Mattias Soderberg: Europe has missed its chance on climate finance

With no concrete commitments to scale up cash, EU position will fail to win developing country allies at Paris COP21

(credit: Wikimedia commons)

(credit: Wikimedia commons)

By Mattias Soderberg

Finance ministers from the EU countries have adopted a position on climate finance. This is a key element in the EU strategy toward the forthcoming climate summit in Paris COP21. 

EU positions, or council conclusions as they formally are called, are official. It is therefore not only a mandate for negotiations, but also a message to other parties. And the message from EU is targeted poor and vulnerable countries: “We want to cooperate, you should look at us as a potential partner and ally!”

The council conclusions adopted by the finance ministers includes a range of good points and references. They stress the need for scaled up climate finance, the need for special attention and support to poor and vulnerable countries, and there is a willingness to support implementation of national climate plans in developing countries. These are important matters, answering directly to concerns raised by developing countries in the UN climate talks.

What’s new?

“The EU has today confirmed its position as the global leader in climate finance.” So says European Commission economics chief Pierre Moscovici.

NGOs are not convinced. “The EU has failed to offer a credible financial support package for the Paris agreement,” says Wendel Trio of the Climate Action Network.

The reality is, despite Luxembourg’s push on climate finance during its six-month presidency, the European Council brought nothing new to the table.

However, developing countries will look for action, and not only for words. And this is a clear weakness. While ministers have been able to identify the need for action, they have failed to deliver commitments.

There is no concrete plan for how to scale up climate finance in the coming year, there is no reference to the fact that most climate finance mobilised so far is ordinary development aid, which forwards the bill to developing countries themselves by just relabeling existing commitments. 

EU finance ministers missed a great opportunity to draw a plan to phase out fossil fuels subsidies for production and consumption in order to give more support to renewable energies and to comply with the need to keep most fossil fuels in the ground.

They also missed the chance to propose an element of climate finance in the ongoing EU carbon trading reform. Such an initiative could have secured some of the needed funds for climate finance. 

EU makes a good attempt to reach out, and to strengthen the relation with the poorest countries. This is good. In a few weeks’ time EU, and all other parties of the UN climate talks, will meet at the UN Climate summit, COP21, in Paris.

Climate finance is expected to be one of the difficult issues to agree on and EU will need all negotiation power they can get. EU could, together with poor countries, bridge some of the difficult conflicts in the current talks.

However, unless rhetoric is followed by concrete commitments, and action, this attempt is likely to fail.

Mattias Soderberg is chair of ACT Alliance

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