UK criticised for failing to pay $300m in promised climate funds ahead of Cop27

Missed deadline for money pledged to assist developing countries sends ‘strong negative signal’ ahead of Egypt summit, say experts

The British government has come under fire for sending a “strong negative signal” ahead of the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt, by failing to make $300m (£260m) of promised climate finance payments.

The UK has already caused upset among developing countries hit hardest by the climate crisis, after a statement from Downing Street that Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, would not attend Cop27 due to his focus on domestic issues.

Britain is the current holder of the Cop presidency and will hand over to Egypt in November.

The UK missed its September deadline to provide $288m to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) dedicated to helping developing countries adapt and mitigate climate effects, Politico reported.

A separate $20.6m pledge the UK made to the adaptation fund has also yet to be paid.

Both funds support projects in the developing world, where people are suffering the most from a climate crisis they did least to cause.

At a meeting of the GCF board last month in South Korea, developing countries expressed concern over the effect of the UK’s failure to fulfil its promises, according to observers. Board notes of the October meeting showed that three projects approved by the fund would now be put on hold due to a “lower volume of contributions from contributors than was anticipated”.

Clare Shakya, director of the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, said the failure to deliver was “very, very poor timing”.

“This is in the context when Cop26 was all about rebuilding trust. The UK has pushed every other country to up what they are doing to increase climate and adaptation funding.

“And now, even before Cop27, the engineers of the trust-building exercise are reneging on their own promises. It’s such a strong negative signal to developing countries that they should not trust rich nations,” she said.

Shakya predicted “absolute chaos” at Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, where the summit will be held from 6-18 November.

“Everyone will be looking for strong statements and increased accountability for rich countries to deliver their promises.”

Erika Lennon, who represented the civil society organisations for developed countries at the GCF meeting in October, said: “It’s worrisome any time a country doesn’t meet its commitments. Developing countries urgently need this funding, as we have seen by the climate impacts all over the world.”

It was of “grave concern” that three projects had to be put on hold due to the cash shortfall, said Lennon, who is a senior attorney at the Centre for International Environment Law.

“The funding proposals have already gone though a lengthy process of development. They have been identified as urgent and beneficial to a country or several countries in terms of priority for mitigation or adaptation to climate change. A number of countries have expressed concern over this.”

The annual UN climate summits are designed to help governments agree steps to limit global temperature rises. The Egypt conference will focus on three key areas: reducing emissions, helping countries prepare for and deal with climate breakdown and securing technical support for developing countries.

Last week, the UK’s humanitarian chief questioned where the promised $100bn (£87bn) a year to fight the impact of global heating in poorer countries had gone, and called for greater transparency around climate finance.

“The truth of the matter is that we are scrambling to try to understand where the climate money is that was promised a decade ago,” said Martin Griffiths, the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator. “Where is it? Who’s holding it and who is not delivering it to places like Somalia?” said Griffiths.

The UK has cut its overseas aid budget from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5%, with reports last weekend pointing to how a large proportion of the aid budget for poor countries is being spent inside the UK, much of it on housing refugees from Ukraine.

The Foreign Office declined to comment on its climate finance commitments but is expected to update the GCF board on its payment schedule soon.


Karen McVeigh

The GuardianTramp

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