Rich countries’ continued failure to honour their $100 billon climate finance promise threatens negotiations and undermines climate action

June 4, 2023
Flawed accounting systems are not giving the true picture of climate finance

As global greenhouse emissions continue to rise, and climate change wreaks more havoc upon the people and places least responsible for the problem, rich polluting countries are now three years overdue on their promise to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate finance for low- and middle-income countries.

To make matters worse the actual support they provide is much less than reported numbers suggest, and is coming mostly as debt that has to be repaid, says Oxfam.

Oxfam’s ‘Climate Finance Shadow Report 2023’ published today shows that while donors claim to have mobilized $83.3 billion in 2020, the real value of their spending was — at most — $24.5 billion. The $83.3 billion claim is an overestimate because it includes projects where the climate objective has been overstated or as loans cited at their face value.

By providing loans rather than grants, these funds are even potentially harming rather than helping local communities, as they add to the debt burdens of already heavily indebted countries — even more so in this time of rising interest rates.

Donor countries are repurposing up to one-third of official aid contributions as climate finance rather than putting forward new and additional money, while more than half of all climate finance going to the world’s poorest countries is now coming as loans. In Canada, the most recent federal budget cut foreign aid by 15 per cent, which could put other international assistance priorities seriously at risk as Canada aims to fulfil its $5.3-billion (CAD) international commitment to climate finance between 2021 and 2025.

“This is deeply unjust. Rich countries and elites most responsible for the climate crisis are treating low income countries with contempt. In doing so, they are fatally undermining crucial climate negotiations. Donor countries like Canada should be massively scaling up their climate finance to meet the needs of a planet in crisis,” said Oxfam Canada’s Policy Lead on Climate Justice and Women’s Rights, Dana Stefov.

In the lead up to the Bonn Climate Summit (June 5 – 15), Oxfam also finds that climate-related development financing is largely gender-blind. On a global level, only 2.9 per cent of all funding identified gender equality as worth prioritizing. Only one-third of climate finance projects in 2019-2020 mainstreamed gender, meaning that they took into account both women and men’s specific needs, experiences and concerns. While Canada is doing substantially better with gender mainstreaming applied in close to 95 per cent of climate finance between 2016 and 2021, a mere one per cent of Canada’s climate finance over that same period had gender equality as its principal purpose.

Oxfam estimates that the real value of funds allocated by rich countries in 2020, to support climate action in low- and middle-income countries was between $21 billion and $24.5 billion, of which only $9.5 billion to $11.5 billion was directed specifically for climate adaptation — crucial funding for projects and processes to help climate-vulnerable countries address the worsening harms of climate change.

Oxfam is highly concerned that adaptation funding is given too little attention when, in the past three years, India, Pakistan and Central and South America have all seen record heatwaves, in Pakistan later followed by flooding that affected over 33 million people, while East Africa is mired in its worst drought in over 40 years, contributing to crisis levels of hunger.

“Despite their extreme vulnerability to climate impacts, the world’s poorest countries, particularly the least developed countries and small island developing states, are simply not receiving enough support. Instead, they are being driven deeper into debt,” Stefov said.

Oxfam is highly concerned that funding for “loss and damage” — climate impacts that cannot or have not been mitigated or adapted to — still has no predictable place within the international climate finance architecture. Loss and damage finance needs are urgent, with estimates saying that low- and middle-income countries could face costs of up to $580 billion annually by 2030.

Oxfam says that ongoing deliberations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to set a new global goal on mobilizing climate finance from 2025 onwards is a chance to rebuild trust between rich and low- and middle-income countries. But if past mistakes are not resolved and simply repeated, this initiative will have failed before it properly starts.

Climate finance providers should be massively scaling-up their efforts and be reporting climate financing on a case-by-case basis, highlighting the actual proportions channeled towards mitigation and adaptation. There is equally an urgent need for more grant-based financing for climate action, and less momentum toward loaning the money they have all promised to give.

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Notes to editors:
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Paula Baker
Media Relations
(613) 240-3047

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