DOHA (AlertNet) - African negotiators and climate activists are demanding that rich nations provide a concrete commitment at U.N. talks in Doha to increase funding for developing states to adapt to a warmer world and grow in a cleaner way, despite reassurances from donors that aid is not about to dry up.
Rich governments say they have delivered on a 2009 pledge to provide some $30 billion in "fast start" finance from 2010 through 2012. They also have promised to mobilise $100 billion a year in public and private finance by 2020. But as the first funding period draws to a close, there has been no firm indication of what will happen in the interim.
"In Africa, (the finance gap) will mean that the continent will not be able to develop and implement enough adaptation activities to alleviate the problem," said George Awudi of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance. "Countries will be compelled to go for loans... and this will be killing Africa double."
In coastal areas of his country, Ghana, rising seas are forcing people from their homes, but the government lacks financial resources to help them, he said. Without additional money, food insecurity, water stress, damaging floods and tensions over dwindling natural resources are likely to trigger social tensions and more displacement, he added.
But officials from Britain, Germany and the United States told an event on the sidelines of the Nov. 26-Dec. 7 Doha conference on Thursday that climate finance is not about to fall off a cliff.
U.N. climate chief, Christiana Figueres, also told journalists on Friday that the issue of how to ramp up climate funding from $10 billion to $100 billion a year would likely be at the heart of the discussions on finance, and will require engagement from ministers next week.
UK finance negotiator Daisy Streatfeild noted that European Union countries had not stepped back from their fast start commitments, despite some being in "severe financial distress".
Britain has provided £1.5 billion (about $2.4 billion) so far, and is the only major donor to have put a number on how much climate finance it will provide beyond 2013. It has budgeted £2.9 billion from fiscal 2011-2012 to 2014-2015, with the annual amount rising 50 percent over that period, Streatfeild said.
"When we make commitments to mobilise money, we do our very best - come hell or high water - to deliver on those, and I think that sends an important signal about the $100 billion we have also signed up to, which is a big challenge that we intend to deliver on," she added.
Ina von Frantzius, a finance specialist in Germany's ministry of development cooperation, said she was "a bit puzzled" by talk about a "climate fiscal cliff" - a phrase used by the aid group Oxfam.
"Germany has always taken climate finance very seriously and we will continue to do so," she said, adding that her country had quadrupled its funding between 2005 and 2012 to 1.9 billion euros.
Beth Urbanas, director of the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Environment and Energy, said Washington also will carry on providing climate finance, after meeting a pledge of $7.5 billion for the fast start period. "I don't think any of us see a climate finance cliff on the horizon," she added.
Emmanuel Dlamini, chair of the Africa Group of negotiators at the climate talks, said he appreciated the reassurances from donor nations that money will keep flowing, but said this should be enshrined in a formal decision approved at the Doha talks.
"If you start talking about the financial gap, developed countries will tell you it will continue. They will tell you that there's money they have set aside. But how is it going, to where, on what basis?" he asked.
Tim Gore, climate change policy advisor for Oxfam International, urged rich nations to officially commit in the text that is to be agreed at the conference to increase their climate finance from 2013, as well as giving a clear indication of when they would start to put money into the fledgling U.N. Green Climate Fund.
"These rhetorical assurances that funds will continue aren't doing the job," he said.
But Britain's Streatfield said U.N. talks have been too fixated on top-line climate finance numbers.
"The number itself doesn't matter. What matters is that we're delivering the impact on the ground, that we're helping developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change and move on to low-carbon growth paths," she said.
She called for a stronger focus on the effectiveness of climate aid as funding is ramped up.
"I am going to have to tell our government what we spent the money on, and whether it was a good use, whether it was a better use than our hospitals or our schools, whether it was really delivering something with that money - and that is why just talking about numbers doesn't help us to continue allocating resources to this," she said.
The British and German officials said their governments plan to contribute to the GCF when it is ready to receive money. But they emphasised it must be well designed and effective in order to attract a significant proportion of climate finance flows.
The board of the fund - which is hosted by South Korea - has only met twice so far, and is still discussing its business model. Climate finance experts say it is unlikely to start receiving large pledges from donors for several months yet, although a few have already contributed money for its administrative costs. It may not start disbursing funds until 2014.
Urbanas, who is also a member of the GCF board, said the fund should have a broader group of contributing countries than traditional donors, as well as raising money from the private sector and non-government groups.
"We are not going to be able to tackle this issue unless we are leveraging every penny we can find around the globe," she said.
Britain's Streatfeild also argued for a bigger role for business in tackling climate change and funding responses to it.
"If we have done nothing to shift private investment and the way the private sector operates to ensure that it is choosing low carbon over high carbon consistently, and that it is ensuring its investments are climate-resilient, we will have failed in this challenge," she said.
Civil society groups say the Green Climate Fund should not allow itself to be dominated by private-sector interests because these are not aligned with the needs of the poorest people who are most vulnerable to climate change.
And some say donors should not wait until the GCF has agreed on all its operating procedures before they start to put money in. Oxfam has called for a pledging conference next year.
Other U.N. funds set up to help the poorest nations implement their climate adaptation plans each have only several hundred million dollars in their coffers, attracting only a tiny fraction of climate funds.
David Kaluba, a Zambian finance negotiator and GCF board member, said developed countries may be similarly wary of the new fund.
"(You) say we need to design the instrument properly and that's another way of saying, ‘Look, we are not very sure about this thing,’" he told the Doha event.