success.

According to WRI’s replenishment contributions calculator, France, UK, Japan, Sweden, and Canada have an important role to play in a successful GCF replenishment. So do Australia and the US who are currently shirking their financial responsibilities – under Trump, the United States cancelled $2 billion of its $3 billion pledge.

This week countries are meeting in Bonn for the latest round of climate talks. This is a vital opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris Agreement and the international cooperation required to support those on the front-line of climate change, and to the most important financial entity of the UN Climate body, by making ambitious pledges to the replenishment of the Fund to contribute to the success of the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

We also need the GCF to be a top priority at this September’s special summit being hosted by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres himself in New York. He’s requesting heads of state arrive with new climate commitments, but so far finance, particularly for adaptation, has been neglected.

Raising climate ambition must include a focus on delivering on earlier commitments of providing the $100 billion annually by 2020 and a commitment for this scaled up massively thereafter. If we can’t sort out the support for the GCF and the implementation of the Paris pledges, how can we expect developing countries to raise their national ambition?

This financial input is not a nice optional extra, it’s the fundamental ingredient to ensure poor countries can continue to implement their national climate plans in line with the Paris Agreement and strengthen them to be compatible with the latest Special IPCC report on Global Warming of 1.5C.

Without it our global life raft will sink.

Mohamed Adow is the global climate lead at Christian Aid. 

This story was published with permission from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit

Like this content? Join our growing community.

Your support helps to strengthen independent journalism, which is critically needed to guide business and policy development for positive impact. Unlock unlimited access to our content and members-only perks.

Most popular

Featured Events

Publish your event
leaf background pattern

Transforming Innovation for Sustainability Join the Ecosystem →