A $100 billion dividing line between the world’s richest and poorest countries threatens to undermine any hope of a major deal in the COP26 climate negotiations.

This is the amount of annual contributions that developed countries promised more than a decade ago to help less affluent countries cut greenhouse emissions and adapt to climate change. It’s half the trade-off agreed in 2015 at UN-sponsored talks in Paris: Developed countries give money, and in return poor countries invest in clean energy technologies and resilience projects like flood defences.

Before the next global summit, which was held in Glasgow, Scotland, the advanced economies were powerless. The huge financial gap has some of the worst emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, including India and Brazil, which are rejecting calls to cut pollution faster without more help.

Part of the problem is that it’s not entirely clear who owes what. There is no set target for financial contributions as with NATO, where members commit 2% of their total spending to the military. The consensus is that most of the blame rests with the United States. The world’s largest economy contributed just 4% of its fair share in 2017 and 2018, according to the Overseas Development Research Center, based on its wealth, emissions, and population size. It is also responsible for the largest deficit in absolute terms.

President Joe Biden came under fire in April after pledging just $5.7 billion a year by 2024, a fraction of what the European Union has already contributed. It recently announced a doubling of that number, but it still needs congressional approval.

“This new commitment significantly increases, but does not guarantee, the chances that developed countries will be able to meet their $100 billion commitments,” said Alden Meyer, a Washington senior associate at the E3G Climate Research Center. “Other countries like Australia and Italy also need to take action.”

Of the 23 countries responsible for providing climate finance, Germany, Norway and Sweden paid their fair share, according to an ODI report. Donor countries have made almost no progress toward the target, according to the latest data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Climate finance mobilized by rich countries totaled $79.6 billion in 2019, a paltry 2% increase from 2018. To make up for that difference, contributions must have jumped by $20 billion last year, a particularly unlikely outcome given economies hit by the epidemic and the collapsed government. budgets.

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Developed countries first agreed to a $100 billion target at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. The agreement was the only bright spot in a meeting that was largely considered a failure. The landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, in which all nations agreed to cooperate to curb global warming, also underscored a commitment to climate finance even though donor nations were far from achieving the goal.

About 70% of the money provided in 2019 came in the form of loans, a pattern that is likely to continue and possibly push recipients into more debt, according to Oxfam. Grants and funding from multilateral development banks were also used to compose the figures.

A persistent funding shortfall hangs over the last meeting of the Conference of the Parties. “The mere idea that donor countries have failed to achieve this goal creates such a negative atmosphere,” says Jan Koelzig, senior policy adviser at Oxfam Germany. It can create a huge barrier to success. “

Providing more climate aid will be key to unlocking progress on a range of issues in Glasgow, from phasing out coal to setting higher emissions reduction targets. The Group of 77, a fragmented but powerful group of developing countries and China, can determine whether or not there has been a breakthrough. A number of countries have also said that their pollution reduction goals depend on the support of their wealthier peers.

Take Ethiopia, for example. Under a revised plan, it aims to cut emissions by 69% by 2030. But 80% of the $316 billion needed to fund that reduction must come from foreign governments.

Similarly, Morocco says that more than half of its planned 46% CO2 cuts are conditioned on financial assistance. Boosting the pile of available cash could also extract stronger targets from dozens of countries, including China and India, that have yet to update their emissions plans.

The coronavirus adds another layer of complications. Last year’s talks were abandoned, and rich and poor countries alike saw their debt burdens rise. One side effect is that climate finance has stagnated, according to Rachel Simon, climate policy and development coordinator at the Climate Action Network.

“We are one year past the moment of accountability we should have had,” she says. “Climate impacts, health and economic crises, and escalating debt levels have taken their toll the most on climate-vulnerable countries. We haven’t seen rich countries progress enough.”

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