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The U.S. Is Giving Way Less Than Its Fair Share of Climate Aid

4 minute read

At COP27, the first U.N. climate conference hosted in Africa in six years, developing countries are channeling more attention than ever before to the failure of wealthy countries to deliver a long-promised $100 billion in annual climate aid. A data analysis published Monday by the nonprofit climate site CarbonBrief throws a harsh spotlight on the limited efforts of some of the world’s most advanced economies.

In 2020, the U.S. contributed $7.6 billion to the $100 billion pledge but, proportional to its contribution to climate change—in the form of historical greenhouse gas emissions—it should have given $39.9 billion.

President Joe Biden said in 2021 that he wants to increase U.S. climate aid to $11 billion by 2024. But doing so would require cooperation from congress—a prospect that looks diminished after the Nov. 8 mid-terms. Republicans, who have consistently fought Democratic efforts to appropriate more money to climate finance, look set to re-take the house.

Of the 23 wealthy countries that CarbonBrief included in its analysis, which uses data and estimates from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Resources Institute, and Oxfam, the U.S. is by far the biggest laggard, giving just 19% of its fair share of the $100 billion. But others were also billions of dollars short: Canada provided 37% of its fair share, Australia 38%, and the U.K. 76%. The $100 billion pledge, first made by these countries in 2009 as part of U.N. negotiations on climate action, was meant to be delivered annually by 2020.

Anger is mounting at the failure to meet what looks, in 2022, like a fairly low-ball target. The $100 billion promised to the entire developing world equates to the amount of aid sent to Ukraine to help fight off the Russian invasion this year. It is about two thirds of the budget of the England’s public health service, or one eleventh of U.S. defense spending. $100 billion is also how much money Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has lost from his personal fortune over the past 13 months.

All in all, the 23 rich countries gave just over $60 billion for poorer countries to cut their emissions and adapt to climate change in 2020, through both direct country-to-country aid and contributions to multilateral development banks. An additional $23 billion was sent via climate funds and private sources, bringing the climate finance total for 2020 to $83 billion.

But even if the $100 billion pledge was met, it would be just a fraction of the funds poorer countries need to deal with climate change. A 2021 study by the World Resources Institute found that annual climate finance would need to be scaled up to $5 trillion by 2030 if the world were to actually meet its goals on emissions and give vulnerable countries the resources to deal with extreme weather.

With it looking all but impossible that rich countries will step up that much, this year developing countries have tried to refocus climate conversations on what happens when they can’t adapt to climate impacts. For the first time, the official agenda for the U.N. climate summit includes discussions on creating a fund for “loss and damage”—compensation that developing countries should receive for the increasing number of natural disasters they are suffering, despite having contributed relatively little to global carbon emissions. Pakistani officials, for example, have called for a massive injection of funds to help the country recover from its catastrophic 2022 floods, which will cost an estimated $40 billion—more than 10% of its GDP. Pakistan has contributed 0.3% of historic greenhouse gas emissions.

In her COP27 speech, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley called for a new funding mechanism for climate reparations, and a redesign of global financial institutions to fight climate change in an equitable way. “We were the ones whose blood, sweat and tears financed the industrial revolution,” she said. “Are we now to face double jeopardy by having to pay the cost as a result of those greenhouse gasses from the industrial revolution? That is fundamentally unfair.”

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Write to Ciara Nugent at ciara.nugent@time.com