If negotiators want to spin their role in the Panama climate talks as a good, they could rightly point to the constructive atmosphere and having met their goal of drafting negotiating texts for higher-level talks in Durban later this year. They would probably steer you away from bigger picture questions like whether we’re now able to deal with climate change. That answer is still decidedly ‘no’. They’re making progress on crucial international tools for adaptation, technology transfer, and finance; but a huge missing piece is the resource to power those tools – namely, climate finance.
Shifting to a low-carbon economy is a massive undertaking. So is becoming resilient and adapting to the increases in extreme weather and changes to the climate already underway. Countries committed to mobilize $100 Billion in annual climate finance to do the job by 2020. But until October 6th, any conversation about how to scale up the sources of those promised and needed funds was blocked. Let’s be clear, 100B is a lot of money. It’s 2.5 times the yearly disbursement of the World Bank. So scaling up to that amount will be a challenge, and it’s only reasonable to expect to begin a formal discussion about how we’ll do it.
The US, who should be applauded for their commitment to contribute to that 100B, is pushing back on all efforts to discuss how it will happen. There is zero clarity on sources or the amount of climate finance available for 2013, 2014, 2015… let alone 2020 – blocking constructive discussion on how to raise that money is bad.
The EU has played a more constructive role, not only proposing ideas for climate finance, but breathing life into those ideas and actually raising money. They moved to put a price on aviation emissions in 2012; they’re investigating similar ideas for shipping. Both moves could generate large financial flows while making those sectors accountable for their contributions to the problem. Late on the second day of talks in Panama, they broke with the US, proposing a draft text for Durban that could mandate work on identifying actual sources of climate finance. Huge steps in the right direction.
While identifying sources for climate finance are a far cry from actually putting money on the table, it’s especially bad when countries push back against even talking about it. In spite of any concrete progress on building the tools we’ll need to address climate change, country’s should be judged by whether they’re identifying the resources needed to put those tools to work.
About the authorJoshua Wiese
Joshua Wiese is Adopt a Negotiator’s Project Director. He is based in San Francisco, where he spends most of his time thinking about how to use technology to make the world a better place.