By Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme
On behalf of UNDP, welcome to the launch of the UNDP Sustainable Urbanization Strategy. As we meet here in Quito today for the Habitat III conference, we are also celebrating the International Day for Poverty Eradication.
Many of the world’s poor now live in cities where the most pressing development challenges are found. In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to ensure that the urban poor are not left behind.
The New Urban Agenda, which is due to be adopted here at Habitat III, aims to ensure that the cities of today and tomorrow offer an inclusive and sustainable future for all. The UNDP Sustainable Urbanization Strategy lays out the support which UNDP as a global development organization can provide to help achieve that.
Around our world, people are moving to cities in very large numbers. Cities are seen as places of opportunity and hope, where hard work and determination can transform lives.
UNDP has developed its sustainable urbanization strategy to support cities to deliver on the hopes of their citizens and to implement the New Urban Agenda. Many people in cities, particularly young people, lack work and say they currently feel excluded from opportunities. For women and girls, cities can be dangerous places where they cannot walk in safety and may risk exploitation in dangerous and demeaning jobs. Natural disasters – including those exacerbated by climate change – and conflict and citizen insecurity can turn back the clock on hard won development gains.
UNDP’s experiences of working in towns and cities around the world have shaped this first UNDP sustainable urbanization strategy, and will guide our efforts beyond Quito. Allow me to share three of our lessons learned:
For cities to be succeed, they need to meet the needs of all their residents. Truly dynamic cities make space for all, and serve the needs of all. Inclusivity is one of the main principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in which UN Member States pledged to leave no one behind. The needs and aspirations of poor and marginalized people in the world’s cities must be addressed to fulfill that ambition.
Cities must be resilient to natural and man-made disasters and crises. Urban areas are now home to more than half the world’s people, and they also host most of the world’s critical infrastructure, key development assets, political institutions, and major socio-economic architecture. If disasters and crises rock cities, the spillover effects are great. In the first half of 2016 alone, natural disasters caused US$71 billion in damages worldwide, with most economic loss concentrated in cities. Political instability and conflict also have major costs.
Cities are at the forefront of the battle against climate change and environmental degradation. They produce more than seventy percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and use eighty per cent of the world’s energy. How cities grow and develop in the coming decades will play a significant part in determining whether the world can live within its planetary boundaries.
Delivering the sustainable, inclusive, and resilient cities of the future requires that we work together in partnership, as UNDP is committed to doing. Our partnerships are diverse:
Here in Ecuador, we have been part of the efforts to help local communities recover and rebuild in Manabí province following the 16 April earthquake this year.
In Soacha, Colombia, a town close to Bogota, UNDP and UNCHR have been working together on a programme called Building Sustainable Solutions. It supports the local municipality with land registration and title, promoting economic development with the support of the private sector, and with community and institutional strengthening.
In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, UNDP has worked with local community groups to improve access to municipal services.
In Bangladesh, UNDP has supported municipal leaders to improve the livelihoods of millions of urban dwellers through our large scale Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction programme.
Initiatives like these, taken to scale through partnerships and strong urban leadership, will be critical to implementing the New Urban Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Helen Clark is the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. She also chairs the United Nations Development Group.
Greenhouse Gas Reductions Critical In Battle Against Climate Change
The landmark global climate change deal brokered in Paris cleared an important hurdle this week when it secured enough official support to go into effect, but experts say the biggest hurdle — signatory countries turning their emissions, clean energy and climate adaptation financing goals from mere promises into reality — still lies ahead.
Slowing down construction of coal-fired power stations will be vital to hit globally agreed climate change goals, the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, said as he outlined a five-point plan to flesh out last year’s Paris agreement to reduce CO2 emissions.
Speaking at a climate ministerial meeting in Washington during the bank’s annual meeting, he said there was no prospect of keeping global warming at or below 2C (3.6F) if current plans for coal-fired stations, especially those earmarked for Asia, were built.
“Many countries want to move in the right direction on climate change. We can all help to find renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions that allow them to phase out coal,” Kim said.
The World Bank president said achieving the climate change target required action in five areas. In addition to slowing down growth in coal-fired power stations, Kim said climate ambition needed to be baked into development plans for every developing country. It was important that the $90 billion of planned infrastructure spending over the next 15 years was for low-CO2 and climate-resilient investment.
He called for the ramping up of energy-efficient appliances and less use of hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in air conditioning units. “Phasing down HFCs could prevent close to half a degree of global warming by the end of the century,” he said.
Calls for the greening of finance by the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, were also strongly backed by Kim who said the sector needed to be “fit for purpose to assess climate risks and opportunities.”
Finally, Kim said poor countries needed help to adapt to climate change and to become more resilient. He added that without climate-driven development, climate change could force more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, and that unless low-income countries in many parts of Africa, south Asia and the Pacific islands were helped all the gains in poverty reduction risked being lost.
Kim said countries needed more efficient water supply systems, climate-smart agriculture, early warning systems, better social protection and a reduction in disaster risk.
“It is our collective responsibility to see the Paris agreement through,” he said. “We cannot afford to lose the momentum. With each passing day, the climate challenge grows. The longest streak of record-warm months has now reached 16 – such heat has never persisted on the planet for so long. The reality is stark. We have a planet that is at serious risk, but our current response is not yet equal to the task.”
Kim said the Paris climate agreement was a “victory for multilateral action and a powerful signal from all corners of the world that there can be no turning back in the battle against climate change.”
Climate Changing At Vatican On Environmental, Social Issues
He has been called the “superman pope,” and it would be hard to deny that Pope Francis has had a good December. Cited by President Barack Obama as a key player in the thawing relations between the US and Cuba, the Argentinian pontiff followed that by lecturing his cardinals on the need to clean up Vatican politics. But can Francis achieve a feat that has so far eluded secular powers and inspire decisive action on climate change?
It looks as if he will give it a go. In 2015, the pope will issue a lengthy message on the subject to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, give an address to the UN general assembly and call a summit of the world’s main religions.
The reason for such frenetic activity, says Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is the pope’s wish to directly influence next year’s crucial UN climate meeting in Paris, when countries will try to conclude 20 years of fraught negotiations with a universal commitment to reduce emissions.
“Our academics supported the pope’s initiative to influence next year’s crucial decisions,” Sorondo told Cafod, the Catholic development agency, at a meeting in London. “The idea is to convene a meeting with leaders of the main religions to make all people aware of the state of our climate and the tragedy of social exclusion.”
Following a visit in March to Tacloban, the Philippine city devastated in 2012 by typhoon Haiyan, the pope will publish a rare encyclical on climate change and human ecology. Urging all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds, the document will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests, who will distribute it to parishioners.
According to Vatican insiders, Francis will meet other faith leaders and lobby politicians at the general assembly in New York in September, when countries will sign up to new anti-poverty and environmental goals.
In recent months, the pope has argued for a radical new financial and economic system to avoid human inequality and ecological devastation. In October he told a meeting of Latin American and Asian landless peasants and other social movements: “An economic system centred on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.
“The system continues unchanged, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands.
“The monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness,” he said.
In Lima last month, bishops from every continent expressed their frustration with the stalled climate talks and, for the first time, urged rich countries to act.
Sorondo, a fellow Argentinian who is known to be close to Pope Francis, said: “Just as humanity confronted revolutionary change in the 19th century at the time of industrialisation, today we have changed the natural environment so much. If current trends continue, the century will witness unprecedented climate change and destruction of the ecosystem with tragic consequences.”
According to Neil Thorns, head of advocacy at Cafod, said: “The anticipation around Pope Francis’s forthcoming encyclical is unprecedented. We have seen thousands of our supporters commit to making sure their MPs know climate change is affecting the poorest communities.”
However, Francis’s environmental radicalism is likely to attract resistance from Vatican conservatives and in rightwing church circles, particularly in the US – where Catholic climate sceptics also include John Boehner, Republican leader of the House of Representatives and Rick Santorum, the former Republican presidential candidate.
Cardinal George Pell, a former archbishop of Sydney who has been placed in charge of the Vatican’s budget, is a climate change sceptic who has been criticised for claiming that global warming has ceased and that if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were doubled, then “plants would love it”.
Former Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Clementina Hall to exchange Christmas greetings with Pope Francis on 22 December, 2014 in Vatican City.
Dan Misleh, director of the Catholic climate covenant, said: “There will always be 5-10% of people who will take offence. They are very vocal and have political clout. This encyclical will threaten some people and bring joy to others. The arguments are around economics and science rather than morality.
“A papal encyclical is rare. It is among the highest levels of a pope’s authority. It will be 50 to 60 pages long; it’s a big deal. But there is a contingent of Catholics here who say he should not be getting involved in political issues, that he is outside his expertise.”
Francis will also be opposed by the powerful US evangelical movement, said Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the conservative Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has declared the US environmental movement to be “un-biblical” and a false religion.
“The pope should back off,” he said. “The Catholic church is correct on the ethical principles but has been misled on the science. It follows that the policies the Vatican is promoting are incorrect. Our position reflects the views of millions of evangelical Christians in the US.”
Climate negotiators from around the world came up with a modest agreement early Sunday for every nation to do its part to address global warming — but the Obama administration’s aggressive environmental regulations and last month’s landmark deal with China weren’t enough to keep the talks from nearly coming apart during a tense weekend of last-minute wrangling.
At the close of the United Nations negotiations in Lima, Peru, delegates from 196 countries aimed at paving the way toward a global deal next year in Paris, but they failed to resolve the most divisive issues facing the talks.
The most serious divisions remained those between the rich nations that have pumped the most carbon into the atmosphere and the poor nations that have the most to lose from a warming planet. And the U.S. position remained deeply at odds with that of China, despite last month’s much-touted agreement in which the two nations jointly announced pledges to curb greenhouse gas pollution in the coming decades.
The agreement reached in Lima would commit all countries to outlining domestic plans by early next year to slash their greenhouse gas emissions. Those plans would lay the foundation for a major climate accord that countries hope to clinch in Paris at the end of 2015. Sunday’s deal marked the first time that all countries agreed to reduce their emissions.
In the run-up to the talks, the United States and other major developed countries took pains to underscore their commitment to reaching a deal. Top Obama administration officials — including White House adviser John Podesta and Secretary of State John Kerry — spent months in secret negotiations with Chinese officials ahead of the November joint announcement in Beijing. And Kerry, who has made climate change a top priority at State, jetted to Lima for just a few hours on Thursday to jump-start the global negotiations.
But the efforts failed to erase the entrenched frustrations of poor nations. Instead, the Lima talks offered a clear signal that long-standing disagreements over the core elements of any future deal run deep. And the negotiations nearly collapsed at the 11th hour.
Negotiators huddled behind closed doors for much of the day and into the night on Saturday in an attempt to reach a last-ditch compromise. They announced a deal early Sunday morning, more than 36 hours after the 12-day talks had been slated to end.
Throughout the negotiations, poor countries insisted that wealthy nations should shoulder more of the burden for tackling climate change, including by committing to provide money to help developing nations deal with rising seas and other disastrous effects. Earlier Saturday, developing countries expressed opposition to a draft text, arguing it did not do enough to further those goals.
But in the end, exhausted negotiators reached a compromise. The result was a five-page text dubbed the “Lima Call for Climate Action” that offered few specifics about the path toward clinching a deal in Paris.
Todd Stern, the Obama administration’s top climate change negotiator, told reporters on the ground that the agreement represented progress. “It was contentious along the way but it fundamentally accomplished what we wanted it to,” he said.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework on Climate Change, said negotiators are leaving Lima riding “a fresh wave of positivity” heading toward Paris.
“The negotiations here reached a new level of realism and understanding about what needs to be done now, over the next 12 months and into the years and decades to come if climate change is to be truly and decisively addressed,” she said.
Environmental Groups Criticizing Deal
“Negotiators have managed to get the boat in the water from Lima’s shores without sinking, but choppy seas are ahead before they reach Paris,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International. “This outcome can only be read as a call to action for people around the world. Governments will not deliver the solutions we need unless more people stand up to make our voices heard.”
“Against the backdrop of extreme weather in the Philippines and potentially the hottest year ever recorded, governments at the U.N. climate talks in Lima opted for a half-baked plan to cut emissions,” said Samantha Smith, leader of the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative.
Other green groups offered a more positive take on the talks.
“Here’s the good news from the Lima talks: Countries around the world now fully understand that early next year they must commit to ambitious reductions in climate pollution and bold measures to slow global warming,” said Jake Schmidt, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s international program. “Most key countries are laying the groundwork at home for more aggressive commitments to cut their carbon pollution. There is no question about this point anymore.”
Jennifer Morgan, global director of the World Resources Institute’s Climate Program, said a Paris deal is “within reach,” though she acknowledged that “more hard work remains.”
The interim Lima negotiations were never expected to result in any major breakthroughs, and its goals were relatively modest.
Nations were charged with deciding what precisely should be included in countries’ nationally determined plans to cut emissions. But the negotiations over the plans — which in U.N. parlance are known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions — proved to be difficult. Developed countries preferred that the plans focus solely on targets for reducing greenhouse gases, while poorer countries wanted wealthy nations to include adaptation and finance commitments.
Ultimately, the final agreement “urges,” but does not require, developed countries to “provide and mobilize enhanced financial support to developing country Parties for ambitious mitigation and adaptation actions.” It also “invites” countries to include an adaptation component in their plans.
Countries also agreed in broad terms that the plans, which would be published online, should “represent a progression beyond the current undertaking” of the country proposing them. And the agreement again calls on those countries “ready to do so” to submit their plans by the first quarter of 2015 so they can be reviewed and better understood by the international community ahead of the Paris meeting.
The agreement says the domestic plans “may include” details on the reference point (possibly a base year), time frames and periods for implementation of the cuts, as well as the assumptions and methodology used to account for and estimate the greenhouse gas reductions. The plan should also include an explanation of why it is “fair and ambitious” and how it contributes to the overall goal of tackling climate change.
It includes broad language sought by developing countries like China that underscores the so-called “principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.”
The final text also includes a token reference to the so-called “loss and damage” issue, which developed countries have long argued has not received enough attention in the talks. But it does not offer any substantial approach to addressing the massive economic losses poor countries have suffered from the effects of climate change.
Negotiators agreed to a separate draft negotiating text that will form the basis for the Paris discussions. That agreement consists of a slew of often contradictory options that will be on the table at the December 2015 negotiations, though few issues are resolved.
The United States has set a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. The plan is based on what can be accomplished using existing executive authorities, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed limits on greenhouse gas pollution from coal-burning power plants. President Barack Obama has also pledged $3 billion to a global climate fund to aid poorer nations, but getting the new GOP-controlled Congress to provide that money will be difficult.
Countries are slated to meet in Paris at the end of 2015 to finalize the deal, which would go into effect beginning in 2020. That means they have only one year to bridge the formidable divide between rich and poor nations.
A slew of key issues still needs to be worked out over the next year, including the legal weight of the final agreement and how countries will meet their goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 in public and private financing to help poor nations.
The talks began on Dec. 1 with a sense of optimism after last month’s U.S.-China announcement. U.S. officials and longtime observers of the talks hoped the news would build momentum and help break the logjam between developed and developing countries.
But countries quickly reverted to familiar negotiating positions. China, the world’s largest carbon polluter, poked holes in the draft negotiating text, arguing that rich countries aren’t required to do enough. The Chinese also opposed proposals requiring outside monitoring of countries’ plans to cut emissions.
Still, Stern told reporters that the U.S.-China deal helped make progress in Lima, asserting that the agreement “came in handy here.”
Environmentalists and officials from countries most threatened by climate change are growing increasingly disillusioned with the U.N. process. Even if countries reach a deal in Paris next year, it probably won’t do enough to avoid the most catastrophic effects of a warming planet.
The United Nations Environment Programme warned in a report released last month that there is a growing gap between the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed to prevent a disastrous rise in global temperatures and what the world is actually cutting. The final text of the Lima agreement notes “grave concern” about that gap but does not require countries to put forward emissions pledges that would hold the average global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels — the threshold that scientists say would avert catastrophic climate change.
Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization estimated earlier this month that 2014 is on track to be the hottest year on record.
Three decades from now the world is going to be a very different place. How it looks will depend on actions we take today. We have big decisions to make and little time to make them if we are to provide stability and greater prosperity to the world’s growing population. Top of the priority list is climate change.
All around the world it is plain that climate change is happening and that human activities are the principal cause. Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that the effects of climate change are already widespread, costly and consequential – from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the poorest countries to the wealthiest. The world’s top scientists are clear. Climate change is affecting agriculture, water resources, human health, and ecosystems on land and in the oceans. It poses sweeping risks for economic stability and the security of nations.
We can avert these risks if we take bold, decisive action now. An increasing number of government leaders, policymakers, businesses, investors and concerned citizens are beginning to comprehend the costs of climate change. More crucially, they are also learning that affordable solutions exist or are in the pipeline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support resilience. We need to deploy these solutions at a scale commensurate to the challenge. That means investment and it means global co-operation, especially in the areas of finance and technology. That is why it is important that governments complete their work on a new universal climate agreement by 2015.
To build political momentum and help bring about action, I am convening a climate summit in New York on 23 September. I am pressing national leaders, along with mayors and senior representatives from business, finance and civil society, to join a “race to the top” by showcasing solutions and forging partnerships that can steer the world away from cataclysm and towards a sustainable future.
I have been hosting an international meeting designed as a staging post for the September summit. The Abu Dhabi Ascent has given me considerable hope. Governments and private sector leaders have unveiled achievements and plans in a variety of areas where we feel we can make the quickest, greatest impact, including energy, cities and transport, finance, resilience, agriculture and short-lived climate pollutants.
Just as scientists are united on the impacts of climate change, so are economists generally agreed on the costs of combatting it. Working now for a rapid transformation to a low-carbon economy will be significantly less expensive for people and economies than failing to act, especially in developing countries, which are most vulnerable to climate impacts. They are also where emissions are rising fastest. These countries need support to build their own low-carbon futures and the opportunities that will bring. They have a pressing need for development. But their sustainable progress – and ultimately that of all of us – demands they do so as cleanly as possible. No one can afford the relentless increase in global temperatures that business as usual will bring.
The benefits of addressing climate change include reduced pollution, improved public health, fewer disasters, cleaner, cheaper, more efficient energy, better managed forests, more liveable cities, increased food security and less poverty. Instead of asking if we can afford to act, we should be asking what is stopping us, who is stopping us, and why? Climate change is an issue for all people, all businesses, all governments. Let us join forces to push back against sceptics and entrenched interests. Let us support the scientists, economists, entrepreneurs and investors who can persuade government leaders and policymakers that now is the time for bold action.
In Abu Dhabi I have seen again that effective affordable solutions are already available. I have seen that an increasing number of governments and other actors are prepared to invest in a low-carbon future. My sights are now set on the September climate summit and the climate negotiations in Lima in December and Paris next year.
Change is in the air – I can sense it at all levels of society. Solutions exist. The race is on. My challenge to all political and business leaders, all concerned citizens and voters is simple: be at the head of the race. Don’t get left behind. Don’t be on the losing side of history. Let us work together to make climate change a top priority for all leaders – at home and in the global arena. Let us take advantage of the opportunities presented by climate action and lay the foundations for a more prosperous and secure future for all.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today the appointment of Michael Bloomberg of the United States as his Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. Mr. Bloomberg will assist the Secretary-General in his consultations with mayors and related key stakeholders, in order to raise political will and mobilize action among cities as part of his long-term strategy to advance efforts on climate change, including bringing concrete solutions to the 2014 Climate Summit that the Secretary-General will host in New York on September 23, 2014.
The Secretary-General has invited leaders from governments, businesses, finance and civil society organizations to bring bold announcements and actions to the 2014 Climate Summit to raise the level of ambition through new and more robust action on climate change. Cities play an essential role in developing and implementing actions and driving ambition, translating to significant impacts on climate change.
Mr. Bloomberg served as the 108th Mayor of the City of New York from 2002 to 2013. He began his career in 1966 at Salomon Brothers, and launched Bloomberg LP in 1981, a financial news and information company. In 2007, Mayor Bloomberg addressed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali, Indonesia.
He also currently serves as the President of the Board of the C40 Climate Leadership Group, a network of large cities from around the world committed to implementing meaningful and sustainable climate-related actions locally that will help address climate change globally.
Sustainable Cities Critical In Fight Against Climate Change
As chair of the Group of 77 and China, Fiji has called on world leaders to give urgent attention to the sustainability of cities. The message was relayed to world leaders at the United Nations in New York by Fiji’s Ambassador Peter Thomson in his address at the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals yesterday.
An Information Ministry statement yesterday said the subject under current debate by the OWG was Sustainable Cities, Human Settlement and Sustainable Transport. Thomson explained that the 133-member Group of 77’s approach to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Post-2015 Development Agenda was firmly aimed at eradicating poverty and advancing sustainable development. He told the OWG that the grim reality of approximately one billion people living in urban slums highlighted the gravity of the challenges they faced.
Thomson said the Group of 77 encouraged governments and UN Habitat to use planned city extension methodologies to guide the sustainable development of cities in order to prevent slum proliferation, enhance access to basic urban services, support inclusive housing, enhance job opportunities and create a safe and healthy living environment for all urban dwellers.
He also pointed out that the world’s urban areas were expected to expand by 60 percent before 2030, representing unparalleled opportunities to transform the social and economic fabric of nations.
“Today 50 percent of the world’s seven billion people are urbanized, with projections showing that some 70 percent will live in cities by 2050,” he said.
He said the SDGs must address the multi-dimensional challenges of urban dwellers in order to provide access to basic services, improve the lives of slum dwellers, strengthen urban resilience and protect ecosystems.”
Thomson also called for interaction between nations at the international level, as well as between central and local governments at national levels, to fulfill their roles as governmental stakeholders on sustainability.
I thank you for your commitment to sustainable urbanization. By the middle of this century, 70 percent of all people will be living in cities. Almost all urban growth will be in developing countries.
The challenges are immense. But the opportunities are even greater. Cities can be the engine of social equity and economic opportunity. They can help us reduce our carbon footprint and protect the global environment.
That is why it is so important that we work together to build the capacity of mayors and all those concerned in planning and running sustainable cities. Building sustainable cities – and a sustainable future – will need open dialogue among all branches of national, regional and local government. And it will need the engagement of all stakeholders – including the private sector and civil society, and especially the poor and marginalized.
I commend the members of the Global Taskforce of local and regional governments. I am delighted to see how you are contributing constructive proposals to the post-2015 development agenda and preparations for Habitat III.
All around the world, we see cities developing exciting new solutions. Let us learn from each other so we can replicate and scale up what works. Let us work together for sustainable cities and a sustainable future for all.
Event Underscores Urgency Of Climate Change, Resiliency
The Green Climate Fund, designed as the United Nations’ most important funding body in the battle on climate change in developing nations, launched its headquarters on Wednesday in South Korea, but uncertainty over finances clouded the event.
The launch was largely symbolic, as the Fund, set up by developed nations to channel most of the $100 billion they aim to spend each year by 2020, is not expected to be fully operational until the latter half of next year.
Rich nations, reluctant to stress their already fragile economies, have not paid up as scheduled. Now the Fund has just $40 million at its disposal, a sum promised by South Korea that must also cover administrative expenses.
“The Fund is on track to start its resource mobilization next year with a rapid and substantial initial capitalization, so that we can get the money flowing to the countries in greatest need,” said Jose Maria Sarte Salceda, co-chairman of the fund’s board.
The Fund will help pay for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and projects in poor nations to protect communities at risk from the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, prolonged droughts and damage to food crops.
Rich nations promised in 2010 to provide $10 billion per year in fast-start climate finance over 2011 to 2013, and scale funding up to $100 billion annually by 2020.
But inflows have fallen far short of expected levels, with new finance even dropping by more than two-thirds in 2013 from 2012, Britain’s Overseas Development Institute says.
For example, it said in a recent report, “Funding in response to German flood damage in 2013 was four times higher than funding to help developing countries adapt to climate change since 2003.”
Most of the climate finance that has emerged so far will be distributed by national governments or private funds run by multilateral organizations such as the World Bank.
Germany and Sweden have shown a willingness to contribute, Executive Director Hela Cheikhrouhou told reporters at Wednesday’s opening ceremony, with Sweden intending to pay $45 million into the fund.
“The office opening is both a symbolic and practical demonstration that the Fund is ready for business,” she said in a statement, but added it would become fully operational around the second half of next year.
The fund was set up at UN climate talks in Mexico in 2010 in recognition that climate change has historically been caused mainly by greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries.
At climate talks in Poland last month, developing nations pushed for a detailed plan to scale up funds, and proposed a target of $70 billion in 2016, but failed to win over developed countries.
The finance aspect remains a sticking point in efforts to agree a new global pact on climate change that nearly 200 nations hope to clinch in Paris in December 2015.
Major emerging economies such as India say they do not want to commit to targets for capping carbon dioxide emissions before the developed world has delivered on its promises on climate finance.
“What is wrong with the Global Climate Fund is that there is no money there,” Indian Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan told a news conference during last month’s talks in the Polish capital of Warsaw.