Photo: In the third row from top, French President Macron (right) and UN Secretary-General Guterres (on his right) listen to a presentation at the One Planet Summit. Credit: A.D. McKenzie. - Photo: 2017

One Planet Summit Spotlights Funding to Fight Climate Change

By A.D. McKenzie

PARIS (IDN) – Financing is key in the fight against climate change, said delegate after delegate at the One Planet Summit in Paris December 12, and this meeting was all about the money: where to invest it and where not.

The World Bank Group announced that it would not be financing upstream oil and gas after 2019, except for certain projects in the “poorest countries”, where there is a clear benefit in terms of energy access for those in need.

“The policy will change and change dramatically,” said World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.

The One Planet Summit – with many participants sporting “#make our planet great again” buttons – was held on the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement on climate change, bringing together heads of states and representatives from more than 100 countries, businesses, civil society, youth and the world’s media.

Spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron, in partnership with the United Nations and the World Bank, the event saw a range of public and private institutions making commitments on funding, particularly for vulnerable regions.

The summit followed on the heels of the UN climate change talks – COP 23 – in Bonn, where there was a clear sense of urgency, according to Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

This sense was fuelled by the “extreme weather events that were devastating to so many countries around the world”, Espinosa said at a meeting with journalists in Paris the day before the summit, on the 20th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol.

“Lots of people are losing everything they have built throughout their lives,” she added, referring to the hurricanes and floods that recently ravaged several Caribbean states and other countries.

“Some heads of state spoke of their desperate need to get support in order to take action and recover, and build more resilient economies – this had a very high impact on everyone,” Espinosa told reporters, also emphasising that “finance is at the very centre” of finding environmental solutions.

Up to COP 23, only 30 percent of what was needed financially to combat climate change had been put on the table, according to the United Nations. The One Planet Summit aimed to change this, with several institutions and governments responding to Macron’s call to make pledges.

Canada and the World Bank Group said they would support small island developing states to expand their renewable energy infrastructure, in order to enable greater access to energy and decrease pollution.

Caribbean leaders, meanwhile, spotlighted the launch of an eight billion dollar investment plan to create the first “climate-smart zone” in the world. The plan includes public and private entities, such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, businesses and philanthropists.

This “Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition” aims to find a way “to break through the systemic obstacles that stop finance flowing to climate-smart investments”, stated the Caribbean Development Bank.

“The coalition aims to reinvigorate the islands that have been impacted by recent hurricanes Irma and Maria, and help build more resilient infrastructure and communities across the region as the likelihood of future extreme weather events, increases,” the bank added.

Haiti’s president Jovenel Moïse, a participant at the summit, said the region needed more support overall.

“We talk of ‘one planet’, but we also need to speak of ‘one Caribbean’ because all the Caribbean islands are vulnerable to climate change,” he said, noting that Haiti was in a “grave situation” regarding insurance against disasters.

His St. Lucia counterpart, Prime Minister Allen Michael Chastanet, said: “The hurricane season is coming next year. There is no doubt about it. The world keeps pledging money, but that money has not come.”

Chastanet said that the designation of some islands in the region as “middle income countries” (and therefore not eligible for certain types of financial assistance) needed to be revised at the international level.

Africa was also in focus at the summit, with the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) signing accords with Mauritius, Niger, Tunisia and the Comoros – as the first step in “concretising” France’s Adapt’Action Facility to support countries in their national climate action plans.

The facility, with financing of 30 million euros (approx. 35.5 million U.S. dollars) over four years, seeks to “accompany 15 developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change, in the implementation of the Paris Agreement regarding adaption to climate change,” the AFD stated.

“If we believe in the fight against climate change, there are instruments that we need to mobilise,” said AFD CEO, Rémy Rioux.

France has often been criticised for economic and environmental policies in its former colonies, and the announcements came against the backdrop of Macron’s recent bumpy visit to Africa.

Speaking to journalists on “Climate Finance Day” – a day of events organised on the eve of the One Planet Summit – Rioux said the world needed to do more regarding adaptation and also needed to increase support to Africa.

Regarding Asia, officials at the summit said moves by China and other countries in the region were “encouraging”. China announced that all companies would be required to disclose information on their environmental impact, and that domestic green investment was being promoted. The building of coal plants abroad, however, was an issue to which some NGOs drew attention.

China’s participation in the summit was in contrast with the glaring absence of the United States – U.S. President Donald Trump announced earlier this year that the country would withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

But other American voices filled the void, including those of businessman and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor Sean Paul, Bill Gates and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

“The day after Trump announced the withdrawal, I met with President Macron to say that the American people remain committed to the Paris Agreement,” Bloomberg said during the summit, declaring that Trump “has helped rally people.”

“We owe President Trump a bit of gratitude for helping us meet our goals,” he added.

According to Bloomberg, businesses “are crucial” in the transformation to a low-carbon economy. He said that corporations are becoming environmentally friendly because “they have no choice”, as employees, investors and consumers all want change.

Bloomberg and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney announced that there was increasing support for the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), a coalition formed during the climate talks in Paris two years ago.

They told the summit that more than 230 companies with a combined market capitalisation of over 6.3 trillion U.S. dollars have committed to supporting the TCFD, in contrast to just 20 percent of companies currently reporting climate-finance information.

“The more transparent markets are, the more stable and strong the economy will be,” Bloomberg said.

The summit saw a volley of new ideas, names, acronyms and announcements in a programme that veered on the overwhelming. The European Union made climate pronouncements, as did major insurance group AXA which announced green investment of 12 billion euros (approx.14 billion U.S. dollars) by 2020.

The EU said it would facilitate 9 billion euros (approx. 10.6 billion U.S. dollars) of investment in Africa and the EU neighbourhood region, on sustainable cities, sustainable energy and connectivity, and sustainable agriculture, rural entrepreneurs and agribusiness, as part of the EU External Investment Plan. The investment is expected to be delivered by 2020.

At one event, notable for the presence of women representatives (female speakers were rare at the summit), investors launched an initiative called Climate Action100+.

This new movement currently groups 225 investors who wish to “engage with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to improve governance on climate change, curb emissions and strengthen climate-related financial disclosures”, according to the stated aims.

The investors that have signed on have more 26.3 trillion U.S. dollars in assets under management, said a spokesperson.

The summit’s focus on business and investors drew the criticism of some activists. “President Macron had raised expectations that he would make a concrete announcement of more public finance to help poor countries deal with climate impacts and scale up climate action,” stated Harjeet Singh of ActionAid International.

“Instead, business took centre stage, while announcements of public finance were disappointingly scarce. Sadly, most of the leaders at the One Planet Summit seem to have forgotten that public financing is necessary for people to protect their safety and food security from climate impacts.”

Alongside the various declarations, the question from a 12-year-old boy was a stand-out moment at the summit.

“Can you tell us what you’ll do to help children like me who will be the victims of climate change?” asked Timothy from Fiji (which chaired COP 23).

One answer came from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres: countries need to respect commitments and make fossil fuels a thing of the past. [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 December 2017]

Photo: In the third row from top, French President Macron (right) and UN Secretary-General Guterres (on his right) listen to a presentation at the One Planet Summit. Credit: A.D. McKenzie.

IDN is the flagship agency of International Press Syndicate. –

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