With Surprise Australian Pledge, Green Climate Fund Hits Milestone

Ban Ki-moon addresses journalists at the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru. CREDIT: FLICKR/ H.E. MR. SAM K. KUTESA
Ban Ki-moon addresses journalists at the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru. CREDIT: FLICKR/ H.E. MR. SAM K. KUTESA

With global negotiators heading into the final stretch of this year’s U.N. climate summit in Lima, Peru, there is some hard news to report: the Green Climate Fund has reached its goal of raising $10 billion. Intended to help support poorer countries in their effort to develop in a low-carbon manner, a surprise pledge from Australia helped push the fund over the mark.

As recently as the G20 meeting in Australia last month, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had resisted giving to the fund, even after the U.S. pledged $3 billion at the event — the largest pledge yet.

In announcing the country’s policy reversal Abbott and foreign minister Julie Bishop said in a a statement that the pledge to the fund “will facilitate private sector-led economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region with a particular focus on investment in infrastructure, energy, forestry” as well as with “emissions reduction programs.”

Australia is now committed to providing $200 million over four years, which will come out of its existing aid budget. This helped push the Green Climate Fund, which had about $9.95 billion in pledges as of last week, over the $10 billion mark. At the summit on Tuesday, Belgium also announced it would give $62 million to the fund. Japan, Germany, France, Sweden, and several other countries had already pledged to the fund earlier this year.

While these pledges have been welcomed by developing nations, they still fall short of the trajectory needed to approach the 2009 goal of acquiring $100 billion in climate financing from the public and private sectors by 2020. However this benchmark does give developed and developing countries a point of consensus in their effort to reach a unifying global climate treaty by the end of the Paris U.N. climate summit next year.

“The Green Climate Fund is an important mechanism to ensure the world’s poorest countries have the resources they need to improve their resilience to climate change and decarbonize their economic growth,” said Erwin Jackson, Deputy CEO of The Climate Institute in Australia, who is attending the climate talks in Lima this week.

However, the road to climate financing remains full of unforeseen events, and with Australia’s surprise pledge the U.S.’s major contribution may be in limbo due to domestic politics. According to Roll Call, the omnibus spending deal now going through Congress would block funding for the Green Climate Fund. This could be a major setback, as nations are already wary to trust U.S. commitments at the climate talks when they know how acrimonious the debate is on American turf and how mercurially changes can occur.