The rich countries responsible for causing climate change are shifting the burden of solving the problem to poorer countries, says Mithika Mwenda, Executive Director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), the continent’s umbrella organisation of grassroots environmental NGOs.
What does the term climate finance mean?
Climate finance refers to money raised, through various sources, public or private, to address climate change in various aspects; to support adaptation or mitigation, or to support capacity building for the people impacted.
The money raised could also go to support innovations and technological development as a way of building resilience to the growing impacts of climate change.
Climate finance is a central pillar of international negotiations spearheaded by the UN through its Framework Convention on Climate Change. The other pillars are adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer and capacity building.
Why has climate finance become so emotive?
Financing climate change action remains the most emotive feature in the international climate negotiations process. While all agree that trillions of dollars are required to address climate change, little has been raised to match the urgency of the crisis.
As climate change takes centre-stage in global diplomatic, political and economic interactions, it is becoming exceedingly clear that those who bear the highest responsibility to address it – the rich countries responsible for climate crisis – have incrementally transferred the burden of climate action to the victims of their actions.
Many climate finance Instruments have been established to address demands from various constituencies in the negotiations process. The latest, the Green Climate Fund, was established during the 16th session of the UNFCCC in Cancun, Mexico, after pressure from developing countries and civil society.
They wanted a dedicated mechanism to finance climate change, away from the World Bank and Bretton Woods institutions, which are not only bureaucratic, but also controlled by a few powerful states and transnational corporations. One key feature of the Green Climate Fund is the democratic practice in decision-making, where there is a balance between the north and south.
The Fund has so far received around $10bn from contributing countries, but this is way below what is required. Instead of putting money into the Fund, as was expected when it was being designed, the developed countries have largely ignored it and opted to channel their money through the systems they can control.
Ultimately, the Green Climate Fund may follow the direction of others which came before, which became major breakthrough ideas only to fall by the wayside.
In a nutshell, then, it is apparent that Africa has not adequately benefitted from all these Funds despite what the donor partners have claimed. Huge boulders have been erected on the continent’s effort to access these Funds, manifested by bureaucracies and strict access requirements.
Is there justice in climate finance?
Certainly not. The above background leads us to ask hard questions about where the responsibility lies to address climate change. It is injustice of the highest order that the rich countries who caused the climate crisis have decided to transfer the burden of action to the people who are suffering the consequences of their actions.
Is Africa getting a fair share of the global climate finance pool?
Definitely not and this is tragic – for the continent that faces the wrath of climate change impacts, and the region cited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as the most vulnerable, it should be automatic that it receives the largest share of these Funds. But, this is yet to happen as international dialogue on climate action remains a divisive issue in the global geopolitical landscape.