Climate ‘fiscal cliff’ looms for developing countries if leaders come to Doha with no new money

Published: 25th November 2012

New Oxfam research finds most climate finance pledges so far have been recycled funds or loans

After another year of extreme weather, developing countries face a looming climate ‘fiscal cliff’ at the end of 2012 with no clarity about how they will be supported to reduce emissions and adapt to the devastating impacts of climate change, international aid agency Oxfam said today ahead of the UN Climate Change negotiations in Doha, Qatar.

At the 2009 Copenhagen talks, developed countries committed to pay $100 billion per year by 2020 of climate finance and made a down payment of $30 billion for 2010 – 2012, called ‘Fast Start Finance.’ At the 2011 Cancun talks the Green Climate Fund was established to channel the $100 billion commitment. In just over a month, the Fast Start Finance period will end and the Green Climate Fund remains empty.

Oxfam today publishes new research on developed nations’ Fast Start Finance pledges. Despite an agreement in Copenhagen that climate finance would be ‘new and additional’, Oxfam estimates that only 33 per cent of Fast Start Finance can be considered new – the remainder of the money was pledged before the Copenhagen conference – and at most only 24 per cent was additional to existing aid promises.

Most of the money comes as loans

Just 43 per cent of known Fast Start Finance has been given as grants; most of it was in loans that developing countries have to repay at varying levels of interest. Only 21 per cent of known funds have been earmarked to support adaptation programs to help communities become more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Oxfam International Climate Change Policy Advisor Tim Gore said these funding shortfalls, extreme weather and the end of the Fast Start Finance period in December should force political leaders to work with urgency and ambition to increase climate finance in Doha.

“Developing countries are heading towards a climate ‘fiscal cliff’ without any certainty about how they will be supported to adapt to climate change after 2012 draws to a close,” Gore said.

New sources of funding

“There is a real danger that climate finance will be scaled down in 2013, at a time when it needs to be scaled-up.

“This year’s UN Climate Change negotiations come hot on the heels of Superstorm Sandy in the US, a disaster made more severe as a result of climate change.

“2012 also saw droughts in the US and Russia which caused world food prices to skyrocket, making it increasingly difficult for poor families in developing countries to put food on the table.

“Developed nations must find new sources of funding outside aid budgets to honor their $100 billion commitment without diverting money from other anti-poverty priorities like health and education.

Kyoto Protocol is at a crossroads

“Political leaders must genuinely consider propositions for new income streams, such as a scheme to reduce shipping emissions or new taxes on financial transactions in order to generate revenue for the Green Climate Fund.

“If leaders come to Doha with no new money, the Green Climate Fund risks being left as an empty shell for the third year in a row,” Gore said.

The Kyoto Protocol is also at a crossroads with its first commitment period finishing in 2012. Oxfam is also calling on leaders to adopt and finalize its second commitment period with rigorous rules and further measures to cut emissions.

Related links

Download the report: The looming climate ‘fiscal cliff’: An evaluation of Fast Start Finance and its lessons for the future

More on climate change

There is a real danger that climate finance will be scaled down in 2013, at a time when it needs to be scaled-up.
Tim Gore
Oxfam's Climate Change Policy Advisor

Contact information

Members of Oxfam’s delegation in Doha are available for interview.

For interviews or more information, please contact:

Sunita Bose, Oxfam International Economic Justice Media Lead, on +1 650 353 1936.