Island nations seek new climate fund worth trillions of dollars

Vulnerable states fire starting gun on tricky funding talks at UN climate negotiations in Germany

A ship visits sinking islands in the Philippines, one of the coastal states threatened by rising sea levels. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Island nations at risk of disappearing are asking rich countries to put trillions of dollars into the fight against climate change.

A proposal by a group of island states calls for a vast new funding pledge with a 2035 deadline.

They say wealthy countries should share out the cost based on their historical contribution to global warming.

It paves the way for what are set to be tough negotiations culminating at the Cop29 climate summit in November.

The Azerbaijan summit has been described as a “finance Cop”, where a new funding pledge is expected to be agreed.

An early round of talks at UN climate headquarters in Bonn, Germany, has heard it should go far beyond a previous $100 billion goal.

Although rich countries provided $115 billion in 2022, they hit the target two years late in what became a major grievance in UN talks.

"This delay has significant implications for vulnerable nations, which have borne the brunt of climate impacts with insufficient financial support," said Thibyan Ibrahim, a negotiator from the Maldives.

"The impacts of climate change are already causing irreparable harm to our economies, our ecosystems and our livelihoods.”

The costs involved in fighting climate change include a massive expansion of clean energy agreed to at Cop28 in the UAE last year.

Vulnerable countries also want more money to go on resilience against climate threats that it may be too late to prevent.

How much?

No exact figure has been proposed for the new funding goal but it ought to be an "order of magnitude larger" than the previous $100 billion, said Mark Lutes of the worldwide Fund for Nature.

"We know that the numbers are in the multiple trillions about the total amount of finance needed that has to come from somewhere," he told The National.

A draft text circulated by the 39-member Alliance of Small Island states on Wednesday gives a place holder figure in trillions of dollars, suggesting a huge increase.

Various suggestions for calculating it include adding up the costs for developing countries or earmarking a share of the rich world's GDP.

However, the headline sum is not the only area of debate.

The island state proposal calls for ring-fencing shares of the money for cutting emissions, preparedness and disaster response.

Funding for adaptation to a hotter world rose to $32.4 billion in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's latest count, but made up only 28 per cent of the total.

The draft calls for a 2035 deadline, with an opportunity to raise the funding target in 2030 - while others have floated a longer-term 2050 goal.

It says the funding must be "new and additional", addressing concerns about foreign aid budgets being rebadged as climate finance.

Who pays?

And on one of the most contentious questions - who pays? - it calls for the "burden-sharing" to be based on historical greenhouse gas emissions.

Negotiators from the rich world want to see more countries chipping in, reflecting their economic firepower and not just their historical role.

The US negotiating team believes it is time to move past a list of developed and developing countries drawn up when the UN climate process was born in the 1990s.

Germany has highlighted the role of private funds, which counted towards the previous $100 billion if they were "mobilised" by government action.

However, countries exposed to climate change are nervous about adding to their debt piles by drawing on lenders such as the World Bank.

"Every dollar we must borrow to recover from or address climate change creates a deeper dent in our development aspirations," Mr Ibrahim said.

The island state proposal would partly address this by requiring a certain share of the money to be direct "provision" rather than "mobilisation".

The UN has urged negotiators to move beyond vague drafts in Bonn and put "real options" on the table for Azerbaijan.

Samoa said it was “ready to engage” as diplomats try to trim down a sprawling list of options. One is a so-called “onion structure” in which the goal is split up into separate layers.

Britain said an initial UN text was “very difficult to engage with” while Norway said negotiators must leave Bonn with something “much better”.

“We feel that negotiations must be focused because to me it’s all about financing, financing and financing,” said Ugandan delegate Jacquiline Amongin, who represents a group of East African politicians.

“If we do not achieve the financing goal, and this money trickles down, we will remain having empty promises. And these empty promises have continuously been going on – we had the $100 billion.”

Azerbaijan's incoming Cop29 president said the 10-day Bonn talks are a "critical milestone" as he prepares to assume the UN climate mantle from the UAE.

"We must use every opportunity in the next two weeks to make progress on a new climate finance goal," Cop29 President-designate Mukhtar Babayev said.

Updated: June 05, 2024, 3:11 PM