Protesters wearing masks in the likeness of French President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. President Joe Biden, and World Bank President Ajay Banga demonstrate against fossil fuels

Protesters wearing masks in the likeness of French President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. President Joe Biden, and World Bank President Ajay Banga demonstrate against fossil fuels in Paris on June 23, 2023.

(Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images)

'Totally Irresponsible': Macron's Paris Finance Summit Fails Climate Test

Campaigners slammed rich countries for "letting fossil culprits off the hook" by failing to advance ambitious climate finance plans.

Climate campaigners expressed disappointment and outrage Friday after a climate finance summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron ended without sufficiently concrete or bold action to force the primary driver of the planetary emergency—the fossil fuel industry—to pay for the damage it has caused and fund long-overdue solutions.

Tracy Carty, a climate politics expert at Greenpeace International, said in a statement that the Paris summit came to a close "with mild recognition of the need for new taxes to pay for climate action and identified a role for the G20 and at COP28 to take them forward."

"Taxing big polluters should be top of the agenda for these global moments," said Carty, "but rich country governments don't have to wait to act—they already can and must introduce taxes on big polluters, above all the fossil fuel industry, to pay for loss and damage now."

Pierre Terras of Greenpeace France took Macron to task for touting "fossil gas as an energy of transition" during the summit, an approach Terras slammed as "totally irresponsible."

"Unsurprisingly, he also has fallen short in recognizing the need to tax the fossil fuel companies to pay for the damage they have caused," Terras added. "Both nationally and globally, the French president seems stuck on protecting the wealthiest and the polluters."

The summit was attended by high-level representatives of around 40 nations, but Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz were the only G7 leaders who showed up in person, raising doubts about the event's ability to deliver substantive progress on climate finance—a top priority of low-lying island nations and other countries that are most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis despite doing the least to cause it.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and John Kerry, the Biden administration's climate envoy, represented the U.S. at the summit, held months before the critical COP28 conference in the United Arab Emirates later this year.

Reutersreported that under a roadmap that the Paris summit participants are set to formally release on Friday, multilateral development banks (MDBs) like the World Bank—which has provided at least $15 billion in financing for fossil fuel projects since the adoption of the Paris climate accord in 2015—"are expected to find $200 billion in extra firepower for low-income economies by taking on more risk, a move that may require wealthy nations to inject more cash."

"The leaders... said their plans would secure billions of dollars of matching investment from the private sector," Reuters noted.

The outlet also obtained the summit's yet-to-be-released final statement, which says world leaders "expect an overall increase of $200 billion of MDBs' lending capacity over the next ten years by optimizing their balance sheets and taking more risks."

"If these reforms are implemented, MDBs may need more capital," the statement adds.

Bronwen Tucker, Oil Change International's global public finance co-lead, said Friday that Paris summit attendees "missed a critical opportunity to redirect billions from fossil fuels, debt, and the ultra-rich to address the climate crisis."

"Wealthy country leaders with both an outsized control over our global financial rules and institutions and an outsized responsibility for our global crises were largely absent," said Tucker. "Those who did attend relied on old 'we can't pay for it' excuses, forwarding failed private-sector first approaches, and letting fossil culprits off the hook. Wealthy country leaders must listen to the advice over 150 economists gave at the start of this summit: taxing extreme wealth, canceling public external debts in low-income countries, ending fossil fuel handouts, and instead making the companies pay for their damages, would raise more than $3 trillion a year to slow the climate crisis."

"Looking ahead to COP28," Tucker added, "the good news is that a growing contingent of Global South leaders are showing the way forward by building affordable renewable energy and holding their northern peers accountable to pay their fair share."

"Global South leaders offered bold, innovative solutions but did not get the response they deserved from those in power."

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, whose meeting with Macron last year reportedly sparked the French president's recent call for a "new financial pact," has been a vocal advocate for reorienting global finance systems and pursuing an "absolute transformation" of institutions like the World Bank in the face of the growing climate threat.

"We only have this planet," Mottley told AFP earlier this week, "and unless you have a plan to live on Mars that I don't know about, then we need to work together to make it better."

But climate policy experts and advocates said the outcome of the two-day Paris summit barely moves the needle.

"While leaders at the Paris summit acknowledged the significant shortfalls in climate finance and offered some new proposals, the event did not deliver the transformative breakthroughs that are desperately needed," said Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and policy director for the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"Global South leaders offered bold, innovative solutions but did not get the response they deserved from those in power," Cleetus added. "It's critical for leaders from richer nations to follow through and build on agreed next steps to help swiftly unlock the scale of funding low- and middle-income countries require to address the climate crisis."

The summit came as rich nations faced mounting backlash for failing to meet their 2009 pledge to mobilize $100 billion per year in climate funding for low- and middle-income countries.

An Oxfam report published earlier this month found that rich nations only delivered $24.5 billion at most in real climate funding for vulnerable nations.

"The summit was meant to address the broken financial system that has failed to benefit those who need it most," Joseph Sikulu,'s Pacific managing director, said Friday. "It has gone some of the way, but not nearly far enough. Frontline communities are burdened with the need for adaptation and recovery, and the climate finance promised for this is ridiculously inaccessible."

"I firmly believe a world beyond destructive fossil fuels is possible, a world where Pacific Islands can thrive," Sikulu continued, "but it's going to need more than a broken system. It's going to need debt cancellation, grant-based climate finance, and a fossil fuel industry that pays for its crimes."

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