Exposed: Rich nations are failing to protect the Global South from climate change

Rich nations have been exaggerating the amount of funding they provide to help the world’s poorest countries cope with climate change impacts, mobilising only $9.7B of the $50B pledged, according to a new report by CARE International.

The report was published ahead of the Climate Adaptation Summit, taking place on 25-26 January, and attended by world leaders including Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron and IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

In the words of the new U.S climate envoy John Kerry at the opening ceremony, we must treat climate change “like the emergency that it is” and step up global efforts to reduce emissions faster. But as CARE’s report reveals developed nations and institutions are falling short of their pledges as actions don’t match the talk. 

As UN Chief Antonio Guterres pointed out at the virtual summit yesterday: “Adaptation cannot be the neglected half of the climate equation,”, so here we give it the attention it deserves.

This blog takes a closer look at CARE’s findings, and shows what the developed world must step up for the vulnerable and up their game.

Four Facts 

Under Article 9 of the 2015 Paris Agreement, developed nations agreed to assist and provide financial support for climate adaptation and mitigation to countries in the Global South. 

Rich countries and institution pledged to mobilise $50 billion in annual adaptation finance by 2020. Official figures show that in 2018 donors had committed just $16.8 billion but based on CARE International’s assessment, this figure is in fact $9.7 billion. 

CARE International’s new report reveals: 

  • Developed nations and institutions have over-reported climate adaptation finance by 42%. If this was applied to the remaining projects that weren’t analysed by CARE, it would result in $20 billion of over-reporting in the same period, meaning that the Global South is only receiving a fraction of the funding they were promised.
  • Large amounts of climate adaptation finance are being poured into projects that have nothing to do with adaptation such as: 
    • The “Post-Disaster Standby Loan” Japan provided to the Philippines. The loan was meant to provide the country’s government with general budget support during natural disasters, but which has been used to repay other loans.
    • A road construction project connecting Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) with various industrial developments.
  • Donors routinely deny, limit access to project documents and exaggerate the adaptation finance component of their projects, with climate adaptation finance only representing about 58% of what they reported.
  • Gender equality and poverty alleviation are largely symbolic in many adaptation projects. One of the exceptions is the Climate Investment Fund’s “Enhancing Natural Forest and Agroforest Landscapes” project in Ghana. By combining climate-smart cocoa cultivation with agroforestry and high-yield production techniques, it has been able to simultaneously improve farmers’ resilience to climate change and reduce poverty.

“The world’s poorest people are not responsible for the climate crisis yet hit the hardest. Not only have rich nations let the Global South down by failing to deliver enough adaptation finance, but they have tried to give the impression that they are providing more than they do.” – John Nordbo, Care Denmark.

These communities will be hit first and the hardest by climate change yet are inadequately prepared as rich nations are failing to support the Global South and provide the funding promised. The Climate Adaptation Summit is the perfect opportunity to address this lack of transparency and improve accuracy in reporting. 

Day 1 of CAS21

The Climate Adaptation Summit hosted virtually by the Netherlands, included a long list of speakers such as Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson and Secretary-General António Guterres among many others. So far:

  • The IMF has committed to intensifying its focus on climate by integrating climate factors into its annual economic country assessments. Furthermore, it will launch a “Climate Change Dashboard” to track the economic impact of climate risks and the measures taken to mitigate them.
  • Germany has pledged €50 million to the so-called Adaptation Fund, as well as another €100 million to the least developed countries.
  • Netherlands, the host nation, announced it would pledge €20 million to support the world’s least-developed nations adapt to climate change.
  • The US announced it was working on its NDCs for emissions reductions to 2030 now that they have re-joined the Paris Agreement. John Kerry also promised “We intend to make good on our climate finance pledge” and make up for lost time.
  • UN Chief Antonio Guterres urged developed countries to commit 50% of climate finance to adaptation and resilience activities by COP26 and to deliver on it least by 2024.

Even though world leaders have expressed the urgency and importance of providing climate adaptation funding, they failed to address ”the fact that developed nations are still not living up to their commitments,” said Inge Vianen, CARE’s global. As the consequences of extreme weather conditions become more evident, it is imperative that rich nations specify their commitment and actions. But how?

What needs to be done 

Not everything is lost and there is still time and ways to change course, which is why CARE has developed a list of recommendations:

  1. Increase transparency. In the run-up to and at COP26, donors should indicate how they will provide and mobilise $50bn of annual adaptation finance and meet their Paris Agreement commitment.
  2. Reduce over-reporting. On a project-by-project basis, donors should prioritise adaptation and make clear distinctions between adaptation finance and non-adaptation-related finance. 
  3. Reduce the potential to exacerbate debt distress. Where loans are provided, they must be accompanied by in-depth debt sustainability analyses.
  4. Increase objectives of gender equality and poverty reduction to integrate them in climate adaptation activities.

Will the Climate Adaptation Summit serve as a wake-up call for world leaders to prioritise climate change and provide support for those who need it the most? Will they finally address these recommendations? 

We invite you to read the report here and follow the CARE team on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.