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We need Geo-engineering . . . of Consumer Aspirations!

A little while ago, I attended an event exploring the consequences of severe warming on physical and human systems at Oxford University Martin School, which was  predicated on the need for “substantial changes in policy, production methods and consumption”.

Achim Steiner, then Director of the Martin School, spoke in his opening address about the need for a new ‘I-narrative’, where all of us need to ask ourselves what we can do individually to combat climate change – echoing, in a fashion, President Kennedy’s famous “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.

However, the first question in the subsequent Q&A was not about this new narrative, but about the role of ‘geo-engineering’, that is to say “methods that aim to deliberately alter the climate system to counter climate change”[IPCC AR5 SPM], such as solar radiation management  and carbon dioxide removal.

While I have been rather sceptical about this type of physical intervention, the juxtaposition of the question with Steiner’s I-narrative made me think that perhaps we do need geo-engineering – only of a different kind: We need, as it were, geo-engineering of consumption, or to be more precise, of consumer aspirations and desires.

The idea that consumer behaviour needs to change is nothing new in the climate change arena. It is, after all, exactly what carbon price signals and regulations are meant to do, and there is no doubt that introducing a carbon price (reducing a carbon subsidy) generally does have an effect, as do simple prohibitions (banning incandescent light bulbs, drugs). But we need not go back to the 1920s to find examples that the effect may not be on demand, but on politics, namely to force a repeal of the measure in question. Using cost disincentives or prohibiting something altogether to change consumer behaviour are punitive tools that can backfire, particularly if they are seen to be disproportionate, unreasonable, or unfair. If, as recently reported, we would need a ‘sky-high carbon tax … to avoid climate catastrophe‘ then I fear we will be doomed if we put all our eggs in the carbon pricing basket.

What we need is to complement the punitive push with an aspirational pull on consumer behaviour in the right direction. Take the case of smoking. Smoking-rates in the UK have more than halved since the 1970. I am not in possession of the facts as to how much of this change in consumer behaviour was due to punitive push (excise taxes, smoking bans) as opposed to aspirational pull (education, advertising). Based on purely anecdotal evidence (my personal experience) smoking in my youth was ‘cool’ while my children see it as positively ‘uncool’ (one of the reasons that made me quit).

I do not know how exactly this change of consumer attitude came about, but it stands to reason that marketing and education must have been part of the equation. I am also convinced that marketing/public relations and education can be used to influence consumer aspirations with regard to more sustainable lifestyles. They must be used much more prominently to complement punitive tools if we are to avoid the climate catastrophe.  In short, we need to ask ourselves …

…the billion-Euro question:

CCS plant, Boundary Dam, Canada

What is more effective in our fight of climate change, investing a billion into carbon capture and storage plant, or investing it in education and marketing?


Tania and Anisha Müller, Graduation, University College London

I have a hunch that the answer might be the latter, and I’m not alone in this. Just a couple of days ago, I met a UK parliamentarian and described this idea. He was intrigued, asking if any studies have been carried out on this. Unfortunately, I had to admit, I did not know, but I promised to try and find out. Hence this post.

Dear reader, if you have any relevant information, please let me know!

A Day in Agadir — sub-national contributions to multilateral climate finance

by Benito Müller


A few weeks ago, during a seminar here in Oxford, Antigua and Barbuda’s climate envoy told me about the considerable increase in hurricane frequency and impact she had experienced in her own life-time and the urgent need to make her country more resilient. Two days after her return home, the island of Barbuda was razed to the ground and made uninhabitable by hurricane Irma. It is difficult to conceive of an event that better illustrates the urgency for vulnerable countries to become more resilient to climate change related adverse impacts, in particular as they are predicted to continue increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change. This, and the fact that most of the particularly vulnerable countries are among the poorest in the world, yet bear a burden disproportionately high compared to the responsibility for having caused the problem, make it imperative that the more affluent (and responsible) provide financial support for them to become more resilient to the adverse impacts of climate change.

The Oxford Climate Policy ecbi Workshop

A workshop convened by OCP on behalf of the European Capacity Building Initiative (ecbi) at the recent subnational Climate Summit in Agadir, Morocco, highlighted the emerging role of sub-national contributions to multilateral climate finance. The aim was to create awareness and buy-in among sub-national actors (governments, corporations, individuals) of the nascent initiatives of sub-national contributions to multilateral climate funds, in particular the UN Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and Adaptation Fund.

In his opening address, Ambassador Aziz Mekouar, Chief Negotiator for the Moroccan Presidency of the UN climate negotiations, highlighted the urgency in the context of the recent devastation caused in the Caribbean. He also pointed out the importance of multilateral climate funds by stressing that they “have a proven track record and are perceived by several countries a strong indicator of trust between parties (sic!). Alternative finance, such as sub-national contributions to multilateral climate finance can provide a very valuable complement to overall financial flows linked to the climate, in particular when it comes to the needs of developing countries.”

The theme of the disproportionate North-South ‘trust intensity’ – that is developing country trust gained or lost per dollar contributed or reneged on – of these multilateral funds in the context of the international climate change negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement was taken up in my presentation on CSR Crowdfunding for the Adaptation Fund. I also argued that small multilateral funds are key to the functioning at scale of the overall multilateral financial mechanism in an essential division of labour (see reference [10] below): The Green Climate Fund (GCF), intended to be the main multilateral climate finance channel, will not function at the intended scale unless it becomes a ‘wholesaler’, outsourcing the funding of micro-activities through programmatic access [3] to in-country intermediaries (‘Enhanced Direct Access’[9]), or through multilateral specialised niche retail funds such as the LDCF and the Adaptation Fund. It makes absolutely no sense to abolish (‘rationalise’) these small multilateral funds if they have to be re-invented to enable the GCF to work at scale.

The problem is that the LDCF and the Adaptation Fund, despite their proven track record, have not managed to attract the level of predictable funding that would enable them to fulfil their potential. The Adaptation Fund was designed to receive innovative finance from the market-based Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, but that source has dried up because of a lack of market demand. It is now essentially dependent on voluntary contributions from national budgets, which poses a predictability problem [11]. Yet there is room for a different form of innovative sourcing of contributions: the Adaptation Fund has a crowdfunding instrument, that is a ‘donate’ button on its website through which is can receive credit card donations. The idea of ‘CSR crowdfunding’ [6] in this context is simply for corporations to donate one-percent of their air travel budget in recognition of the associated climate concerns. If ten percent of those corporates that already acknowledge these concerns by buying carbon offsets would switch to these CSR contributions, the Adaptation Fund would receive an estimated $120 million annually [7], which is more than its current voluntary contributions from national budgets.

Philip Gass of the Canadian International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) introduced the state of Canadian sub-national contributions to multilateral finance. In Paris at COP 21, the idea of sub-national contributions to multilateral climate funds (see [11]) had a first breakthrough with the announcement of a CAD 6 million contribution to the LDCF by the Province of Quebec [8], as part of an overall CAD 25 million commitment made to climate change support for developing countries.

Canadian provinces have considerable legal leeway to contribute to international climate finance. The federal government in Candada is also very supportive on such contributions over and above the national pledge (I believe it is indeed very important that any sub-national contributions are treated as additional to the national obligations and not as substitute).[i] Gass emphasised a number of reasons why sub-nationals should be interested in contributing to multilateral climate finance. Apart from the obvious moral imperative of showing solidarity with the plight of the poorest and most vulnerable by contributing to adaptation funding, and the resulting reputational gains, he highlighted the potential cost-effectiveness of mitigation activities in developing countries, and last but not least to secure ‘a seat at the table’, in particular in deliberations on how sub-national emission trading schemes could work together with the mechanism introduced in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.  He concluded that while there are some challenges, they can be overcome, particularly by using new and innovative finance sources, such as a small share of proceeds of trading scheme auctions or carbon taxes that would be seen as ‘new’ revenues and not reallocations of existing public spending. This might indeed be helpful, particularly in the forthcoming discussions on the compatibility of sub-national schemes with the Article 6 mechanism, which itself has earmarked a share of proceeds “to assist developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change to meet the costs of adaptation.”  Finally, the policy backdrop in Canada to all of this is the Federal Government’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which will see carbon pricing rates roughly doubly over the next five years, opening up additional revenue streams for international investment.

Massachusetts State Senator Mike Barrett, in his presentation, showcased a piece of Legislation enabling donations from U.S. taxpayers in the state of Massachusetts to the LDCF, as filed by him in the State Senate in March 2017 (MA Senate Bill No. 2056). The Bill makes use of the fact that the majority of states (41), including Massachusetts, allow tax payers to earmark (‘check-off’) a share of their tax refund on their personal income tax form as contribution to certain state programmes. It would create a Massachusetts UN Least Developed Countries Fund (MLDCF) to be replenished through such a tax refund check-off programme and any other public and private sector contributions for the benefit of the LDCF. Senator Barrett highlighted the ground-braking aspect of the check-off programme proposed in his bill, namely that it would be the first time that American tax payers would be given the option to express solidarity with a global concern in such a scheme.[ii] In essence, the MLDCF is a government-led crowdfunding instrument with a very special type of marketing tool: income tax forms. An important aspect of these schemes, as highlighted in the presentation, is that since tax payers are forced to look at the forms that contain these options, these check-off programmes, in marketing term, amount to a ‘push strategy,’ which given the current information overflow is much more effective that schemes where individuals have to go and actively ‘pull’ (search for) information on good causes to donate to.

Emilie Parry, Oxford Climate Policy and University of Oxford, concluded the event with an evaluation of The potential of sub-national contributions to multilateral finance from California, based on her recent factfinding tour in her home state. In the course of that tour, she consulted senior representatives of Governor Brown’s office and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), the chair of the California Air Resources Board, the Mayors of Los Angeles and Santa Monica (California Climate Mayors Network), as well as legislators, private sector representatives and NGOs (in particular from the environmental justice movement). Based on these consultations, she found that there is considerable interest in, and good will towards providing financial support to the multilateral climate funds. The main question raised was how, given the fact that there are legal impediments to the California government spending money outside the state.

The presentation went on to discuss potential options of how the Californian government could facilitate contributions to the multilateral climate funds. Like Massachusetts, California has tax refund check-off programmes, and as the resources collected in this manner are not state income but charitable donations by individuals, the above-mentioned legal impediments should not apply. In any case, it should be relatively straightforward for the government to set up a charitable crowdfunding instrument – a ‘California International Climate Solidarity Fund’ – to collect donations from public and private-sector sources, including individuals, for the benefit of multilateral climate funds. Governor Brown’s September 2018 legacy Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco would be the ideal space to express solidarity between Californians and the most vulnerable across the globe by launching such a crowdfunding instrument, maybe with some start-up contributions by kindred spirits expressing their solidarity also with the Governor’s vision of California being a climate change model sub-national. Over time, it might be possible to generate some innovative finance, say associated with the California Cap and Trade Programme (CCTP).[iii] Establishing such a crowdfunding solidarity fund at his 2018 Summit would cement Governor Brown’s legacy not only as an environmentalist but also as a humanist, as someone who cares about the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.

The Panel on American sub-national Action

Later the same day, another panel was discussing the mobilization of American stakeholders in the fight against climate change. Matt Rodriguez, California Secretary for Environmental Protection, began by emphasizing the fact that, as a founding member of a number of national climate change initiatives – We are still in the Paris Agreement, and America’s Pledge (meant to “compile and quantify efforts from U.S. states, cities, businesses and other actors to address climate change in alignment with the Paris Agreement”) – California takes greenhouse gas mitigation as seriously as ever irrespective of the pronouncements of the Trump administration on membership of the Paris Agreement. He also highlighted the need international collaboration in this context. Indeed, a week after President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Agreement, Governor Brown was in Beijing to sign an agreement to work together with China on “to expand trade between California and China with an emphasis on so-called green technologies that could help address climate change[iv] Secretary Rodriguez, in this context, recalled a slogan that became prominent in the late 20 Century: “Think global, act local!

However, America’s actual pledge extends beyond mitigation. It includes the provision of funding for developing countries not only to reduce their emissions, but also to build resilience to the adverse impact of climate change as a matter of urgency (as mentioned above). Given the growing isolationist tendencies of the current era, progressive forces must also act globally, or in the words of a recent OCP blog, they must  “Think Local, Act Global!” This global action, the blog argues, must go beyond mitigation to include the provision of financial support for the poorest and most vulnerable across the globe.

Concurring with this sentiment, Senator Barrett shared what is happening in Massachusetts, including his innovative and ground-braking legislation proposal. However, if there was still any doubt about the importance of including financial support for multilateral climate finance in sub-national action agendas, it was dissipated by the closing intervention from Liane Schalatek (Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America), who was representing non-governmental stakeholders on the Panel. She focused her intervention exclusively on this, emphasising a range of options, from innovative financial tools such as earmarking a share of proceeds from emission trading auctions or carbon taxes, to crowdfunding. Her intervention made it abundantly clear that “Only in the presence of such support for the Paris finance mechanism can state governors truly make the claim: We Are Still In the Paris Agreement”[1], and that this needs to happen as a matter of urgency.

Further Reading/References 

(reverse chronological order)


[i] This is of particular importance in the case of the current US ‘national debt’ to the GCF of $2 billion dollar. State and other sub-national contributions (cities, private sector, individuals) to the GCF, while extremely welcome, can be counted as being ‘American contributions’, but not as offsets to the contributions pledged and signed by the national government.

[ii] In 2015, there were a grand total of 410 tax check-off option available to American income tax payers, but all of them concerning domestic beneficiaries, ranging from non-game wildlife preservation to special Olympic programmes.

[iii] One possible way to get around the mentioned legal complications might be to follow the current practice under the CCAP to allocate allowances to utilities with California customers, for them to sell them and distribute the revenue to these customers. In other words, it should be possible to allocate a small share of the annually allocated allowances to an emission trading intermediary, with the mandate to sell them and transfer the revenue to the California International Climate Solidarity Fund.

[iv] “China and California sign deal to work on climate change without Trump”, www.the, 7 June 2017.

Truly to still be in Paris

US sub-national contributions to the financial mechanism of the Paris Agreement

By Benito Müller,[1] Felipe Floresca,[2] and Emilie Parry[3]

There is a growing realization among US ‘sub-nationals’ – that is states, cities, corporations, counties, universities, grass-root networks, non-profit organizations, individuals (in essence, anyone outside the White House) – that climate change is a serious issue that needs to be tackled, and the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement by the Trump administration is viewed as a reckless act of geo-political vandalism.

The fact is, the Paris Agreement is necessary for us to come to grips with global climate change. Why? We need most, if not all, countries to ratchet up their emission reduction ambitions significantly if we are to get on top of the problem, and this requires international collaboration. Yet that will not be forthcoming if the global climate regime is seen to be blatantly unfair. A solution requires a lot of goodwill and good faith from everyone, and not only with regard to reducing emissions.

The Paris Agreement is not just about emission reductions. It is, as highlighted in a recent Climate Home article (‘US cities and states back Paris deal but ignore climate finance), equally about providing financial support to (particularly vulnerable) developing countries in their fight against climate change and its adverse impacts.

One of the key instruments of the Paris Agreement for this purpose is a number of multilateral funds collectively known as the Agreement’s ‘financial mechanism’. While the sums of money flowing through this mechanism are minuscule in comparison to the amounts that developing countries will have to spend themselves, the mechanism itself is of key importance for the international regime:

  • It serves as a beacon for the developed world – signalling to developing countries that their plight is recognized and appreciated.
  • It symbol character helps to reduce the prevailing sense of injustice which otherwise will scupper all efforts to enhance the worldwide mitigation ambitions that we all need to address climate change successfully.

With this in mind, the question then is how can ‘sub-nationals’ contribute to multilateral climate funding under the Paris Agreement? What can they do to minimize the erosion of global trust instigated by the Trump White House decision to renege on the contributions to the Paris financial mechanism signed up to by the Obama administration[4]?

The most straightforward option, available to all, is the crowdfunding tool of the multilateral Adaptation Fund, collecting credit card contributions  through a web ‘donate’ button.

US state governments could follow the precedent set by the government of the Canadian Province of Quebec which contributed CA$6 million to the UNFCCC Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) at the 2015 Paris climate summit. Alternatively, they could establish dedicated state-level ‘international climate solidarity funds’  to collect funding for the Paris financial mechanism. One example of this already underway is the ‘Massachusetts UN Least Developed Countries Fund (MLDCF)’, currently under consideration in the Massachusetts State Senate. This fund would be replenished through an income tax refund check-off programme and by a range of other public and private sector contributions, for the benefit of the LDCF.

In terms of demonstrating individual state efforts, and also to provide some much-needed funding predictability, the best way forward would be to create such state funds for the collection of donations from individual residents, city networks, corporate actors, as well as local and state governments. In the case of state governments, this would ideally be though earmarking a small share of some innovative source of revenue – such as carbon taxes or the proceeds of auctioning emission trading permits. For example, a bill currently under consideration in the California State Senate to modify the existing California Cap and Trade Programme envisages the distribution of emission permit auctioning revenue as ‘climate dividends’ to all residents on a per capita basis. In order to show solidarity with the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities, California could then, for example, introduce a voluntary climate dividend check-off programme for the benefit of LDCs through the establishment of a California Least Developed Countries Fund, maybe with the additional provision that the climate dividends of the top x per cent of earners are mandatorily checked off in that manner.

Only in the presence of such support for the Paris finance mechanism can state governors truly make the claim: We Are Still In the Paris Agreement!


[1] Managing Director, Oxford Climate PolicyConvener International Climate Policy Research, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford.

[2] Climate Justice Advocate and Senior Consultant, Emerald Cities Collaborative.

[3] Associate Fellow, Oxford Climate Policy.

[4] In the case of the Green Climate Fund alone, this leaves a shortfall of $2 billion against the $3 billion contribution signed off by the previous administration

Massachusetts UN Least Developed Countries Fund

Oxford Climate Policy has for some time been working closely with a number of North American partners in promoting the idea of sub-national contributions to multilateral climate funds (“Finance for the Paris Climate Compact: The role of earmarked (sub-) national contributions“)

In Paris at COP 21 this idea had a first breakthrough with the announcement of a CA$ 6 million contribution to the UNFCCC Least Developed Countries Fund by the Province of Quebec, followed by announcements from the Belgian regional governments and the City of Paris (“In Paris it became ‘chic’ for sub-nationals to provide multilateral support for climate change finance. Now it must become ‘de rigueur’!“).

Moreover, as it is highly unlikely that the present US administration will be contributing to (UN) climate funds (“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst! What next with American climate finance?“), the only solution is to “Think Local, Act Global!

We are therefore extremely pleased to be able to announce another breakthrough, this time in the US, facilitated by our partners at the Institute for Sustainable Energy  of Boston University: On 27 March, State Senator Michael Barrett filed “An Act enabling taxpayer donations to the Least Developed Countries Fund, an initiative of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change” in the Massachusetts Senate.

The Act makes use of the fact that quite a number of states, including Massachusetts, allow tax payers to earmark (“check-off”) a share of their tax refund on their personal income tax form as contribution to certain state programmes. It proposes to create a “Massachusetts UN Least Developed Countries Fund” to be replenished through such a tax refund check-off programme and any other public and private sector contributions) for the benefit of the UNFCCC Least Developed Countries Fund. (Fact sheet)

We hope that other sub-national authorities, particularly in the US, will follow suit in thinking local but acting global to enable the poorest and most vulnerable allies to combat climate change while reducing poverty.

Think Local, Act Global!

State and City Climate Leadership Includes Global Finance

Barbara Kates-Garnick,[1] Peter Fox-Penner[2], and Benito Müller[3]

31 March 2017

By proposing to slash Federal funding to combat climate change, President Trump has declared war on our ability to deal with a very real, existential global problem that cannot be solved by building walls.  As Washington abrogates its leadership both at home and abroad, states and cities must step up on both.  Globally, the poorest and most vulnerable allies must be supported to enable them to combat climate change, while reducing poverty, and the citizens of Massachusetts have an opportunity to step up to the plate.

Well before last November, U.S. cities and states were playing a leading role in reducing carbon pollution and the superstorms and droughts caused by climate change. After a series of actions through which President Trump has greatly weakened America’s international reputation, it is now clear that cities and states must do more, not least in counterbalancing the loss of Federal funding pledged by the Obama administration to help developing countries.

U.S. states have taken the lead in introducing economic tools to reduce their own carbon emissions. New York and California are both part of regional emission trading markets, while Oregon, Massachusetts and Wyoming are considering a carbon tax.

Such leadership in domestic action is essential. But if cities and states are to step up to national leadership, they must begin to think beyond their borders. The climate crisis must be solved through united worldwide efforts.  For the poorest and most vulnerable nations, an essential part of the solution is gaining access to the funding required to cope with the disastrous floods, famines, and losses from climate change.

A state or city may understandably feel that it is doing its part by cutting its own emissions dramatically. Providing funds to someone halfway across the globe to build a flood-resilient agricultural system may seem like a role that cities or states aren’t ready to assume.  In America, as the saying goes, ‘all politics is local’.

But different times and different challenges call for different thinking. The new leaders of American climate action state and local leaders and citizens – must recognise that the (admittedly heroic) cuts in their own emissions don’t fully address this global problem.  Helping the least-developed countries to reduce   emissions and protect themselves from climate impacts is an essential part of the solution. Without funding from the wealthier parts of the world this simply will not happen. The climate crisis will not be solved, and the rising seas and storms will attack America’s coastline, even if American cities themselves emit almost no greenhouse gases.

The good news is that a solution is within reach. As cities and states adopt trading markets for carbon emissions, renewable energy certificates, and many other clean energy financing mechanisms, they could easily dedicate a small (say 2 percent) share of these revenues to international efforts. The province of Quebec has already pledged $5 million to the UN Least Developed Country Fund which provides funding for climate projects in the 51 poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world, with a total of 880 million people.

Here in Massachusetts, Senator Michael Barrett has just introduced a bill that allows citizens to voluntarily contribute a share of their state tax refund as donation to the UN fund. Passing this bill will place the state in a position of global leadership on this crucial issue.

Mechanisms to fund contributions such as this must become an essential part of state and local climate policies. It has been said that if the Paris Conference made it ‘chic’ for sub-nationals to provide multilateral support for climate change finance, now it must become ‘de rigueur’! With the new administration being intent on crippling multilateralism in general and funding for international climate funds, in particular, it is key that the leadership of states in the Trump era also extends to contributing to these now-depleted international channels for funding the poorest and most vulnerable countries struggling with climate change and poverty reduction.

Finally, neither citizens nor leaders should view this as ‘merely’ an ethical (moral issue) problem. It is simply becoming part of the solution.  As the U.S. found with the post-World War II Marshall Plan, international funding pas long-term economic and security dividends. In addition to the ethical dimensions of assisting those in need, healthy and resilient emerging economies will be better and safer allies and trading partners. They are the growth markets for the clean energy technologies that U.S. cities and states will produce for the rest of the century. When solving multi-faceted problems of epic proportions, sometimes it is necessary to ‘think local but act global’.

[1] Prof. Kates-Garnick is Professor of Practice at The Fletcher School of Tufts University. Most recently she served as the Undersecretary of Energy for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,

[2] Prof. Fox Penner is Director of Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy;, (202) 256-4577.

[3] Prof. Müller is Convener, International Climate Policy Research at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford;, +44 7876 566975.

Justice is still critical in the post-Paris world of “nationally determined” climate action

by Anju Sharma[1]

At a public event in Oxford a few weeks ago, one of the main architects of the Paris Agreement indicated just how problematic ethical considerations in solving the world’s climate change crisis are for the “mainstream”. Describing the French Presidency’s strategy in the run-up to the Paris Conference last year, she listed “the need to get out of burden sharing and carbon budgets” as one of their main priorities.

Can we really solve the climate change problem without some notion of fair burden sharing, not only of carbon budgets, but also of impacts?

We may be in a “post-Paris” world now, with “nationally determined” bottom-up “contributions” instead of a top-down determination of actions required by each country on the basis of fair criteria, but does this really mean that we no longer need fair burden sharing?

There are two kinds of “burdens” linked to climate change: the burden of “mitigating” or reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and the burden of dealing with the impacts of climate change – either through “adaptation”, where it is still possible, or by bearing the burden of the “loss and damage” caused by climate change that cannot be adapted to.

Developed countries have been very eager to share the former, the burden of mitigation, as long as it does not involve any calculations to determine which countries are most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, and the most capable, so should take on the greater burden of mitigation. For years, they made action on their own on mitigation conditional to participation by developing countries. Countries that have neither comparable responsibility for the climate change problem, nor adequate capacity to take on this extra effort on top of their existing development challenges, eventually gave in to the decades of pressure and agreed to take on mitigation efforts under the Paris Agreement. Thus fell one of the two historic “twin taboos” of climate change.

The problem now is that although the Paris Agreement includes mitigation action by all countries, including developing countries, all countries are left to decide their own “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs). It is unlikely that they will shoulder their fair share of the mitigation burden.

Developed countries are not very keen, however, to share the burden of adaptation and loss and damage. They would prefer to leave this topic as muddy as possible, drawing red lines around any consideration of the polluter pays principle, or of liability for climate impacts. The second “Northern taboo” still stands strong. It is a continuing battle to get developed countries to show as much interest in adaptation in developing countries as they do in mitigation, and to get them to even talk about loss and damage. The Paris Agreement may include Articles on both, but read the fine print and it is clear that there is much more tangible progress in the Agreement on mitigation than on adaptation or loss and damage.

Far from bringing adaptation and loss and damage into the limelight, moreover, there is the distinct danger that the Paris Agreement will once again turn the limelight onto mitigation. With the inclusion of the 1.5ºC aspirational target, however “difficult if not impossible to hit”, the focus of the global scientific community already appears to have shifted to mitigation once again. Global attention seems to have returned to where it was in 2002, before the climate conference in New Delhi, when everyone was only talking about mitigation. But unlike in those days, when equity and the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” was central to the debate, justice-talk has been removed from polite climate conversation in the post-Paris world.

The post-Paris narrative

Any substantive discussion on justice in the climate context is seen to be seditious in the post-Paris, nationally-determined world. A month after the Paris Agreement was adopted, I participated in an academic conference on climate change in Cambridge. The reaction to my presentation on why the Paris Agreement was unfair to poor countries and communities was decidedly frosty, antagonistic even, and the topic was clearly not as engaging or interesting as a discussion on whether China’s mitigation intentions were honourable.

This tendency to consider burden sharing and equity concerns as peripheral or even dangerous is the subject of a recent editorial in Global Environmental Change, which notes “an established line of argument”, “heard from very influential players in UN negotiation halls, academic journals, and within think-tanks and government ministries”, arguing “that discussions of justice ought to be left out of both academic work and policy discussions because they are conceptually flawed, could “derail the negotiations,” and erode political will”.

Talking about equity, it is alleged, may derail negotiations. But not talking about it can kill the possibility that the outcome of the negotiations will ever be implemented in good faith, with maximum possible ambition, or that countries will continue to engage.

Why is equity still important?

Social entities such as people and governments may not necessarily worry too much about the overall fairness of a situation. But they are almost always concerned if they see themselves as being treated unfairly.

The Paris Agreement deliberately eschews any comparison between countries or even groups of countries. However, such comparisons are a prerequisite for moral and ethical considerations, which are inherently relational. It only allows for aggregate global assessments, therefore rendering any assessment of whether a country is “doing its fair share” or is “free-riding” obsolete.

Moreover, the diverse nature of Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs), including the different time horizons (at least in the first NDCs: five years for some countries, ten for others) makes any such comparisons difficult, if not impossible.

In the absence of information on what others are doing and how this compares to their fair share, countries will tend to assume that the others are only doing the absolute minimum. To avoid taking on an unfair share of the burden, they will do the same. If I think that everyone else will be free-riding, then the only fair way out is for me also to free-ride. This can only result in a “race to the bottom”.

If there is no way in which countries can compare their intended (but not yet finalised) actions, be reassured that the others are carrying a fair share of the burden, and discuss how they would be mutually willing to equitably increase ambition, then ambition beyond the minimal “no-backsliding” provision of the Paris Agreement will be dead.

Worse, if countries feel that they are being treated unfairly under the Agreement, then there is nothing to prevent them from withdrawing their signature. India has already indicated that its participation is conditional to what the country’s government considers fair action by other countries.

Building space for equity in the post-Paris process

The word ‘equity’ finds five mentions in the Paris Agreement: twice in the Preamble; once in Article 2 on the overall goal of the Agreement; once in Article 4 on NDCs; and once in the context of the global stocktake. Mostly, they are references to the general principle. How equity will be operationalised in practice will now have to be discussed as part of the decisions taken post-Paris, starting in Marrakech in a couple of weeks, which will deal with how the provisions of the Agreement are actually implemented.

Negotiators may choose to follow the process adopted for the first lot of “intended” NDCs, tasking countries to themselves explain why their NDCs are fair. This simply means that countries will put forward their own criteria as to why what they are proposing to do should be regarded as fair. But it does not mean that these criteria will only be about the country in question and not involve a comparison with others. The global stocktake provides a space for further consideration of equity, by assessing the fairness of countries’ NDCs, and also by proposing what might be a more “fair” contribution.

There is likely to be strong resistance to this kind of formal process under the global stocktake. But even if there is resistance to a formal equity review under the stocktake, as long as the information is available, such reviews can also be undertaken informally outside of the negotiations, by academic or civil society organisations, for example. For this to take place, the transparency framework will have to be designed in a way that elicits adequate information from countries.

If such a stocktake (or informal review) takes place only after a country has already formally communicated its NDC, then any revision by countries to enhance their ambition to match others is extremely unlikely (although technically possible).

It therefore stands to reason that countries will have a chance to improve the equity and fairness component of their NDCs only if:

  • they are not yet finalised at the national level, and have not undergone whatever final process of endorsement they have to undergo before they are formally communicated. In other words, the NDC is still “indicative”.
  • there is a moment of time, between the “indication” of an NDC and its formal communication, when all countries are aware of the level of fairness and ambition in other NDCs, and are expected to review their NDC before its finalisation, to enhance both fairness and ambition.

The only way to avoid a race to the bottom and ensure the continued support of all countries for the Paris Agreement, in other words, is to create a process where countries are well informed of what others are doing, can assess fairness, and then bargain with each other to create a fair but “upward spiral” of ambition.

Enhancing overall ambition is not just a matter of comparing mitigation or adaptation actions. It is also a matter of providing means of implementation, in particular financial support. In that context, another equity issue will arise: who should be eligible to receive support, who should provide it, and how much would be fair? This will be a controversial question, and answering it will need a lot more finesse than the usual “changing world order” and “increased reliance on domestic and private sources” arguments that emerge when discussions on development and climate finance take place these days.

Delusion, not realism

At the Oxford public event, when questioned on how the implementation of the Agreement could avoid glaring injustices, a panelist summarised this mainstream ‘political realist’ view very succinctly: “we live in a not so fair and not so just world, and the Agreement in Paris reflects our world”. But if we can accept the optimistic view that climate change can lead to better energy systems, and stronger and more resilient development, then why can’t we also accept that it will not at least further exacerbate inequities, to what can only be described as unsustainable levels?

Those who think they can solve the climate change problem without taking equity into consideration are living in a deluded world. They are not political realists, but self-delusionists who, if left to their narrative, will scupper the Paris Agreement, along with any hope of tackling climate change.

[1] Director, Oxford Climate Policy,

Why an effective Ambition Mechanism is vital to deliver the Paris Agreement

by Clare Shakya[1] and Benito Müller[2]

The Paris agreement agrees the overall ambition:

– limiting global warming to below 2oC and aiming for below 1.5oC, the rich countries providing at least $100 billion to help the poorer countries get onto a lower emission and climate resilient pathway.

But it does not specify how much each country needs to do to achieve this ambition

The ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDC)  of the Paris Agreement are – as the name implies – a statement of the actions individual countries have themselves undertaken to deliver.

So rather than starting with what is needed to combat climate change, the Agreement starts with what countries are prepared to do.  This is true for emission reductions, for finance and for all the other critical elements of the deal.

To achieve the overall ambition, the Agreement therefore relies on countries upping what they said they will do over time.

In order for this increase of actions to happen, the Agreement uses the idea of accountability[3] of each country to its peers and to the general public, which is meant to work as follows:

  • All countries agreed to develop their own climate action plans where they commit to action to reduce emissions and to adapt and (in the case of the richer countries) to support the poorer countries to do so.
  • All countries agreed to measure this and report back to peers, the international community, and civil society at home and across the globe.
  • It is then assumed, through the reporting and five-yearly Global Stocktakes[4] (GST) reviewing whether there is sufficient action, that the next national statement of climate action will be more ambitious.
  • Essential to building ambition, is the assumption that the public and peers demand more action, that global consensus for climate action grows – driven by people’s concern about the climate impacts they observe and by increased confidence that climate action supports growth and reduces poverty.
  • Through this demand, each countries’ climate plans get revised upwards regularly, measurement becomes more accurate, public awareness grows and expectations build.

So the world is meant to bridge the gap between the emission reductions needed to keep the rise of global average temperature to well below 2oC, aiming for the Paris aspiration of 1.5oC.

The good news is an agreement was reached … 

The first universal agreement on climate change was made. Countries engaged on a scale few expected. The speed at which it entered into force is unprecedented in the global fight to combat climate change. There is evidence of ambition increasing beyond Paris too.  Progress is being made on aviation emissions which were outside scope of Paris.


  • It relies on pressure from public being able to drive increased ambition of governments.
  • It assumes that pressure from the public will increase slowly over time

The increase in ambition needed is significant – and action needs to be taken quickly.  The recent Oxford University 1.5oC Conference suggested that we could pass 1.5°C in a decade.  We can’t therefore wait for 10 years to increase our ambition. But the current NDCs collectively leave us still on course for warming by 2.7-3.6oC globally – which will translate into much greater impacts for many countries.


 While the framework agreed in Paris does contain some of the elements required for an effective ambition mechanism – the synchronised reporting on the NDCs and collective reviews (GST) – in its current form, it will not be able to generate the needed raise in ambition.

What is missing is a synchronised timetable – ‘a mechanism’ – for ratcheting up ambition. The only action mentioned under the Paris Agreement is that countries “may at any time adjust its existing nationally determined contribution with a view to enhancing its level of ambition”. However, such ‘spontaneous’ updating is completely inadequate. What is needed are synchronised updating exercises, where expectation and pressure can be built for increasing ambition, for creating ‘virtuous ambition circles’.

Another major challenge is the institutional inertia of governments – once a commitment has been announced, it is difficult to revise it.  Yet, businesses and others making long term investments need to have a longer-term idea of what governments intend to do.  The public also need to understand whether their government intend to do enough to protect them, in order to start putting pressure on them to ratcheting up their government’s ambition.

So how do we make sure that the ambition mechanism works?

We need to make sure citizens across the world can not only track whether enough action is being taken – but also what governments intend to do, so governments collectively become more accountable for whether they collectively live up to what is needed, and individually carry their fair share of the action.

  • If some countries only provide new plans every ten years (like the EU prefers) with no mid-term update (i.e. after five years), why should others increase ambition every five years? All countries need to update their climate plans every five years, and give an indication of what the subsequent five year plan would achieve.
  • There should be a rolling five year timetable with synchronised timing for new contribution statements for the immediate future with an indication of longer-term ambition – a deadline every 5 years where citizens can demand action, where governments are held to account and where peers can apply pressure.

All this is not a challenging request to our climate negotiators going to Marrakesh.

All it requires is a simple decision in the rules being developed for the Paris Agreement to “request all Parties in 2025 to indicate a 2035 NDC and update their 2030 NDC, and to do so every five years thereafter”.[5]

But it is vital if Paris is to deliver its ambition.  Twenty-three  words that would provide a working Ambition Mechanism.  Twenty-three words that would help prevent catastrophic climate change.


[1] Director of Climate Change Group, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), London, UK;

[2] Managing Director, Oxford Climate Policy, Oxford, UK;

[3] Transparency of Action and Support under the Paris Agreement

[4] The Global Stocktake Under the Paris Agreement: Opportunities and challenges

[5] The Paris Ambition Mechanism: Review and Communication Cycles – Options Note

Whatever happened to the Paris Predictability Problem? (Part II)

Unconventional Options for Enhancing the Predictability of Multilateral Climate Finance

by Benito Müller with Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu,*

* Chair of the UNFCCC Group of Least Developed Countries and Co-facilitator of the UNFCCC in-session Long-Term Finance Workshops.

Introduction and Background

Part I of this blog[1] was about the idea of joint replenishments for all entities intended to serve the financial mechanism of the Paris Agreement. The idea was tabled by the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the final days of Paris, as a significant institutional finance outcome; however, in the end it did not make it into the Agreement. Replenishments are one, if not the only way in which (national) governments have traditionally been able to bind themselves to provide resources more predictably over a number of domestic budget cycles.

The aim of this sequel (Part II) is to look at alternatives to conventional national budget contributions to multilateral climate funds, not only to increase and diversify the funding base, but also to address the problem of how the predictability of (public sector) climate finance for developing countries can be enhanced.

Before turning to discuss options which we believe to be particularly interesting, not least in the context of the upcoming UN Climate Conference in Marrakech, we feel we need to set the scene by looking at the evolution of the international debate on Long-Term Finance (LTF) and clarifying the concept of ‘innovative finance’, which we believe is key in this context.

The Evolution of the UNFCCC Long-Term Finance Debate

The UNFCCC Long-term Climate Finance website has a useful archive of previous work in the area of long-term climate finance with all presentations and recordings of the UNFCCC workshops and events of the Work Programme on LTF from 2012/13 onwards. A thematic analysis of these events by Laurel Murray[2] reveals two trends.

  • For one it shows that the topical balance between raising resources and deployment of funds has, over time, shifted from 4:1 at the first Workshop on LTF (Bonn 2012) to 0:1 at the recent in-session workshop on LTF in Bonn.
  • Second, as concerns the topic of raising resources, the balance between raising public sector finance and mobilizing private sector finance has also shifted, from 2:1 (Bonn 2012) to 1:3 (in-session workshop on LTF, Bonn 2015[3]).

The gradual disappearance of the topic of providing (public sector) funds from the LTF debate is not only regrettable, it is, we believe, contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the original terms of reference of that debate, which stipulate that:

[T]he aim of the [LTF] work programme … is to contribute to the on-going efforts to scale up the mobilization of climate change finance after 2012; the work programme will analyse options for the mobilization of resources from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources and relevant analytical work on the climate-related financing needs of developing countries; the analysis will draw upon relevant reports including that of the High-level Advisory Group on Climate Financing and the report on mobilizing climate finance for the Group of Twenty and the assessment criteria in the reports, and will also take into account lessons learned from fast-start finance.[4]

While the debate on (pathways) of conventional public sector sources through budgetary contributions may have proven to be not the most fruitful way forward, this does not mean that there are no alternative (‘unconventional’/‘innovative’) sources of grant funding that could be usefully tapped – in particular, to enhance the predictability of financial support for climate change activities in developing countries. And the current LTF debate needs to be rebalanced to conform with this original aim, if it is to be of any real use to anyone.

Innovative Finance: What is it and why is it important?

In the context of providing financial support for climate change activities in developing countries (‘climate finance’), the term ‘innovative finance’ typically refers to (off-budget) earmarked public sector sources that are usually, but not always, related to combatting climate change, such as:

  • the auctioning of emission allowances in emission trading schemes;
  • carbon or other taxes;
  • a (2 per cent) share of proceeds from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), also adopted for the new market mechanism under the Paris Agreement.

As ‘public sector’ sources, these involve government decisions but, unlike conventional budgetary contributions (which, by and large, are determined purely politically) contributions based on earmarked sources of revenue are co-determined by political and other, usually market-based, parameters. The share of the source that is being earmarked will usually be politically determined, but the magnitude of the contribution also depends on the overall size of the revenue stream in question. Moreover, innovative finance is generally provided with a degree of automaticity that furthermore enhances its predictability.

To be clear, political decisions are not necessarily less predictable than markets. Indeed, if one is involved in the relevant decision-making processes – particularly as a powerful player – one might well prefer a purely political process. The problem from the vantage point of the developing country recipients is that they typically have very little, if any, say in the political processes that determine the relevant (conventional) contributions. This is why, for them, market-based uncertainties will be more palatable than those arising from the relevant political (developed country) processes: from the outside, markets appear more predictable than individuals.

Another characteristic of innovative finance, in this sense, is that it is generally used to provide grants, as opposed to loans or investments with profit incentives. For the purposes of this blog, we differentiate between ‘international’, ‘regional’, and ‘unilateral’ innovative finance sources, depending on whether the decision making involves all Parties to an international agreement (like the UNFCCC), just a few, or a single government. We also differentiate between national and sub-national governments.

Varieties of Innovative Finance

As it happens, there is a plethora of examples of innovative finance of all kinds: international, regional, involving national and/or sub-national governments. Many of these were discussed in a 2008 paper ‘International Adaptation Finance: The Need for an Innovative and Strategic Approach’ [Müller 2008] which, in turn, formed the basis of an ODI paper ‘Innovative Carbon-Based Funding for Adaptation’. Given the blog format limitations, we refer the reader to these and subsequent references for more detailed and complete accounts of innovative finance instruments. The following listing is intended to just give an idea of the potential variety of instruments and to highlight a few options that we believe may be viable in the current circumstances.

International Innovative Finance

In climate change circles, probably the best known example of international innovative finance is the share of proceeds collected from projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol where 2 per cent of the Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) generated by a project are set aside internationally and given to the Kyoto Protocol Adaptation Fund to be monetized on the relevant carbon markets.[5] The most important outcome of Paris with regards to addressing the predictability problem was that the new international market mechanism defined in the Paris Agreement also contains a provision for a share of proceeds ‘to cover administrative expenses as well as to assist developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change to meet the costs of adaptation.’[6]

However, other proposals have also been under discussion, some of them more successful than others. For example, at COP 12 in Nairobi (2006), Moritz Leuenberger, President of the Swiss Confederation proposed ‘a global carbon levy. Based on the “polluter pays” principle, it would be paid by each individual and each business in proportion to their carbon emissions. The revenue from this levy would then be directed towards adaptation measures worldwide.’[7]

The same year (2006) also saw the publication of an outline proposal for an International Air Travel Adaptation Levy (IATAL),[8] which at COP 14 (Poznan, 2008) was submitted to the UNFCCC by the Maldives on behalf of the LDC Group as the ‘International Adaptation Passenger Levy (IAPAL)’.

In 2007 there was also a UNFCCC workshop on investments and financial flows to address climate change[9] at which ‘Norway proposed that financial needs under the Convention could be financed through auctioning a share of assigned amount units of all Parties.[10]

Other (mostly carbon market-based) instruments have been discussed and some have even been considered by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)[11] and the International Maritime Organization (IMO)[12] in the context of reducing international aviation and maritime emissions. But none of them has made any real progress so far, and it is unlikely that they will do so in the foreseeable future, not least because international levies are regarded as anathema by many national treasuries.[13]

This is a shame because, to paraphrase the above-mentioned Norwegian submission, due to their genuinely international character international innovative finance instruments, such as the auctioning of allowances have the potential of overcoming domestic revenue problems.[[14]] We therefore see auctioning as one particular promising option to generate adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources.

Fortunately, innovative finance can also be provided regionally and unilaterally (at national or sub-national level), which we shall now turn to.

Regional and Unilateral Innovative Finance

National Schemes

Among regional emission trading schemes the EU ETS is clearly one, if not the most, significant potential source of innovative climate finance: in the first quarter of this year, auctions across the EU ETS yielded a total of just over €1 billion,[15] 1 per cent of which would be tantamount to €40 million ($45 million) per annum. Moreover, the revenue from such auctions is expected to increase between now and 2020 with the share of allowances to be auctioned, even if allowance prices fail to increase.

Of course, a number of EU member states will reject the idea of earmarking a share of the auction proceeds for climate finance, on the grounds that they are not allowed to ‘hypothecate’ government revenue as a matter of principle. However, this principle is more honoured in the breach than in the observance,[16] as was pointed out in a 2008 paper on the subject of earmarking of EU ETS auction revenue:[17] most countries practise some form of hypothecation,[18] such as earmarking a share of national lottery revenue for certain good causes.[19]

As it happens, the EU ETS Directive itself provides for a de facto earmarking, namely ‘that at least 50 % of auctioning revenues or the equivalent in financial value of these revenues should be used by Member States for climate and energy related purposes.’[20] Some have actually used a significant proportion of their auctioning revenue for developing country climate finance.[21]

In other words, it should be possible for willing EU member states to use a small percentage of their ETS auction revenue to support developing countries, in particular the poorest and most vulnerable ones. Otherwise there is always, of course, the Norwegian idea: they could opt to allocate a small share of their (collective) allowances to, say, the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), or to an intermediary that will monetize them on its behalf. After all, this is precisely what they did when allocating 300 million allowances to be monetized by the European Commission and made available for the co-financing of carbon capture and storage and of innovative renewable energy technologies, mostly in Europe under the NER 300 funding programme.[22]

Last, but by no means least in this discussion of innovative climate finance at the national level, it is worth keeping in mind the fact that this type of support of climate change activities in developing countries need not necessarily be related to emission mitigation schemes. As concerns potential revenue scales, one of the most promising initiatives must be the European Union Financial Transaction Tax (EU FTT), proposed by the European Commission, which has been taken up by 11 EU member states.

The EU FTT is to cover financial transactions between financial institutions. It will be collected by participating member states[23] and will represent a charge of 0.1 per cent against the exchange of shares and bonds and 0.01 per cent across derivative contracts, if just one of the financial institutions involved resides in a member state of the EU FTT. The proposal, which according to various estimates will yield between €10 billion[24] and €37 billion[25] annually, was approved by the European Parliament in July 2013, and must now be unanimously approved by the 11 initial participating states before coming into force.

According to a Guardian article[26] published during COP 21 in Paris: France, Spain and Belgium have already committed to earmark chunks of the tobin tax revenues for climate aid, a move which may help allay fears among some developing countries about the over-use of loans and private finance in a fund planned to raise $100bn a year by 2020. Pascal Canfin, the co-chair of France’s presidential committee for innovative finance, said that the announcement would add to momentum for a climate deal in Paris. ‘It is obvious that this tax could be a tool to provide more finance to the countries in need but it depends on the willingness of the participating countries to allocate the money for climate objectives,’ he said.

Unfortunately, the required unanimity among the participating members could not be achieved in Paris, and the decision has been postponed to the end of this month. What is interesting in this context is that the decision by the three members reported in the Guardian piece shows once again that earmarking national government sources for climate finance is possible if there is sufficient political will.

Sub-national Schemes

On 6 December 2015 at COP21 in Paris, Premier Philippe Couillard of the Canadian province of Quebec announced that his government would be contributing $6 million to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) operated UNFCCC Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF).

At the announcement, former US Vice President Al Gore thanked the Quebec people as ‘becoming true heroes in the world’s effort to solve the climate crisis’ and setting an example that would reverberate to regions and countries around the world. GEF CEO Naoko Ishii referred to the contribution as ‘this ground-breaking commitment by Québec’ while the LDC Group press release spoke of a ‘historic and innovative pledge’.

On 10 and 11 December, other sub-nationals (the city of Paris and the three regions of Belgium), in turn, took the opportunity to announce contributions to the Green Climate Fund, with Wallonia pledging €7 million on an annual recurring basis until 2020.

As alluded to in the heading of another OCP blog: In Paris it became ‘chic’ for sub-nationals to provide multilateral support for climate change finance. Now it must become ‘de rigueur’!

But how? For one, the policy brief that launched the idea (‘Finance for the Paris Climate Compact: The role of earmarked (sub-) national contributions’) suggests the use of innovative finance involving a small but regular share of proceeds, which as mentioned above could be in the form of a share of auction revenue, or in the form of free allowances (to be monetized through the relevant auctioning/trading platforms by the LDCF or by a local intermediary on its behalf).

In practical terms Quebec could, for instance, decide to build on the Wallonia announcement and put its one-off 2016 contribution on an innovative regular footing by pledging 1 per cent of its auction revenue (about $5 million annually) to the LDCF, to match the annual conventional bilateral support until the end of the current trading phase in 2020 that Premier Couillard also announced in Paris.

As at the national level, some sub-national governments may find it more difficult to earmark a share of auctioning revenue than others. For example, California, Quebec’s partner in the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) also auctions a share of its trading scheme allowances (indeed it does so in joint auctions with Quebec). However, according to Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32) which governs the California Cap and Trade Programme (CCTP), the proceeds of the (State government) allowance auctions are subject to annual appropriations[27] and as such are facing the domestic revenue problem like any other conventional budgetary support. Moreover, a lawsuit by the California Chamber of Commerce against the State government auction portion of the CCTP is pending on the grounds that auctioning off allowances constitutes an unauthorized, unconstitutional tax.[28] California government allowance revenue is therefore not likely to provide the sort of predictable support we are trying to identify here. However, the CCTP does have an interesting feature that may well offer a way forward: its allocation of allowances to utilities ‘on behalf of rate payers.’

The Air Resources Board (ARB) allocates allowances ‘to prevent leakage and provide transition assistance’ to entities covered by the CCTP. To ensure that utility rate payers do not experience sudden CCTP-associated increases in their utility bills, the ARB allocates allowances to the utilities covered by the Program on behalf of their rate payers. The CCTP Regulation requires covered utilities to use the value associated with these allowances for the benefit of their rate payers, consistent with the goals of AB 32. They may not be used for the benefit of entities or persons other than their rate payers.[29] In other words, to quote The Wall Street Journal, ‘two pools of allowances are sold at each auction: one controlled by the utilities, which get all of their allowances free, and another controlled directly by the state. Investor-owned utilities are required to sell all of their allowances [for the benefit of their rate payers] and then buy back what they need to cover their own emissions. (It’s complicated.)’[30]

In sum, the CCTP uses (private sector) intermediaries to monetize allowances for the benefit of others. It thus stands to reason, particularly since the State government is currently engaged in looking at how the CCTP could be extended beyond 2020, that it should be possible for California to show some solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable across the globe by using a similar arrangement on behalf of, say, the LDCF. Indeed, the long-term future of innovative multilateral funding from the WCI as a whole may well lie in a WCI-wide post 2020 application of this use of a share of proceeds monetised on behalf of the global poorest and most vulnerable by eligible local intermediaries.

Air Passenger Adaptation Crowdfunding – an unconventional alternative

As mentioned earlier, the idea of levying a small charge on air travel to support adaptation efforts in developing countries has been around for over a decade, but it failed to take off as an international instrument. In light of this, there was a 2011 proposal to transfer the idea to the national level (‘Solidarity Levies on Air Travel’), which was also not particularly successful. In 2013, the ecbi published an award-winning study ‘Crowdfunding for Climate Change’ and in 2012 the Adaptation Fund (AF) introduced a ‘Donate’ button on its website to receive crowdfunding donations.[31]

Given that the AF was the intended recipient of the original International Air Passenger Adaptation Levy, it does not take a great leap of imagination to arrive at the idea of using this crowdfunding tool on the AF website for soliciting voluntary contributions from air passengers – particularly as a number of airlines already provide a similar service on their websites for passengers to pay for offsetting their flight emissions.

Why should airlines provide the option for passengers to contribute to adaptation efforts in developing countries? Is there not a danger that this would be to the detriment of individual offset purchases? As it happens, it is indeed likely that some passengers who would otherwise have bought offsets would instead make an adaptation donation, but this is not a reason for abandoning the airline adaptation crowdfunding idea.

In light of the fact that since 2012 flights from, to, and within the European Economic Area have been under the EU Emission Trading Scheme, and since there remains a growing push for extending market-based measures in that sector globally,[32] it stands to reason – as argued by some airline sector spokespeople[33] – that since the industry is subject to emission reduction constraints, individual flight offsets by passengers are, if not redundant, then at least less important than they were in the absence of such industry constraints. This, of course, does not mean that the emissions permitted under these schemes are not still imposing adverse impacts that require adaptation actions, particularly by the poorest and most vulnerable. This is why individual offsetting should give way to individual solidarity though adaptation crowd funding.

What could be the scale of such voluntary adaptation air passenger crowdfunding? As there is, to our knowledge, no precedent, the only way to gauge its revenue potential is by looking at similar related instruments. And here the obvious candidate is, of course, voluntary flight offsetting.

For example, a 2011 ENDS Report (‘Airlines struggle to get carbon offsetters to come onboard’) surveying European airlines concludes that ‘most airlines achieve commercial passenger offsetting rates of below 1%’, and interestingly suggests that ‘take-up rates appear to be most determined by whether airlines offer carbon offsets at the point of ticket purchase’.[34]

It also quotes the managing director of one of the world’s largest offset providers as saying that most offsetting is done by businesses covering their corporate travel, and that – unlike in the case of leisure passengers – ‘here the appetite not only remains unabated, but is growing’, with more than half of their corporate clients using offsets to cover their travel emissions. If this is indeed a general trend, then a two-pronged approach to harnessing this potential revenue source could be in order by not only focusing on airline ticketing sites, but also directly at the corporate consumer, such as large corporations or business federations, as part of their CSR[35] schemes.

But what does all this tell us about the revenue potential of air passenger adaptation crowdfunding? The answer obviously depends on how contributions are specified. For example, 1 percent of corporate passengers donating 1 per cent of their ticket price would, according to Forbes, yield over $100 million annually. If, alternatively, one were to use a flat rate levy (say $6/$62 per international economy/business and first class ticket as used in the IAPAL scheme), then a 1 per cent uptake by passengers in general would yield between $80 million and $100 million annually,[36] again more than the Adaptation Fund pledges received in Paris. While this would by no means be sufficient to meet the global demand for adaptation finance, it would provide a much needed core flow of funding for the AF, which would enable it to continue doing the sterling work it has been doing under very difficult financial circumstances and play a key role in the post-Paris multilateral financial architecture, as argued some time ago in another OCP Blog (On the Virtues of Strategic Divisions of Labour: Some thoughts on strategies for the Green Climate Fund and the Financial Mechanism of the Paris Agreement)


After nearly two decades of conventional multilateral climate finance, it is clear that we have reached the limit of what we can get in predictably from national budgetary contributions. If we want more, we may need to reconsider the proposal which Laurent Fabius, president of COP 21, tabled in Paris on the penultimate night of the COP, namely ‘to establish a process for the consideration of new sources of finance beyond existing bilateral and multilateral sources, in accordance with the terms of reference to be developed by the Conference of the Parties, taking note of the need to abide by the principles of fiscal sovereignty and avoid incidence on developing country Parties.’[37]

Moreover, we may actually have to throw caution to the wind and look into how we can get additional innovative resources for multilateral funds from both subnational governments and non-governmental sources, such as the proposed crowdfunding from airline passengers.

To be quite clear, the point here is not to belittle the importance of national budgetary contributions for multilateral climate finance. Indeed, for the foreseeable future, the bulk of it will come from these conventional sources, with their well-known predictability limitations (at best four-year time horizon for GCF and GEF replenishments amounting to some single digit billions annually). The point is merely to emphasise that if we do wish to enhance predictability of climate finance, then we will need to look at alternatives to these conventional sources such as the ones highlighted above.


[1] The Paris Cycle-wreck: beyond (partial) salvage?

[2] Analysis, personally communicated, based on the agendas of the events in question.

[3] The topic was not part of the agenda of the 2016 in-session workshop.

[4] Paragraph 130 of Decision 2/CP.17 (Outcome of the work of the ADP).

[5] National budgets, or for that matter Treasuries, are not involved. As such, these funds are without any doubt ‘additional’, in the sense of ‘not displacing ODA’.

[6] Article 6.6.

[7] Moritz Leuenberger, ‘A Global Carbon Levy for Climate Change Adaptation’, IIED/ecbi Opinion Piece, December 2006.

[8] See also: Jim Giles, ‘Flying to new green heights: The pre­budget report is likely to tax low­cost flights, but only international cooperation can solve climate change’,, Wednesday 6 December 2006.

[9] With a presentation on ‘IATAL: a proposal for an International Air Travel Adaptation Levy’ by Laurens Bouwer.

[10] Norway, Finance – AWGLCA Norway’s submission on auctioning allowances. The presentation in question was given by Leif K. Ervik, ‘Carbon taxes and allowances, similarities and differences’. See also UNFCCC Technical Paper and CCAP Analysis.

[11] See, for example the presentation on ‘Market-Based Measures’ by the ICAO Environment, Air Transport Bureau at the Global Aviation Dialogues (GLADs) on Market-Based Measures to address Climate Change, Nairobi 14 April 2015.

[12] For example the Norwegian proposal regarding the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships: A rebate mechanism for a market-based instrument for international shipping (IMO MEPC 60/4/55 29 January 2010). Another interesting, well-developed example is the International Maritime Emission Reduction Scheme (IMERS).

[13] For an account of the state of affairs in ICAO and WMO, see ‘Aviation, Shipping and the Paris Agreement

[14] The term ‘domestic revenue problem’ – see Müller (2008), p.8 – refers to the fact that funding collected through domestic revenue channels are usually taken to belong to the jurisdiction in question, and as such face difficulties in being sent abroad.

[15] EEX (Transitional Common Auction Platform) €701m; Germany: €191m; UK: €113. Source: EC DG Clima, Auction Reports.

[16] The breach is usually sanctioned by declaring the revenue source ‘off budget’.

[17] Benito Müller, ‘To Earmark or Not to Earmark?: A far-reaching debate on the use of auction revenue from (EU) Emissions Trading’, Oxford: OIES EV43, November 2008.

[18] In the UK, for example, earmarking precedents include the Climate Change Levy initially used to fund a number of energy efficiency initiatives such as The Carbon Trust, and the Renewables Obligation, under which payments for shortfalls are earmarked to be paid back to suppliers.

[19] Indeed, some national lottery funding has already been used to provide climate finance for developing countries, e.g. the Dutch Post Code Lottery, having funded the Climate Group’s ‘Bijli – Clean Energy for All’ project.

[20] European Commission (2014), Progress Towards Achieving the Kyoto and EU 2020 Objectives, COM(2014) 689 final.

[21] Germany, UK, Finland and Denmark [Source: European Commission (2014)].

[22] The NER 300 funding programme is a mechanism in support of innovative renewable energy technology development and Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) demonstration projects. It is financed by the auctioning of 300 million allowances from the new entrants’ reserve of the EU ETS. Two calls for proposals were launched under this programme.

The second call, awarded in July 2014, was funded from the sale of the remaining allowances and unused funds from the first call. 18 renewable energy and 1 CCS projects were selected and will receive €1 billion in total, which will generate private investments for a total value of almost €900 million. In total, the two calls will provide € 2.1 billion to 39 projects (38 in the field of renewable energy and 1 CCS project).[Source: European Commission (2014)]

[23] ‘Taxation will take place in the Member State in the territory of which the establishment of a financial institution is located, on condition that this institution is party to the transaction, acting either for its own account or for the account of another person, or is acting in the name of a party to the transaction.’[Proposal for a COUNCIL DIRECTIVE on a common system of financial transaction tax and amending Directive 2008/7/EC]

[24] ‘Canfin, a former French development minister said that the proposed fund would generate a minimum of €10bn to €15bn (£7.2bn to £10.8bn) a year.’ [‘Final decision on financial transaction tax expected in June’, Arthur Neslen, 8 December 2015, The Guardian.]

[25] Dorothea Schäfer und Marlene Karl, ‘Finanztransaktionssteuer Ökonomische und fiskalische Effekte der Einführung einer Finanztransaktionssteuer für Deutschland’, Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, 2012.

[26]Final decision on financial transaction tax expected in June’, Arthur Neslen, 8 December 2015, The Guardian.

[27] ‘The Legislature and Governor appropriate proceeds from the sale of State-owned allowances for projects that support the goals of AB 32.’[]

[28] Ann Carlson, ‘Breaking News: California Chamber of Commerce Sues over AB 32 Auction’, Legal Planet, 13 November 2012.

[29] Source: ARB, Allowance Allocation.

[30] How Cap-and-Trade Is Working in California: Carbon Program May Hold Lesson for Other States, by Alejandro Lazo, 28 Sept. 2014.

[31] In 2009, the AF received a small contribution from students of a German High School, followed by one from the World Development Movement (a British NGO) in Cancun in 2010. The AF Board wanted the trustee to receive such small private donations. However, the acceptance of individual small donations increases the transaction costs, as the trustee has requirements related to conducting due diligence on the donors of such contributions. For this reason, the AF Board considered ways to make it simpler to receive such contributions, and decided in July 2011 to:

  1. a) Pursue the option to enter into a partnership with a third party (UN organization, foundation, NGO, etc.) that would raise funds through on-line donations on behalf of the Adaptation Fund. The Trustee would then receive funds into the trust fund as a donation from that entity;
  2. b) Request the Board Chair to formally invite the UN Foundation to enter into such a partnership with the Board, and to initiate discussions to that effect.[AF Board Decision B.14-15/2]

A partnership agreement with the UNF was established in November 2012, with the establishment of the ‘Donate’ link between the AF and the UNF websites being announced at the nineteenth meeting of the AF Board in December 2012. [Source: AF Secretariat]

[32] The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed in 2013 to develop a global market-based mechanism to address international aviation emissions by 2016 and apply it by 2020. This agreement followed years of pressure from the EU for global action.

To allow time for the international negotiations, the EU ETS requirements were suspended for flights in 2012 to and from non-European countries.

In the period 2013-2016, only emissions from flights within the EEA fall under the EU ETS. Exemptions for operators with low emissions have also been introduced.

Under the amended law, the Commission will report to the European Parliament and Council on the outcome of the 2016 ICAO Assembly and propose measures as appropriate to take international developments into account with effect from 2017. [Source: European Commission, ‘Reducing emissions from aviation’]

For recent developments see: European Commission, ‘Consultation on market-based measures to reduce the climate change impact from international aviation’.

[33] A BA spokeswoman said that UK passengers could be paying for the environmental impact of their flight three times: through voluntary offsets, the EU ETS, and the UK’s air passenger duty (APD), which the UK Treasury is consulting on. A spokesman for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which manages an offsetting programme for numerous airlines, echoed this: ‘There is evidence passengers may be more reluctant to voluntarily offset where they feel they are already being hit with an environmental tax … The [UK] government has in the past presented APD in this way.’[ (2016)]

[34] The ENDS Report also mentions a July 2007, UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee report dealing with passenger offsetting and urging the UK government to make it compulsory for airlines to provide the option to offset at the point of purchase, and recommending to do it on an ‘opt out’ basis.

[35] Corporate Social Responsibility

[36] IAPAL was estimated to yield between $8 and $10 billion annually.

[37] Paragraph 57 in Proposal by the President: DRAFT PARIS OUTCOME, Version 2 of 10 December 2015 at 21:00.

‘Maillot Jaune’ for the Dynamic Contribution Cycle

by Benito Müller

The Paris Agreement has all the key elements of the Dynamic Contribution Cycle, but it fails as it stands to harness fully their potential to ‘ratchet up’ country contributions. However, this can easily be remedied.

In August 2014, a number of senior developing country negotiators developed an idea for sequencing contributions in the Paris Agreement at the tenth anniversary ecbi Oxford Fellowships and Seminar. They published it as “A Dynamic Contribution Cycle” (DCC), with Xolisa Ngwadla (South Africa) and Jose Miguez (Brazil) as lead authors.

The DCC idea was submitted to the UNFCCC on 6 November 2015 as part of the Views of Brazil on the Elements of the New Agreement under the Convention applicable to All Parties (for a summary, see below). The submission states that ‘the agreement itself must provide for the procedures to enhance ambition over time, … . Brazil recognizes it is important to avoid “locking in” contributions in the long term. It is also important to avoid that successive cycles of contributions become subject to renegotiations and political bargain. With a view to addressing these issues, Brazil proposes a “dynamic contribution cycle”, based on ten-year periods, with two five-year contribution terms. The purpose of this approach is to allow the adjustment of contributions with a view to enhance ambition, while providing long term perspectives for Parties and stakeholders.

How did the DCC idea fare in Paris?

As elaborated in a recent OCP/ecbi Discussion Note on A Dynamic Ambition Mechanism for the Paris Agreement , the idea proved to be a key influence on what might be called the “Contribution Framework” the Paris Outcome. The Discussion Note analyses this Contribution Framework with respect to certain key ambition features of the DCC proposal, namely:

  • accommodation of the fact that once contributions are inscribed, they are in many cases politically “locked-in”,
  • provision of shorter-term predictability though the inscription of the five-year term contributions with a medium-term indication of how the contributions are going to evolve (thus avoiding being caught by surprise every five years).

The communication and updating cycle of theContribution Framework is divided into two tracks due to different time-frames envisaged for the initial Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs): paragraph 23 of the Paris Outcome Decision defines a five-year time-frame track (or “§23 track” for short), and paragraph 24 a ten-year time-frame track (“§24 track”), depicted in Figure 1 (a) and (b), respectively.

Figure 1 Mk 2

  • The §23 track begins in 2020 with the communication of five-year 2025 and 2030 NDCs. This is followed in 2025 with communications of five-year 2035 NDCs, 2040 NDCs in 2030, and so on every five years.
  • The §24 track begins in 2020 with the communication of ten-year 2030 NDCs. In 2025, they are to be nationally reviewed and updated (or left as they are). In 2030, new ten-year 2040 NDCs will be communicated, to be nationally reviewed and updated in 2035, and so on.

The Contribution Framework thus uses the key ambition tools of the DCC, but divided between the two tracks, with the result that the rolling medium-term time horizon is only used in the §23 track, while synchronised updating is confined to the §24 track.

Enhancing theContribution Framework

The shortcoming of the §23 track, i.e. its failure to incorporate a synchronised updating process, can be remedied by simply adding every five years the request to update the next NDC, as illustrated in Figure 2.a.

Figure 2 Mk 2

The situation may seem more problematic in the case of the §24 track, where the issue is not updating but the lack of a running medium-term time horizon. But again, this can be fixed.

To explain this in concrete terms, take the case of the EU NDCs. Given the INDC submission, it stands to reason that the EU will adopt a §24 track ten-year time-frame for its NDCs, beginning with a 2030 NDC of a 40% reduction with respect to the 1990 base-line between 2021 and 2030, meaning that the average annual EU emissions over that time-frame will not exceed 60% of 1990 emission. The problem with the §24 track as it currently stands is that there may be no communicated medium-term indication as to how the EU NDC is going to evolve after 2030 until 2030, when a new NDC will have to be communicated. Given the Kyoto Protocol experience,[1] this is  sub-optimal as regards ambition and durability of the Agreement, but fortunately it can also easily be remedied.

The crux of the matter is: what is to happen in 2025?

According to §24, there is  a communication or updating of NDCs every five years. But which is it to be? Following the EU’s original ‘mid-term review’ idea, one could expect  an updating of the 2030 NDC. While this, on its own, would be sufficient to satisfy §24, it is important to keep in mind that the language of §24 does not imply that one could not simultaneously do such an update and communicate a new NDC! Indeed, it would be perfectly possible to communicate a 2035 NDC with a ten-year time frame, a reduction of, say, 60% below 1990 benchmark, in the sense of average annual emissions between 2026 and 2035 not exceeding 40% of 1990 levels.

In other words, it is possible to make mid-term communications of  new  NDCs under a ten-year time-frame track because there is no reason, in principle, why time-frames cannot overlap, as illustrated in Figure 2 (b).


In negotiation terms, the full potential of the DCC ambition tools could be harnessed simply by requesting all Parties in 2025 to communicate a 2035 NDC and update their 2030 NDC, and to do so every five years thereafter.

It is in this sense that we are pleased to see the DCC proposal to have emerged with the yellow jersey (‘maillot jaune’) from the ‘Tour de Paris’.

Maillot Jaune

[1] One of the main shortcomings of the Kyoto Protocol was precisely that there was no ex-ante indication on the ambition of the second commitment period until the first one was about to expire, which led disruptive uncertainties, and indeed speculations that there will be no second period at all.

The Brazilian Submission

The Dynamic Contribution Cycle

Brazil proposes a “dynamic contribution cycle”, based on ten-year periods, with two five-year contribution terms. The purpose of this approach is to allow the adjustment of contributions with a view to enhance ambition, while providing long term perspectives for Parties and stakeholders. 

Brazil DCC Figure

Each 10 year cycle includes a 5 year contribution term, followed by a 5 year indicative[1] Before the end of the each contribution term, the indicative term would be either confirmed or adjusted upwards, and an additional indicative term would be communicated for the following period.

After confirmation, during the first half of each contribution term, the Aggregate Consideration Process referred below would be conducted taking into account both 5 year terms, with a view to inform Parties when adjusting and confirming their subsequent term. The second half of each contribution term would be dedicated to allow countries to conduct their national processes to adjust their NDC for the subsequent contribution term, as well as to communicate the next indicative term. Under this approach, the cycle would be as follows:

  • In 2015, Parties communicate an intended contribution, pursuant to decision 1/CP.19.
  • Before 2020, all Parties confirm or adjust upward their NDC for the period
    2020-2025 and communicate an indicative contribution for the period 2025-2030.
  • Between 2020 and 2023, the COP conducts the first Aggregate Consideration Process as described below. The outcome of the Process is a set of decisions or recommendations to be taken into account by Parties when adjusting their NDC for the next 5-year term (2025-2030) and communicating the indicative NDC for the subsequent 5-year term (2030­2035).
  • Between 2023 and 2025, Parties make adjustments to their NDC at the national level, as appropriate, register their confirmed NDC for the term 2025-2030 and communicate a new indicative contribution for the term 2030-2035.
  • Between 2025 and 2028, the COP conducts the second Aggregate Consideration Process, restarting the cycle.

The Aggregate Consideration Process

During the implementation phase of the new agreement under the Convention, the COP shall regularly assess the aggregate effect of the NDC towards achieving the objective of the agreement, with a view to inform Parties in adjusting their NDC towards enhancing ambition in all pillars of the Convention.

The Aggregate Consideration Process will assess the progress towards the goal of holding the increase in global average temperature below 2°C, as well as the adequacy, scale and predictability of the delivery of means of implementation to developing countries for the implementation of their NDC. The assessment of the adequacy, scale and predictability of the delivery of means of implementation to developing countries would consider the aggregate level of pledges and actions, including south-south initiatives, to support the implementation of the NDC of developing country Parties, in relation to the aggregate level of support required, as informed through the NDC and included in the registry referred to in Means of Implementation.

The first session of the Aggregate Consideration Process shall start in 2020 and finish no later than 2023. The outcome of the Process would be a set of decisions or recommendations to be taken into account by Parties when adjusting their NDC, in accordance to the cycle outlined above in section Dynamic Contribution Cycle

The Aggregate Consideration Process shall be conducted consistent with science and on the basis of equity and be guided by:

  • A Technical Paper from the Secretariat based on the latest inventories, the information provided in the registries/schedules referred to in sections Mitigation, Adaptation and Means of Implementation, as well as in national communications and other communication channels agreed by the Convention;
  • The most recent IPCC assessment report;
  • Each country’s share in the global average temperature increase, and
  • The contribution of each country to limit the increase in global average temperature below 2°C.

Beyond the general topics above, it may not be necessary to detail all aspects of the Aggregate Consideration Process in the agreement itself. The agreement may mandate the COP to agree, before 2018, on the modalities and procedures of the aggregate consideration process, including, as appropriate, the adoption of a simplified methodology for each country to calculate its share in the global average temperature increase.

[1] Because the expression “intended NDC” has been associated with the proposal of a ex-ante review prior to Paris, we have preferred to use the expression “indicative contribution” to highlight this is a different approach. Nevertheless, both expressions refer to a similar concept, i.e. a NDC that is yet subject to changes.

Whatever happened to the Paris Predictability Problem? (Part I)

The Paris Cycle-wreck: beyond (partial) salvage?

Benito Müller

In my last blog (‘Finance in Paris’) I lamented the weak finance outcome of the recent UN Climate Conference in Paris. In this two-part blog, I want to strike a slightly more upbeat tone by looking at and reconsidering two ideas that emerged after the May 2015 publication of the OCP/ecbi Think Piece: ‘The Paris Predictability Problem: What to do about climate finance for the 2020 climate agreement?

Part I is about the (so-far) sadly ill-fated idea of a joint replenishment cycle for the financial mechanism of the Paris Agreement. The second idea from the May Think Piece (which will be dealt with in Part II) involves a shift in the paradigm of multilateral finance towards the inclusion of sub-national contributions. As indicated in the title of another recent OCP blog In Paris it became “chic” for sub-nationals to provide multilateral support for climate change finance. Now it must become “de rigueur”!’ – this idea has been rather more successful than the former.

The key point of ‘Finance in Paris’ was that obsessing about ‘collective quantified goals’ regarding overall flows of public and ‘mobilized’ private sector climate finance is chasing after ill-defined figures, leading to mutual assured unhappiness and acrimony; which is not only unhelpful to the process but positively counter-productive.

As well-intended as Gordon Brown and Hillary Clinton may have been – both in the run up to and at Copenhagen, when tabling the (in-) famous $100 billion target – the time has come to refocus the discourse on the much more modest and mundane issue of providing predictable public sector support, starting with public sector contributions to the financial mechanism. As a collective quantified goal,[i] ten billions of public sector funds in the hand is worth more than hundreds of billions in the private-sector-mobilizing-pathway-MRV jungle!

Indeed, this was one of the reasons why the senior developing country negotiators attending the 2015 ecbi Oxford Fellowships came up with the idea of the Paris Replenishment Cycle (see below) combining a focus on such public sector funding targets (in the form of replenishment envelopes) with a new institutional arrangement that could have been the institutional signature outcome of Paris.

But before I turn to the depressing saga of what happened to this idea in Paris, a few words about the other key motivation behind the idea, namely the ‘Paris Predictability Problem’.

The Paris Predictability Problem and some related strategic issues

This term was first used in the above-mentioned OCP/ecbi Think Piece which, among other things, argued that by far the most pressing problem with international climate finance for developing countries is ‘predictability’ (or rather the lack thereof) in the longer term.

Three of the four multilateral funds established by the UN climate change regime – the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) (both operated by the Global Environment Facility, or GEF), and the Kyoto Protocol Adaptation Fund (AF) – have, for some time, experienced problems in raising the resources necessary to fund a backlog of fundable projects in the pipeline. This is because they are relying on voluntary contributions which have not been sufficiently forthcoming,[ii] particularly since the arrival of the new and more glamorous Green Climate Fund (GCF).

But why, one might well ask, should these small niche funds be kept afloat? The short answer is: Because they would have to be resurrected if the financial mechanism is to deliver climate finance at scale! At a GCF COP 21 side event on Beyond Paris: GCF Looks Ahead Gabriel Quijandria, former GCF Board Co-chair, announced that ‘the Board’s aspiration is to expand its investment portfolio to USD 2.5 billion in 2016.’ While it is regrettable – as stated[iii] by Héla Cheikhrouhou, Executive Director of the GCF – that Paris has not delivered more clarity about the evolution of contributions to the GCF and the other UN Funds, it stands to reason that if a significant share of new multilateral funding for adaptation[iv] is indeed to flow through the GCF, then $2.5 billion would have to be a floor figure for the expected longer-term annual GCF throughput.

Staffing Intensities

As shown in the figure above,[v] this would, in all likelihood, require between 500 and 800 administrative staff. Where should they be housed? Of course, one could try to do all the necessary work in-house at the GCF headquarters in Songdo. However, as I have argued again and again over the last five years (most recently in ‘On the Virtues of Strategic Divisions of Labour’) there should, and I believe must, be a division of labour between the GCF as wholesale agent, and other funding entities as specialized retailers. Such a division – be it in-country (preferably) through Enhanced Direct Access, or through designated international funds, in particular those that will be serving the financial mechanism of the new Paris Agreement – is necessary if the GCF, and ipso facto the financial mechanism, are to function at the required scale.

But such a division of labour can only happen if all the funds involved have a viable funding basis. The LDCF, SSCF, and AF received pledges in Paris which just about cover their backlogs,[vi] but voluntary contributions such as these are not a viable basis for serving the new Agreement, as was acknowledged by Minister Pa Ousman Jarju of The Gambia in a letter just after Paris. Political high-stake events, such as Paris, tend to loosen voluntary purse strings, but such contributions are highly unlikely to be repeated for some time to come.

The good news is that the need for enhanced predictability is being acknowledged beyond the confines of the recipients. Thus, in his plenary statement after the adoption of the Agreement, Miguel Arias Cañete, EU Commissioner for Climate Action & Energy, promised that ‘the European Union will scale up its level of financial support as of 2020 and make it more predictable’[emphasis added].

I do not know how the EU intends to do this, but I do fear a golden opportunity was missed in Paris, which brings me back to the 2015 ecbi Fellows’ idea of the Paris Replenishment Cycle.

The Paris Replenishment Cycle

As mentioned above, the idea of a joint replenishment of all the funds serving the financial mechanism of the new agreement – and not just the GCF – was developed in Oxford last August and it was published in an OCP/ecbi Concept Note in early October. This was followed by a Discussion Note on ‘Procedural Arrangements for the Paris Replenishment Cycle’ with a one-page Summary Brief which contains the following succinct and I believe perfectly clear description of what such a joint replenishment could look like:

Stage I: Principal Reviews and Guidance

  • Each of the funds serving the FM undergoes an independent performance review (akin to the Overall Performance Studies of the GEF), which is to feed into the periodic Review of the FM under the aegis of the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF).
  • The outcome of this Review will provide the basis for formulating Principal Guidance (drafted by the SCF) to these funds for the next replenishment period.

In keeping with its core mandate to ‘assist the COP in exercising its functions with respect to the financial mechanism … in terms of improving coherence and coordination in the delivery of climate change financing, … [and] mobilization of financial resources’,[vii] the SCF could also play a facilitative role in the proposed subsequent two replenishment stages.[viii]

Stage II: Establishing the Paris Replenishment Envelopes

  • The funds in question produce costed programming scenario options for the next replenishment period.
  • The SCF convenes a process to consolidate these scenarios on the basis of the Principal Guidance, with the particular view of improving coherence and complementarity between them.
  • The executive bodies of the funds each adopt a programme of work for the next replenishment period; these jointly determine the target envelope for the replenishment.

Stage III: Pledging Rounds

  • The SCF organizes a series of pledging rounds with the view of soliciting pledges and ‘instruments of commitment’ sufficient to reach the target envelope established in Stage II.

I continue to maintain that this is a pragmatic, down to earth idea about how to enhance the coherence, complementarity and indeed longer-term viability of the financial mechanism. So what went wrong?

The Paris Cycle-wreck and prospects for (partial) salvage

In the final days of the Conference the LDC Group, supported by AOSIS, put forward the idea of a Paris Replenishment Cycle three times for inclusion in the Presidency’s text, but to no avail. Initially, they asked for the establishment of such a joint replenishment cycle as complementing to the decision in the draft text that ‘a significant share of new multilateral funding for climate change actions should flow through the Financial Mechanism of the Convention and the funds serving the Agreement’ [para. 54 in draft Decision V2] – which incidentally also did not make it into the final outcome. The last attempt, at 1 a.m. on Saturday morning, the LDCs’ request was merely for a COP decision to consider the idea at COP 22 in Marrakech, but that was also rejected.

I have been told that one reason given for this course of events was that the proposal had been tabled very late in the day. Was it really only lack of time to familiarize oneself with the idea – which after all would have been possible under the final proposal by the LDC Group – or were there other motives and reasons at work?

I believe that there were probably elements of both, but I also feel that to dwell on the latter would not be productive at this stage, which is why I propose to treat it as spilled milk and to move on to the question of whether the idea could be salvaged, at least in stages. As it happens, by dropping Stage III, the process described above would, in my mind, still be very useful.

  1. Whether or not all the funds serving the financial mechanism will eventually get replenished, it makes sense that they have a common principal review and guidance cycle. This may necessitate a synchronization of the review and planning cycles of the funds in question and of review of the financial mechanism, but that should not be an insurmountable obstacle, particularly if it then allows for the provision of multiyear Principal COP Guidance for all the funds in question. Note that the role of the COP would be exactly the same as it is at present.
  2. The first and the last activity in Stage II are simply programming activities which will happen in any case. It would thus make perfect sense for the SCF to facilitate a dialogue between the different funds with a view to implementing the Principal Guidance in order to enhance coherence and complementarity between the funds serving the financial mechanism. Note here that the SCF would have only a facilitative function in this process.

Could this sort of ‘Paris-light’ cycle of principal reviews and guidance with coherence and complementarity facilitation be salvaged from the Paris Cycle-wreck? In light of the fact that the finance spokespersons of both G77+China and AOSIS are reported to have announced that they would reserve the right to table some of the items that were dropped from the draft finance decision during the Paris end-game at the next COP or SBI (Subsidiary Body for Implementation), and given the support by AOSIS for the LDC submissions during these final days, I could imagine that this might be one of the items to be resurrected. At the same time, it would make sense to raise the idea, in particular with regard to Stage I, in the upcoming deliberations on an initial GCF replenishment at the GCF Board.

Of course all this would not solve the predictability problem of the small Convention funds, but it would be a very useful enhancement of the financial mechanism. The small funds would have to look for alternative sources of more predictable income, such as the ones I will discuss in Part II.


[i] As I emphasized in ‘Finance in Paris’, this not to say that countries should be prevented from showcasing how much they are doing in mobilizing private sector investments in this context. They can and should do so as part of their National Communications. The point here is simply that these overall flows should not be used to set targets.

[ii] The LDCF and the SCCF have always solely relied on voluntary contributions. The AF was meant to be replenished by innovative finance derived from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) but this has unfortunately almost dried up due to a lack of demand from developed countries.

[iii] See Megan Rowling and Valerie Volcovici ‘Green Climate Fund seeks clear role in post-2020 climate aid’, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 11 December 2015.

[iv] Paragraph 100, Cancun Agreements.

[v] This figure graphically summarizes the findings of David Ciplet, Benito Müller, and J Timmons Roberts ‘How many people does it take … to administer long-term climate finance?’, ecbi Policy Report, October 2010, according to which it takes on average between 250 and 400 people to administer $1 billion, thus $2.5 billion entails 500 to 800 people.

[vi] In the case of the LDCF, for example, $252 million has been pledged in the run up to Paris, which is very close to meeting the current, near-term demand for resources as requested in the 33 project and programme proposals that have been recommended for approval by the GEF Secretariat. However, at present about $69 million is sought towards 13 new project proposals that have been endorsed by LDCs’ operational focal points and formally submitted for review by the Secretariat.

[vii] Paragraph 112, Cancun Agreements.

[viii] Note that the procedures proposed here are based on well-established, tried and tested procedures used in the replenishments of the GEF Trust Fund and other multilateral funds.