Small island finance negotiators ask whether developed countries are delivering on commitments

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Channel 5, Great Belize Television, Katowice, Poland

The cost of addressing climate change is going up. And those costs are hurting the Small Island Developing States. There is the need for new technologies, infrastructure and skills to tackle climate change in vulnerable regions. But because they can’t afford it, they have to rely on public and private sources for climate finance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to implement measures to adapt to the changing environment.  And developed countries have pledged big monies to help the developing states by 2020. So, at COP 24, the United Nations main climate change event of the year, finance negotiators want to map out how those monies move between the developed and developing countries.

"At a discussion on finance, we are looking at a technical level on accounting modalities where we can track financial flows from developed to developing countries," said Ambassador Janine Felson, a negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States, or AOSIS. "That is really at the heart of the discussion. Presently it is not about finding any particular goal at this point in time. We have on the table a US$100 billion goal per annum through to 2025. We have tried to get developed countries to agree to start a process to define that but at present they are hesitant to do that. So, the question we want to get at is are you delivering on the commitment that you made to us?”

Why are developed countries slow in ironing out these issues?

“With respect to the tracking of finance flows, they are very careful about how much they expose themselves in terms of the delivery of finance," Felson said. "And each one has their own particular concerns, so the modalities have to be crafted in a way so that each one of them feels comfortable that they won’t expose themselves. That is one thing. The second thing is that with the Paris Agreement, one of the nuances in that convention, that is different from the framework convention, is that now we have a commitment that we should all be shifting finance flows towards low-carbon, climate resilient pathways. All; meaning developed and developing parties. So, they do not want to engage on any discussion on the collective goal if they cannot discuss the donor base. And of course, emerging economies, high income economies that are developing countries are hesitant, and rightly so, that they will now be a part of this goal setting exercise.  And that is at the crux of the matter.”

And because of these issues, among others, the SIDS have found themselves  in a tight spot. Felson says that SIDS, being one of the region’s most in need of climate financing, only receives two percent of the available funding. And if parties cannot address these issues and find a common way forward – it will be those who are most affected by climate change that will feel the consequences all over again.

“I think things will continue the way they are," Felson says. "The recent report on climate finance shows that small island developing states only receive two percent of bi-lateral funding and we are recognised as the ones who should be prioritised in any context of bilateral financing. So, the loss actually would be for us not to be able to say, ‘look, you are committed to prioritise us in relation to public sources of grant base financing and figures aren’t matching up. We are no longer able to bring that to their attention to reset how they are actually focusing their bilateral financing. I think that is a loss for us.”

Another critical topic for discussion on the issue of finance is the loss and damage mechanism in developing countries. This was established at COP19 to address loss and damages that are associated with the impacts of climate change. Felson says they now want to know if countries will be making commitments to this mechanism.

This story was supported by the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership, a collaboration between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.