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Europe steps up climate funding for developing countries, as COP24 talks divide

Several of the biggest providers of climate finance for the developing world said they would devote additional funds to fighting the effects of a warming planet, as countries appeared divided over key issues during climate negotiations taking place in Poland.

France, Germany, the U.K. and the European Commission all announced that they would step up financial support for developing countries, as government ministers were deep in negotiations to agree on a rulebook for implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change at the 24th annual session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP24, in Katowice, Poland.

"Europe is stepping up support to help developing countries build resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change," EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said in a Dec. 12 announcement that the EU would contribute €10 million in 2019 to a climate change adaptation fund for developing countries set up by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC.

Several European countries had already made similar pledges totaling several hundred million euros during the talks in Katowice, where delegates from more than 190 nations are currently trying to hammer out an agreement on how to implement the 2015 Paris agreement, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to at least 2 degrees C compared to preindustrial levels. Discussions at the conference, which runs until Dec. 14, are centered around individual countries' emissions reductions pledges to achieve the goals of the accord as well as how to finance mitigation and adaptation for vulnerable nations and the overall transition to a low-carbon global economy.

France said it will contribute an additional €15 million to the climate change adaptation fund and €20 million to the Least Developed Countries Fund, another UNFCCC vehicle. The country will increase its public climate funding to €5 billion per year in 2020, compared with €3 billion in 2015, the French environment ministry said, with the share devoted to climate change adaptation rising from €1 billion to €1.5 billion per year.

Germany's environment ministry said it will also pour an additional €70 million into the adaptation fund, which finances projects like early warning systems for floods and heavy rainfall and measures for securing water supply. With a contribution of €240 million so far, Germany is already the largest donor to the fund, the ministry said.

The U.K. announced that it would provide an extra £100 million to support up to 40 new renewable energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years, supporting developers of small-scale solar, wind, hydro and geothermal projects. The government said the funds, part of the U.K.'s commitment to invest £5.8 billion in international climate finance by 2020, could unlock an additional £156 million of private finance into renewable energy in Africa by 2023.

Climate finance rules still lacking

At the Paris climate negotiations in 2015, 18 developed countries pledged to leverage climate financing of $100 billion annually from 2020 to developing countries. According to climate news website Carbon Brief, a recent assessment by the U.N. found that the sum had reached $75 billion in 2016, up from $65 billion in 2015 — either directly given by governments or raised from the private sector. A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, found that public climate finance alone reached $56.7 billion in 2017.

But even after previous climate summits taking up the topic, rich donor countries and poorer nations on the receiving end of the funds still disagree over what counts as climate finance.

"In the absence of any common accounting methodology under the UNFCCC, contributor countries have been able to decide in a vacuum what they would count as part of their commitment to mobilize $100 billion by 2020," Timmons Roberts, a professor of environmental studies and sociology at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, and Romain Weikmans, a lecturer at Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, wrote in a blog post for the Brookings Institution, a think tank.

Since contributing countries have adopted different accounting and reporting practices, it is near impossible to compare data on climate finance, the authors said. While previous COP summits have called for the development of rules to account for climate finance, "these modalities need to be decided, so the world can get on with this," Roberts and Weikmans said. "The next few days in Katowice will be crucial in redressing the current dysfunction."

European countries and the U.S. are also fighting efforts by developing countries to introduce terms on loss and damage provisions, which would detail how to compensate the most vulnerable countries for already occurring climate change effects, into all negotiating items on the table, according to news website Euractiv.

Japan was the largest climate finance provider in 2015 and 2016, giving $10.3 billion per year on average, followed by Germany, France, the U.K. and the U.S., according to Carbon Brief's analysis of a climate finance database collated by the OECD. The biggest recipients of the funds in those years were India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand.

In 2017, the EU, its member states and the European Investment Bank together provided €20.4 billion in public climate finance for developing countries, making up over 40% of the total provided by the developed world, according to the European Commission.