COP 18 president Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah addresses a roomful of young delegates.
Credit: Sallie Shatz – Courtesy of COP 18
The Big Fight in Doha Is Over Climate Finance
By Stephen Leahy
Financing for the Green Climate Fund is the subject
of heated discussions at the climate change talks
taking place in the capital of Qatar.
DOHA, Dec 3 (Tierramérica).- The new Green Climate Fund to help developing
countries cope with climate change may one day
have a bigger budget than the World Bank. At the
moment, however, the Fund is empty.
No financial pledges have been made even though
the Fund is supposed to begin dispensing money in
"Finance is at the heart of negotiations here,"
said Oxfam International climate change policy
advisor Tim Gore on the sidelines of the UN
climate change negotiations at the 18th meeting of
the Conference of Parties to the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 18),
taking place in the capital of Qatar until Dec. 7.
"The issue has come to a head in Doha. Developing
countries are bitter and saying rich
industrialized countries are once again failing to
deliver on their promises," Gore told
"The NGO community is calling on the COP president
to convene a special roundtable on finance next
week during the high-level segment," he said.
Without that call by COP president Abdullah bin
Hamad Al-Attiyah of Qatar, many ministers will
arrive next week without the authority to do
anything on finance. "I doubt the meeting will be
successful without this," added Gore.
In 2009, at COP 15 in Copenhagen, "developing
countries bought into the sales pitch" by
industrialized countries that they would get
financial help beginning in 2013 and ramping up to
100 billion dollars a year in new and additional
funding by 2020, said Gore.
In exchange for getting this Green Climate Fund –
officially adopted at the following COP, in Cancún
– they signed on to the Copenhagen Accord, a U.S.-
backed voluntary emission reduction agreement.
This was a big compromise. Not only did developing
countries want a legally binding agreement, they
wanted larger emission reduction commitments from
industrialized nations and they wanted a lot more
money to help them cope with the impacts of
climate change, said Gore.
To bridge the gap between 2010 and 2012, developed
countries also agreed to a “Fast Start Finance”
program of 30 billion dollars.
But not all of that promised money has been
delivered, and most of it was in the form of
loans, not grants. Moreover, much of the money was
not new or additional, but came out of development
aid, said Nithika Mwenda of the Pan African
Climate Justice Alliance.
Tracking a country's actual contribution to Fast
Start Finance and where the money has come from is
extremely complex, Mwenda said in a press
The Green Climate Fund must have clear reporting
and verification measures along with a forum to
independently oversee this, he said.
Should the promised billions for the Fund
materialize, this might simply be more bad news
for the world's indigenous peoples if the money
goes into massive tree plantations or mega-dams
that end up displacing local communities, said
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an indigenous
representative from the Philippines.
"We will be in big trouble if the money goes into
the wrong projects," Tauli-Corpuz told
The Green Climate Fund is creating environmental
and social safeguards intended to prevent this.
However, the involvement of indigenous peoples and
civil society is limited.
The Fund is run by a board of 24 representatives,
12 each from industrialized and developing
nations. There are four observers, two for civil
society and two for private industry. Observers
cannot vote and are often not allowed inside the
room where the board meets, said Mrinal Kanti, a
Tripura indigenous person from Bangladesh who has
attended meetings as an observer.
"We don't even get documents in advance. That
makes it very difficult for us to participate,"
Kanti said at a COP 18 side event. "Many board
members are unaware of indigenous issues."
Strong safeguards will also need to be combined
with monitoring and verification and a "grievance"
mechanism accessible to local people should a
Green Climate Fund-financed project be having a
negative impact, said Nira Amerasinghe of the
Centre for International Environmental Law.
"Participation by indigenous people is key. The
draft rules are very poor right now," Amerasinghe
There is also a major issue around the Fund’s
governance. Industrialized countries want the
board to run it, while developing countries think
it should be under the UNFCCC, which gives every
country an equal vote, said Tauli-Corpuz.
"What is happening at this COP is that rich
countries are withholding pledges to fund the
Green Climate Fund to see what concessions they
can get from developing countries," she said.
"The biggest fight at most of these COPs is over
money," she added.
Costa Rica takes a different view. "We're not
waiting. Acting to reduce our emissions has been
very good for our economy," said Monica Araya, a
member of the Costa Rican negotiating team.
Since 2007 Costa Rica has been working towards the
goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2021.
This small Central American country is sometimes
criticized by other developing countries for
taking ambitious steps outside of the UNFCCC
process. "It is can be frustrating here," Araya
said in a press briefing.
"There is no question rich countries should do
more. But we have to find more countries willing
to compromise and put their national interests
aside," she said.
"It is not well recognized, but developing
countries have made unprecedented efforts to
reduce emissions in 2012. We can do far more,
especially middle-income countries, if we work
together," she maintained.