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Africa: Time to Pay for Climate "Loss and Damage"

AfricaFocus Bulletin
November 18, 2013 (131118)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"The U.S. delegation negotiating at the U.N. international climate change conference in Poland is pushing an agenda of minimising the role of "Loss and Damage" in the UNFCCC framework, prioritising private finance in the Green Climate Fund, and delaying the deadline for post-2020 emission reduction commitments, according to a State Department negotiating strategy which IPS has seen." Inter Press Service

The massive typhoon in the Philippines, coming only days before the latest global climate talks in Warsaw, has highlighted several bitter truths:

  • the future of massive "loss and damage" from climate change is not just future -- it's already here;
  • the loss and damage is concentrated on the most vulnerable people and regions of the world, precisely those least responsible for the historical emissions which are the principal cause; and
  • rich countries and multinational corporations are strongly resisting the necessary urgent actions, which include not only drastic cuts in their their high per capita emissions from fossil fuels but also paying their just share of the damage - the "climate debt."

As the delegate of the Philippines went on hunger strike at the Warsaw talks (see a video of his powerful speech at, government and non-governmental organizations from Africa, such as the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) were also speaking more loudly in Warsaw. Activists around the world are stepping up direct actions against fossil fuel companies, placing little faith in international conferences. Even though resistance to action is still the dominant trend, The need to pay the "climate debt" is moving higher on the international agenda.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several recent short reports on the subject of climate finance, reports from Warsaw by the Inter Press Service and the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and excerpts from a report from Oxfam International on the failed promises of climate financing to date.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on environmental and climate issues, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

U.S. Fights G77 on Most Counts at Climate Meet, Leaked Doc Shows

By Claudia Ciobanu / direct URL:

Warsaw, Nov 14 2013 (IPS) - The U.S. delegation negotiating at the U.N. international climate change conference in Poland is pushing an agenda of minimising the role of "Loss and Damage" in the UNFCCC framework, prioritising private finance in the Green Climate Fund, and delaying the deadline for post-2020 emission reduction commitments, according to a State Department negotiating strategy which IPS has seen.

The document, which has been leaked to a pair of journalists covering the Nov. 11-22 COP in Warsaw, outlines the U.S. strategy for the negotiations to diplomats at their various embassies as well as 'talking points' for them to push with their respective countries before the talks began.

The paper makes it clear that, despite President Barack Obama's progressive stances on climate issues over the past year, the U.S. continues to pose difficulties to closing an international global climate deal by strongly resisting the concept of historical responsibility for emissions and positioning itself in opposition to developing countries on the main issues at stake.

COP19 started this year under the shadow of the Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines which put a tragic emphasis on what was anyway going to be one of the main issues to be debated here in Warsaw: the so-called "Loss and Damage" - that is, assistance for countries that are already hit by the devastating effects of climate change (what is already "beyond adaptation").

Loss and Damage is a relatively new issue on the public agenda of COP meetings: it was in Doha at COP18 last year that negotiators decided to establish in the future a mechanism for dealing with LD.

On Nov. 12, the developing countries' group G77+China made a public submission to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with their proposal for what an international mechanism for Loss and Damage under the UNFCCC framework could look like and how it could function. This would now constitute the basis for further negotiations here.

But according to the U.S. State Department position, any work on Loss and Damage should be done under the already existing framework for dealing with adaptation to climate change, not as a third, separate pillar (in addition to the two existing ones, mitigation and adaptation), as the G77+China submission requests.

"A third pillar," says the U.S. position, "would lead the UNFCCC to focus increasingly on blame and liability which in turn could be counterproductive from the standpoint of public support for the conference.

"We are strongly in favour of creating an institutional arrangement on loss and damage that is under the Convention's adaptation track, rather than creating a third stream of action that's separate from mitigation and adaptation," writes the leaked U.S. document.

The U.S. fears an increased "focus on liability" during the international negotiations on climate because that would de facto translate into an admission of historical responsibility by developed countries for emissions leading to climate change and a subsequent legal obligation to pay a price for this responsibility.

The issue of historical responsibility for emissions has been one of the main bones of contention, if not the main one, over successive COP meetings.

Yet for most developing countries coming to Warsaw, particularly for small island states and the least developed countries, making solid progress on Loss and Damage is a key point on their agenda.

"And if we have failed to meet the objective of the Convention [i.e., preventing anthropogenic climate change], we have to confront the issue of loss and damage," said Philippine head of delegation Yeb Sano in his emotional introductory speech at the COP.

"Loss and damage from climate change is a reality today across the world. Developed country emissions reductions targets are dangerously low and must be raised immediately, but even if they were in line with the demand of reducing 40-50 percent below 1990 levels, we would still have locked-in climate change and would still need to address the issue of loss and damage," he said.

"Loss and Damage has been causing very intense discussions," said Chinese negotiator Su Wei during a briefing Nov. 14. "It will all depend on the political will of developed countries, if they are going to take action to assume responsibility for the emissions they historically produced."

When it comes to the Green Climate Fund, meant to assist developing countries with adaptation and mitigation and on whose set-up and financing progress is expected in Warsaw, the U.S. position writes, "We're also working to intensify our coordination in the context of the Green Climate Fund board to shape an institution that could leverage private investment more effectively than any other multilateral climate fund."

Yet some developing countries are extremely wary of financial assistance promised by developed countries being translated into private investments as opposed to grants and aid.

"Already in the pre-COP summit organised by Poland, one and a half days out of three were dedicated to companies which were there to present to developing countries technology which they could buy to help with mitigation," said Rene Orellana, head of the Bolivian delegation, on the first day of the COP. "Linking markets to the financial provisions [under UNFCCC] means a diluted responsibility for developed countries."

Finally, the U.S. position might turn out to pose problems to the European Union as well, because when it comes to post-2020 emission reductions, it says, "There is divergence [among the parties negotiating] on when Parties will put forward initial commitments and the timing of the conclusion of the future agreement, with the U.S. pushing for early 2015 while the EU wants commitment on the table in September 2014."

COP19 in Warsaw is supposed to advance negotiations both when it comes to setting up a mechanism for post-2020 emission reductions by countries across the globe and to tightening current emission targets of developed countries (2020 targets are deemed insufficient to keep the world on track for two degrees as a target maximum temperature rise).

On post-2020 emissions, a consensus is emerging that countries would present emission pledges before COP21 in Paris 2015 (when a new international climate agreement is expected to be signed) which would then be assessed for appropriateness in light of what is needed to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius.

Coming forward with emission pledges in early 2015, for which the U.S. is pushing, would mean giving less time for an international review of the appropriateness of the pledges, especially a review that could happen at the COP20 in Peru, a host that could potentially be tougher on developed countries.

Responding today to the leaking of the draft, the U.S. delegation in Warsaw told the Indian newspaper The Hindu: "The U.S. is dedicated to achieving an ambitious, effective and workable outcome in the UNFCCC and in Warsaw, and our positions are designed to further this goal. We are engaging with all countries to find solutions that will give momentum to the effort to tackle climate change."

Africans seek clarity on climate finance at Warsaw talks

Thomson Reuters Foundation - 14 Nov 2013

Author: Elias Ntungwe Ngalame

Warsaw (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - African negotiators and climate activists have called on wealthy nations at U.N. climate talks in Warsaw to say how they willl boost funding for African and other developing states to adapt to climate change and pursue green growth.

"African governments need access to climate funds. These funds are needed for climate adaptation, mitigation and technology transfer, capacity building and forest conservation," Joseph Armathe Amougou, head of the Cameroon delegation at the climate conference, told Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Most of the money promised is still to be made available by donors and we think Warsaw is the place for a decision to be taken.''

Other African representatives said climate impacts are multiplying in many developing nations like the typhoon-hit Philippines, underlining the need to protect vulnerable states from rising risks of extreme weather.

"We have just listened and watched with horror what has happened in the Philippines, and we know that similar impacts of climate change are ravaging many other countries in Africa - with attendant loss of lives, property and means of livelihood eroded on a daily basis," said Augustine Njamnshi of the Cameroon branch of the Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme, an Africafocused NGO.

"Heavy floods in the Far North region of Cameroon in 2012, for example, claimed over 250 lives, leaving families and the government helpless," he added.

The World Bank estimates that $30-100 billion will be needed to finance climate adaptation annually by 2030, and an additional $140-175 billion will be required for mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Developed nations have promised to mobilise $100 billion a year for these two purposes by 2020, up from around $10 billion in annual "fast start" climate finance from 2010 to 2012.

"The sums required are significantly larger than the pledged $100 billion by the year 2020," said a statement setting out the position of African civil society for the U.N. negotiations. "Developed countries have agreed to maintain average finance levels - roughly $10 billion a year - which they provided during 2010-2012, until 2015. But they have made no pledges for 2015-2020, leaving a five-year gap."

'Murky Money'

A separate report published by aid group Oxfam on Monday said poor countries have little idea about what money is available to help them cope with climate change, because of murky accounting methods and a lack of transparency by rich countries.

The report revealed that 24 developed countries have still not confirmed their climate finance for this year, and for 2014, donor governments that together provided around four fifths of fast start funding have still not announced any figures. Only Britain has announced its plans for climate finance in 2015.

Oxfam estimates that the climate finance contributions claimed by developed countries in 2013 total $16.3 billion so far, although actual net budget allocations may be closer to $7.6 billion as some donor countries have counted loans that will be repaid to them.

The report calls on rich countries to make clear in Warsaw what money is available now and the future. Only the United States, the European Union, Japan and New Zealand have adhered to a commitment made at last year's Doha talks to say how they will increase funding to reach their share of the $100 billion a year promised by 2020.

"Uncertainty from one year to the next makes it impossible for vulnerable countries to take the action they need to protect their citizens," said Oxfam's climate change spokesperson Kelly Dent. "This murkiness will only heighten distrust around the negotiating table."

Climate finance is the key to unlocking barriers to climate action across the African continent, African activists said.

''Climate-vulnerable, least developed countries need increased finance to adapt to the impacts of climate change. How will these resource-poor countries adapt without the necessary funds in place? '' asked Mithika Mwenda, secretary general of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA).

Sharing the 'Emissions Budget'

African negotiators and campaigners also called on rich nations to cut their climate-changing emissions more deeply.

"We demand that developed countries fulfill and implement their commitments under the U.N. climate convention, in order to fairly share the necessary 'emissions budget', and avoid catastrophic climate change impacts," Mwenda said.

Habtemariam Abate of the Ethiopian Civil Society Network on Climate Change agreed with the concept of an "emissions budget", raised in a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which estimated a limit to the cumulative amount of carbon dioxide the world can emit if it wants to keep global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

"Africans expect governments to stand firm on setting an emissions budget, as recommended by the IPCCC. They must then share this budget fairly, based on historical responsibility and capacities," Abate said.

In line with this approach, African civil society groups also set out proposals on how to deliver energy access to those who lack it, while avoiding the use of dirty fossil fuels. They also recommended the adoption of a globally funded feed-in tariff, which could encourage the development of renewable energy.

"Warsaw should be the place and moment for the world to choose clean over dirty energy, and Africa will be championing this choice. The best (climate) agreement on Earth won't make a difference without implementation in the real world. That's why one of the clear outcomes in Warsaw must be the drastic scaling up of climate finance and technology transfer," PACJA said in a paper presented to journalists.

After the Fast Start: Climate finance in 2013 and beyond: An examination of developed countries' climate finance provisions

Oxfam Media Briefing

11 November 2013 Ref: 08/2013

Excerpts: full report available at / direct URL:

Key findings

Following the end of the 'fast start finance' period, most developed countries are now failing to demonstrate promised increases. Based on confirmed figures, there is no confidence that climate finance is on an increasing trend towards the 2020 promise. The current picture for 2013 and beyond:

  • Many developed countries have failed to provide clarity on how much finance is available for 2013, including Australia and Canada. Only very few countries can demonstrate increases (e.g. UK and Germany). Regarding 2014, the situation is even worse. Countries that previously contributed 81 per cent of 'fast start' finance have yet to confirm their planned climate finance levels for 2014. Almost no country has said anything about 2015.
  • At last year's UN climate talks in Doha, developed countries made announcements of 8.4 billion USD in climate finance for 2013. Additional information since then means that publicly indicated finance now adds up to around 16.3 billion USD, though the actual net budget allocations may be closer to 7.6 billion USD as some countries have counted loans that will be repaid.
  • Major uncertainties make it impossible to compare this year's commitments to previous years. The 2013 figure only appears to indicate that developed countries have maintained or even increased climate finance compared to the fast start period. Instead, many countries are now including a lot more in their figures than they did during the fast start period. This is further complicated by opaque accounting methods, lack of data and other uncertainties.
  • Most countries' climate finance levels appear to have either plateaued or even decreased. Much of what is seen as climate finance is redirected from aid budgets, or climate-related development aid, which is not principally focused on climate action.
  • Developed countries have so far failed to provide credible plans on how they are going to meet the 100 billion USD goal, despite agreeing at last year's UN climate talks to provide relevant information to that end.

Climate Finance in 2013 and beyond

Two key commitments helped to save the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen from disaster: 1) Developed countries agreed to provide 30 billion USD over the course of 20102012 as 'fast start' finance to help developing countries in the fight against climate change and, 2) they further committed to mobilise 100 billion USD a year by 2020.

The fast start period has come to an end. While perhaps successful in terms of spurring action on climate change in many countries, in most cases it failed to live up to the promise of being 'new and additional'. The focus has now turned to the long-term goal of ramping up climate finance to 100 billion USD a year by 2020.

With the 2020 deadline fast approaching, discussions both inside and outside the UN have increasingly started to focus on mobilising private finance to help meet the 100 billion goal USD. This overlooks the critical role of public finance both in supporting the adaptation needs of the world's most vulnerable communities, as well as in shifting private sector investment towards low- carbon and climate-resilient development.

At stake are the lives and livelihoods of poor and vulnerable communities on the front lines of the climate crisis, already grappling with the impacts of global warming around the world. They urgently need promised assistance to adapt essential livelihoods systems to a changing climate, especially food production. Developing countries also need promised support to put their economies on emissions pathways that allow the world to avoid warming of more than the 2 degrees C limit set in Copenhagen, let alone the 1.5ºC that is seen as the maximum warming acceptable to the most vulnerable populations and for small and low-lying island nations.

The 2013-2015 period is a litmus test for developed countries' commitment to scaling-up climate finance towards the 2020 goal. So far, most of them have failed this test. Last year's UN climate talks ended without clarity on the overall level of climate finance they intend to provide in the immediate future, just before Warsaw the situation has not changed.

Climate finance in 2013: Going up or down?

In Doha a handful of European countries publicly announced their plans for climate finance in 2013 and in some cases for 2014 as well. While these announcements were no more than a matter of revealing existing plans and budgets, they were welcomed as a sign of goodwill. Most developed countries, including the US, Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand, remained silent, casting doubt over whether they intend to live up to their commitments.

Such announcements correspond to 8.4 billion USD of finance in 2013. Since the Doha climate talks in 2012, more information has become available from a few more countries, but even after Oxfam had made direct enquiries to governments, information is still lacking from many countries. The information that can be found is often fragmented and plagued by the lack of common definitions and accounting practices, allowing some countries to count loans at face value, while other countries count their actual budget allocations; yet other countries would include not only finance specifically earmarked to fund climate action but also development assistance "with climate co-benefits" in their figures.

Irrespective of such questionable accounting methods, Oxfam estimates a total of 16.3 billion USD of finance for 2013, either announced in Doha or based on publicly indicated figures since then, though the actual net budget allocations may be closer to 7.6 billion USD as some countries have counted loans that will be repaid. While the analysis does not include information for all developed countries, it does cover those that made announcements in Doha or have been key providers of fast start finance 2010-2012.

Yet with this overall number it is impossible to assess whether developed countries are actually increasing climate finance following the end of the fast start period. When looking at individual countries, the situation looks grim. With the exception of a couple of countries (including Germany and the UK) that have increased contribution levels, developed country commitments appear to have plateaued at best or even decreased, with the US Special Envoy for Climate Change downplaying expectations that much-needed assistance will increase anytime soon in line with promises made.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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