LONDON (AlertNet) - Donors are not being transparent about their funding to help vulnerable countries tackle climate change, and the United Nations should establish an independent registry to improve reporting, says a briefing published on Monday by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
It scores nine countries and the European Union on the transparency of the information they have provided so far to the United Nations about their contributions to the $30 billion in "fast-start" climate finance promised to poor states between 2010 and 2012.
The scorecard - based on 25 criteria assessing the adequacy and clarity of summary information, methods for measuring and allocating climate finance, and individual project data - puts Norway at the top with just 52 percent, followed by Japan with 50 percent and the European Union with 48 percent.
The United States earns 32 percent, and New Zealand scores worst with only 26 percent.
The effort to evaluate the quality of funding information comes after campaigners and recipient countries have accused donor governments of diverting money from other development projects and re-labelling it as climate aid.
That would go against their promise at the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit to find "new and additional" resources to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, limit their greenhouse gas emissions, and pursue low-carbon growth.
J. Timmons Roberts at Brown University in the United States, one of the scorecard's authors, told AlertNet that existing channels for providing information amount to a "non-system", as they lack a common format, leading to inconsistent and poor-quality reporting.
KEY TO PLANNING
The briefing from the London-based IIED calls on donors to be more transparent about how they are delivering on their climate finance pledges.
"Unless developing countries know how much money to expect, when and for what, they cannot effectively plan their efforts to address and respond to climate change," it says.
"We urgently need an international registry of funds that provides comprehensive, detailed, consistent and transparent accounting and reporting measures at the project level," the authors write.
The registry - which they urge countries to establish at the U.N. climate conference in South Africa later this year - would provide accessible and comprehensive national reporting (including an assessment of whether funding is new and additional), together with detailed project data. It would also delineate public funds from private and carbon market sources, distinguish grants from loans, and identify how much is earmarked for adaptation and mitigation activities.
Roberts, director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Brown University, called for an international reporting system to be set up "fast". But it remains unclear where the impetus for such a registry will come from, as developing countries have yet to formally demand one within the U.N. climate talks, he said.
The global financial crisis has given wealthy donor nations an "out" to squeeze their funding for new programmes to tackle climate change, he added.
"Developing countries are just glad to get anything," he said. That could be one factor behind the apparent lack of pressure for more transparency on climate change finance, he suggested.
Establishing a climate finance registry would build trust within the U.N. negotiations, which are inching towards a new international deal to tackle global warming, as well as helping prevent corruption and inefficiency at ground level, the report's authors said.
"Transparent reporting is essential to enable recipient countries to plan their responses to climate change and for civil society to hold governments to account on their promises," Saleemul Huq, senior fellow in the IIED climate change group, said in a statement.