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Report Reveals Gap in UN Climate Financing

William Horobin, The Wall Street Journal

Rich countries face a gap of nearly $40 billion in annual financing to help developing countries combat global warming, according to a report that puts a price tag on efforts to reach an international accord at climate talks due to start in Paris in December.

The report, released Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, established guidelines to measure whether rich nations are on track to deliver $100 billion in promised annual financing by 2020.

The criteria give poor countries a crucial yardstick to measure whether rich ones are honoring their commitments.

“It’s like the thermometer fundraisers use to show how far we’ve come and how far we have to go,” a French finance ministry official said.

The report found that rich countries delivered only $61.8 billion in financing last year to help developing economies limit carbon emissions and fend off extreme weather and rising sea levels.

Without clear pledges to close the gap, developing countries will be unwilling to slash emissions—the main goal of the COP21 conference in Paris, diplomats say.

That risks undercutting the long-running global climate negotiations, echoing the Copenhagen talks of 2009 that ended in political acrimony and no binding accord.

There are no plans for COP21 to explicitly adopt the OECD criteria. But France, which is hosting the conference, will use the report to pressure governments and financial institutions—a lobbying effort that will kick off at an International Monetary Fund meeting in Lima that opens Friday.

“We don’t want the COP21 to be taken hostage by a last minute negotiation on finance,” said another French official.

Diplomats have taken a number of precautions to prevent a repeat of Copenhagen. Countries are already submitting their commitments to cut emissions, and leaders from the 190-plus nations will attend the opening of the 12-day conference to avoid an 11th-hour scramble.

Climate finance is emerging as a possible snag in those carefully laid plans. Only in May did France ask the OECD to begin work on the criteria after concerns emerged that some countries were double-counting their financial aid and analysts were struggling to track flows through multilateral development banks.

Previous attempts to quantify climate finance produced results that negotiators say were insufficient. The latest biennial report from the United Nations offered only a broad estimate of climate finance, ranging from $40 billion to $175 billion in 2012.

“I wasn’t even sure we’d get a figure when we started,” said Simon Buckle, the OECD climate analyst who led the project.

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