Six years ago, at the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, things seemed to have taken a dire turn, with no solution in sight. Basically, no one really wanted to pledge anything significant. But then, Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, brought forth a proposal: advanced nations would put forth $100 billion by 2020 to support developing countries ensure a sustainable development and limit the effects of climate change as much as possible.The money was to come from “a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.” Now, we’re halfway through that time frame, a new climate summit is just around the corner in Paris, and the money still isn’t coming.
“Financing is the most challenging aspect of the whole deal,” Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, told me over the summer. “There is no credible road map to the $100 billion.”
In other words, the money was promised, but without a plan on how it will actually be provided… only the promise remains; and some while some countries are making extraordinary efforts, some (most notably, the US, aren’t).
Show me the money!
Traditionally, the US has been the biggest investor in poor countries and poor areas across the world, but in recent years, their role has diminished more and more. Today, it seems hard to believe that the US would support what it did even 6 years ago. Sure, president Obama pledged $3 billion for the cause, but France promised $5.6 billion in annual climate-related assistance by 2020, up from some $3.4 billion today. China announced that it would give another $3.1 billion, and Prime Minister David Cameron said that the U. K. would give $8.8 billion. To make things even worse, even this pledge met massive resistance in the US Senate, and a big question mark now looms above it.
The US is in many ways lagging behind Europe when it comes to investments in renewable energy and sustainable technology, and it seems less interested than even China to invest in our climate’s future, and this is almost certainly a result of the heavy lobbying and investment by some companies and politicians.
A recent report revealed that Exxon, arguably the world’s most profitable company (with annual profits ranging in the billions and tens of billions of dollars) knew about climate change as early as the 70s, yet they still invest heavily in eliminating environmental laws (as do other major oil companies). The Koch Brothers, with a combined fortune of over $80 billion do the same thing, and it works. If we want to effectively protect our planet’s climate, we need the US to step in and play its art.
While some money has been raised, it’s simply not enough, not least due to massive corporate and public opposition.
Why developing countries should be given the money
This leads us to the next question: why should richer countries give money to developing countries to curb their emissions, when they themselves have many poor people and are trying to deal with their own emissions? There are three main arguments here.
The first two relate to justice. The rich countries got rich by burning fossil fuels; it makes sense then for developing countries to get rich also by burning fossil fuels, but we don’t want that, that’s the whole point. If we want them to develop cleanly, then they have to be supported. Secondly, it’s a matter of the damage being already done. Developing countries (especially coastal areas and areas with extreme weather) are the most affected by existing climate change – which developed countries have done, so it makes sense to pay some sort of retribution for that. But even if those two don’t make a compelling enough argument, then we can look at this in an entirely different way.
We need to help them because they can’t do it themselves – at least not fast or not clean enough. This is a global problem, and you can’t get away from it by closing your borders or simply ignore it. If the developing countries continue to emit more and more greenhouse gases, then we will all pay the price; in other words, it’s not just about helping them, it’s about helping ourselves. We need it.
Hopefully, things will brighten up in Paris.