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Who spends what on climate finance?

Written by Neil Bird

‘A climate change deal requires climate change funding for developing countries. This is a most useful website for countries or organisations working on this issue. Many thanks!’ Wendy Mann, Senior Advisor, Natural Resources Management and Environment Dept., FAO

Any global climate change deal will depend on trust between governments, donors and civil society and will require complete transparency on the commitments made to provide financial support. But information about the international financial architecture for climate change has been limited and fragmented. Civil society has complained that climate finance donors pledge support, then drag their feet when it comes to signing cheques. Even if donors follow through on their pledges, institutional inertia often slows the disbursement of funds to developing countries.

In 2008, ODI identified the need for a ‘one-stop shop’ website to track climate funds – a site offering credible, independent information on the international community’s response to the need for finance in developing countries. A chance meeting at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress in Barcelona led to collaboration with the Heinrich Böll Foundation on such a website, ensuring its independence from major donors.

The website, www.climatefundsupdate.org, went live at the end of January 2009, providing information on international funding initiatives to help developing countries address the challenges of climate change. The site allows people to judge the distributional equity of international public funding, the speed of disbursement, how closely donor pledges match their commitments and which donors are most active. It lists details of new climate funds, as well as funds for specific projects and regions, and provides statistics and graphics mapping out both pledges by donor countries and their actual disbursements.

Few could have predicted the website’s impact. The new resource was picked up by John Vidal of The Guardian, whose analysis, showing that the poorest countries receive the least help from the rich on climate change, cited ODI data (‘Rich nations failing to meet climate aid pledges’, 20 February 2009).

More recently, a Canadian Treasury representative commented that all major governments now use the website to track climate change funds, saying ‘everyone finds this incredibly useful ... there isn’t anything else out there like this’. Praise for the site in the past year has come from Finland’s Ministry of the Environment, the Congo Basin Forest Fund, Agencia Presidencial para la Acción Social y la Cooperación Internacional in Colombia, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the team developing Indonesia’s Climate Change Trust Fund.

Since January 2009, 183 countries have accessed the site, which receives over 2,500 visitors each month. ODI and the Heinrich Böll Foundation are now planning to develop the site still further to secure its position as the major independent information resource on climate finance. With new financial support from the German Development Bank, there will be much to report as Mexico 2010 becomes the new landmark date on the climate change calendar.