US, Japan miss deadline for firming up financial commitments to UN climate change fund

STOCKHOLM – A key U.N. climate fund hit a snag Thursday as major donors including the United States and Japan failed to meet a deadline for converting their pledges of climate aid into signed agreements.

Green Climate Fund — intended to become the main international channel of climate finance for developing countries — said it had inked deals for 42 per cent of the $10 billion that governments pledged last year. It needs to hit 50 per cent to start considering projects for funding — something it hopes to do before a major climate summit in Paris in December.

Executive Director Hela Cheikhrouhou urged governments that haven’t finalized agreements to do so “urgently” so the fund can start allocating money.

“This is a test for governments to deliver on their vision to establish GCF as the primary global investment vehicle on climate finance,” Cheikhrouhou said.

The U.S. pledged $3 billion to the fund while Japan promised $1.5 billion.

Observers said the U.S. delay was expected because of how the legislative process works.

“Despite U.S. missing the deadline, negotiations are ongoing and must be concluded as soon as possible so the GCF can start to disburse,” said Athena Ronquillo-Ballesteros of the World Resources Institute in Washington.

The GCF was created to help developing countries to limit their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to unavoidable consequences of climate change, such as rising seas and shifts in rainfall patterns with impacts on agriculture.

Cheikhrouhou on Thursday said the fund wouldn’t outright exclude any technologies that can help reduce emissions, despite calls from environmentalists for a ban on funding for coal plants and other fossil fuels, which scientists say have played a big role in global warming.

“A fund to combat climate change should not exacerbate climate change, period,” said Karen Orenstein of Friends of the Earth. “People around the world will be watching the GCF extremely closely to make sure it does not finance a single fossil fuel.”

Some countries, including Japan, say support for coal-fired power plants should count as climate finance if they use new high-efficiency combustion technologies that reduce CO2 emissions, compared to older coal plants.