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Green Climate Fund attracts record US$9.8 billion for developing nations

Despite no new contribution from the United States, several rich countries doubled their pledges compared with the last funding round.
Sophie Yeo is an environmental journalist based in Newcastle, UK.

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Developed nations have together pledged US$9.8 billion to replenish a United Nations fund that helps low-income countries to reduce their carbon emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

At a conference last week in Paris, 27 countries promised to contribute to the latest fundraising round for the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The total value of these pledges exceeds the $9.3 billion promised in the last round in 2014, despite the absence this time of the United States and Australia (see 'Climate cash').

Thirteen nations, including the United Kingdom, Germany and France, pledged at least double what they did five years ago, in domestic-currency terms. More pledges are expected in the coming months.

The fund was established in 2010 and has so far allocated $5.2 billion to climate-change mitigation and adaptation projects around the world.

The United States committed more money to the GCF than any other nation in 2014, but President Donald Trump has since withdrawn $2 billion of the $3 billion that was promised, and has declined to contribute further to the fund. This left a substantial hole in the GCF’s coffers, although European nations have largely made up the shortfall.

The fund remains open, and it is likely that more countries will make commitments in the coming months. Nations typically have the opportunity to make climate-finance announcements at the annual UN Climate Change Conference. But this year's meeting, COP25, is now in limbo after safety concerns over massive street protests led Chilean President Sebastián Piñera to cancel plans to host it in Santiago in December.

Joe Thwaites, a climate-finance analyst at the World Resources Institute in Washington DC, says further pledges might come from some of the developing nations that contributed to the fund in 2014, such as Mexico and Peru.

“From their perspective, it totally makes sense to wait and see what the countries that have the formal obligation to contribute have done,” he says.

Countries that have been stymied by domestic political processes could also increase the amount they have said they will give to the GCF. More funding is expected from Belgium, for instance, where a parliamentary resolution to double its $45-million contribution came too late to be reflected in its most recent pledge. A pledge from the US is unlikely under the current administration, but this could change in the event of a Democratic victory in next year’s presidential election.

Pressure is also mounting on nations that have not made substantial increases on their 2014 commitments, such as Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just won a second term in office. The country has made the same pledge of Can$300 million (around US$229 million) as it did in 2014, which now worth less in US dollars.

“For a government like the Trudeau government, which has prided itself on pushing the climate agenda forward, I think this is definitely not good enough,” says Liane Schalatek, an associate director at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a non-profit organization in Washington DC. She adds that now that the election is over, there is nothing to prevent the Canadian government from increasing its GCF contribution.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-03330-9

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