Rich countries are falling behind on their pledges to help the poor world tackle the climate crisis, new research has shown, on the eve of a meeting of the finance ministers of the G7 industrialised economies.
The UK and the US are the only two G7 countries to have set out proposals to increase climate finance in recent months, according to a report by Care Denmark, a member of the international NGO network. Climate finance is used by poor countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, for instance through investment in clean energy generation, and to adapt to the impacts of extreme weather such as floods and droughts.
Care found, in a report called Hollow Commitments: An analysis of developed countries’ climate finance plans, that most G7 countries have still made no new commitments on climate finance, despite a pledge by the developed world made in 2009 to provide $100bn (£70bn) a year to developing countries by 2020, which has not been met.
Finance ministers of the G7 will discuss the climate crisis, alongside US proposals for a global minimum tax on business, and ways to give poor countries access to Covid-19 vaccines, at a meeting on Friday hosted by the UK, which holds this year’s revolving G7 presidency. The main G7 summit will take place next week in Cornwall, from 11 to 13t June.
Campaigners have warned that if the G7 does not increase climate finance, poor countries will be left vulnerable to disaster as extreme weather takes hold, and dependent on investments in fossil fuels offered by countries including Russia, China and oil-rich nations. They are also concerned that much current climate finance is in the form of loans on which interest must be paid, and said increasing climate finance was a key condition of success for this year’s Cop26 UN climate talks, scheduled for Glasgow in November.
Brandon Wu, director of policy and campaigns for ActionAid USA, called on the world’s biggest economy to provide more finance. Donald Trump cancelled most of the US’s climate finance commitments when he was president, but his successor, Joe Biden, in April announced a doubling of climate finance from its pre-Trump levels, to $5.7bn by 2024.
Wu called for much more. “The climate finance plans and budget requests that we have seen from the [Biden] administration to date fall far short of what is needed,” he said. “Many US groups and members of Congress are calling for an $800bn commitment through 2030 as a down payment on the US fair share of climate finance. This is the scale we need to be talking about to have any chance of avoiding the worst impacts of the climate crisis.”
Jan Kowalzig, senior policy adviser on climate change at Oxfam Germany, urged the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, to set an example. “The G7 summit is Merkel’s last chance to double German annual climate finance between now and 2025, allocating 50% to adaptation. Otherwise, Germany must shoulder the collective failure of developed countries to deliver on the $100bn.”
The UK government has also faced sharp criticism for the decision by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak – who will host Friday’s G7 finance ministers meeting – to slash overseas development aid from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5% of GDP.
Catherine Pettengell, interim director of Climate Action Network UK, called on the government to change its stance on aid cuts. “As host of G7 and Cop26, the UK has the responsibility to ensure the G7 delivers urgent, fair and just action on climate finance for countries least responsible for causing the climate emergency,” she said. “This must mean a collective agreement by G7 countries to increase climate finance, especially grant-based finance for adaptation.
“To have credibility in calling on others to increase climate finance, the UK must urgently reverse its devastating aid budget cuts and instead champion a scale-up of support for those who need it most.”
A Cop26 spokesperson said: “As president of both the G7 and Cop26, the UK will use this month’s G7 summit to urge countries to set out how they will increase their climate finance and show that we are all acting to meet the vital $100bn-a-year goal.
“In particular we want to see increased finance for nature and solutions to help developing countries adapt to climate change. “The UK has already shown leadership by doubling its international climate finance to £11.6bn over the period 2021 to 2025 to help developing nations.”