Climate finance hopes for poor nations shift to G7 summit as Merkel disappoints

Germany and Britain are piling pressure on other G7 nations to boost the funding they provide for climate action in developing countries this decade, even though Germany did not offer more finance at an international gathering last week.

Ahead of last week’s Petersberg Climate Dialogue, climate and development experts and former U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon had urged Germany to commit to doubling its public climate finance by 2025 to an annual €8 billion ($9.6 billion), up from about €4 billion now.

But outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel said only that Germany’s total climate support — including public and private sources of money — had reached nearly €7.6 billion in 2019.

She described that as a “fair contribution” and did not indicate the level of finance Germany would provide beyond 2020.

But she said she agreed with Britain that “we need to look ahead. … We need to do more internationally, because the need — particularly in developing countries — is enormous.”

There has been growing consternation that wealthy governments have so far failed to deliver the $100 billion a year they promised to raise for vulnerable countries starting in 2020.

The latest figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show flows of about $79 billion in 2018.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Thursday’s ministerial dialogue that at the June G7 summit, chaired by Britain, he hoped to secure a “substantial pile of cash” to help poorer nations start a green industrial revolution and withstand the worsening impacts of climate change.

“We simply must meet our existing commitments on climate finance, that long-overdue $100-billion-a-year target, and then we must go further still,” he said by video link.

He noted that Britain — which will also host November’s COP26 climate summit — had already pledged to double the climate finance it will provide over the coming five years to at least £11.6 billion ($16.1 billion) for that period.

But his government has been widely criticized for temporarily cutting its broader overseas aid spending, under fiscal pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Merkel noted on Thursday that while industrialized countries faced huge holes in their budgets, they should not shirk their international responsibilities by reducing contributions for development aid, climate protection or multilateral bodies.

The United States said last month it would double its international public climate finance to about $5.7 billion a year by 2024.

Even as wealthy governments lag on meeting their $100-billion-a-year climate finance promise, talks are due to start at COP26 on a higher annual finance goal to kick in after 2025.

Merkel said she had discussed that effort with Johnson and “Germany is ready to do its fair share in order to make a new financing target for the post-2025 period possible.”

She also called for an agreement at COP26 to phase out financing for coal power plants around the world, with the money instead directed to renewable energy.

Jan Kowalzig, senior climate policy adviser for aid charity Oxfam Deutschland, said the lack of fresh cash from Germany was a “deep disappointment” and “failed responsibility,” urging it to pledge to double its funding by 2025 at the G7 summit.

“Chancellor Angela Merkel had the chance to demonstrate Germany’s solidarity with developing countries at the forefront of the climate crisis — and she blew it,” Kowalzig said in emailed comments.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Petersberg dialogue the G7 summit would be “a pivotal moment” for wealthy governments to honor their unmet climate finance promises.

“I call on the leaders of the G7 to take the lead, with other developed countries following, to make substantial climate finance pledges for the coming five years. For some, this means at least doubling their latest climate commitments,” he added.

He also made a strong appeal for donors to boost the amount of money they provide to help vulnerable communities become more resilient to worsening climate-linked disasters. That spending currently falls far short of what experts say is needed.

“I remain deeply worried about the lack of progress on adaptation. Already people are dying in big numbers, farms are failing, millions face displacement,” the U.N. chief said.

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