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People stand on a damaged road after deadly flooding in Al Jazirah, Sudan on August 20, 2022.

People stand on a damaged road after deadly flooding in Al Jazirah, Sudan on August 20, 2022. (Photo: Dirar Maad/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

US Giving $32 Billion Less Than Its Annual 'Fair Share' to Help Poor Nations Survive Climate Crisis

"Basic justice demands that those most responsible for causing the climate crisis should financially support those who are suffering most on the frontline of climate change," said the former president of the Maldives.

Kenny Stancil

Despite being most culpable for the climate emergency as the world's largest historical emitter of heat-trapping gases, the United States has contributed far less than its "fair share" to meet wealthy nations' legal obligation to help poor countries ramp up clean energy and fight extreme weather, according to an analysis published Monday.

"This is an absolute scandal."

Developed countries agreed at the United Nations COP15 climate summit in 2009 to allocate $100 billion in green finance per year to the developing world by 2020, but only $83.3 billion was mobilized that year, and governments are not expected to reach their goal, which has been criticized as woefully inadequate, until 2023.

The biggest reason for the shortcoming, researchers at Carbon Brief detailed in an assessment released on the second day of COP27, is because the U.S. is shirking responsibility.

If the U.S. were to give at a level commensurate with its cumulative contribution to global greenhouse gas pollution, it would allot $39.9 billion of the $100 billion pledge each year. That's $32.3 billion more than the estimated $7.6 billion it actually dished out in 2020.

Washington's $32 billion gap is the largest by far, though "other laggards include the U.K., Canada, and Australia, which all made smaller financial contributions to the internationally agreed target than their shares of historical emissions," Carbon Brief explained.

By providing less than $8 billion of the nearly $40 billion it should have based on the amount of planet-heating gases it has pumped into the atmosphere, the U.S. delivered just 19% of its "fair share" in 2020.

U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to deliver $11.4 billion per year in climate aid by 2024, but congressional lawmakers approved a mere $1 billion for such purposes in the $1.5 trillion spending bill they passed earlier this year. Given that Republican victories would further reduce the likelihood of proportionate U.S. cooperation on international climate action, COP27 attendees will be paying close attention to the outcome of Tuesday's midterm elections.

"Canada gave 37% of its fair share and was $3.3 billion short, while Australia gave 38% of its fair share and fell short by $1.7 billion," Carbon Brief noted. "The U.K. gave 76% of its fair share, falling short by $1.4 billion."

According to Eddy Pérez, a director at Climate Action Network Canada, "This is an absolute scandal."

"Canada, the U.S., and Australia have accumulated a huge debt to developing countries," said Pérez. "These wealthy polluters have not only contributed very little to climate finance but are also partly responsible for the increase of international fossil fuels finance."

As report co-author Simon Evans pointed out on social media, Carbon Brief also found that countries with the greatest "surplus" against their historical responsibility were more likely to provide interest-bearing loans rather than grants.

That includes Japan, France, and Germany, which respectively disbursed 86%, 75%, and 45% of their climate finance through lending. Unlike grants, loans must eventually be repaid by low-income nations that have done the least to cause the life-threatening climate crisis and have fewer resources to cope with it.

Increasing the amount of funding that rich countries are coughing up to address the deadly consequences of decades of unabated greenhouse gas pollution—and ensuring that the money comes in the form of grants instead of loans—are among the key issues at COP27, which began Sunday in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

"Basic justice demands that those most responsible for causing the climate crisis should financially support those who are suffering most on the frontline of climate change," Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, told The Guardian on Monday. "Every year we see the storms get stronger and the waves get higher."

"Our analysis for the V20 group of most climate-vulnerable nations finds that our countries have already suffered $500 billion in losses because of climate impacts," Nasheed continued, alluding to an assortment of 58 countries that are home to 1.5 billion people.

"The money is there—it's a question of political will."

"Currently we face a debt crisis because so many of the assets that we took loans to pay for are being destroyed by climate change," he added. "Ease the debt burden and we can all play our part."

When it was agreed upon 13 years ago, the $100 billion in annual climate finance by 2020 was intended to help developing countries replace fossil fuels with renewables and adapt to the increasingly frequent and intense disasters being turbocharged by global warming.

However, a series of reports published in recent days have made clear that humanity is right now on a collision course with climate catastrophe, necessitating more far-reaching interventions and funding to support them.

Existing climate targets and policies are so weak, according to the U.N., that the planet is currently on track to be 2.1 to 2.9°C hotter by 2100. Referring to the Paris agreement's objective of limiting temperature rise to avert the worst impacts, the U.N. warned that there is "no credible path to 1.5° in place" and called for "urgent system-wide transformation" to prevent widespread calamity.

In addition to robust mitigation efforts, "we need a global surge in adaptation investment to save millions of lives from climate carnage," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said last week. "Adaptation support today stands at less than one-tenth of [the $340 billion needed each year by 2030]. The most vulnerable people and communities are paying the price and this is unacceptable."


Furthermore, because a certain amount of destruction has been locked in due to extant planet-heating pollution, impoverished and low-lying nations are demanding progress on "loss and damage" financing, which has been added to the conference agenda.

In a recent letter to John Kerry, Biden's special presidential envoy for climate, a coalition of nearly 150 progressive groups demanded that the U.S. commit to "meaningful advances" on the provision of resources to address the destruction wrought by fossil fuels, which are estimated to cause more than $5 trillion in unpaid damages each year.

Rachel Simon of Climate Action Network Europe said Monday that "the world is watching and the clock is ticking."

"We will be holding governments to account at COP27 to ensure they get on the right track," Simon added. "The money is there—it's a question of political will."

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