A Matter of Principle(s) - A Normative Framework for a Global Compact on Public Climate Finance

Teaser Image Caption
How can public climate change finance be used wisely?


Download the entire study as a pdf-file.
Read the executive summary.

Solving the climate crisis is truly a global challenge that one part of the world can't do without the other. A global deal to save the climate as a common good for all life needs to provide an agreement securing international financial support for mitigation and adaptation action in the South. Staying far below 2°C global warming compared to preindustrial levels today seems hardly achievable and would in practice mean a no-carbon development path in the North and low-carbon development in the South. Climate justice in that context requires a fair and equitable sharing of emission reduction targets as well as of financial contributions from public sources.

Copenhagen has not delivered the fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement that many hoped for, and the world now seems further away from it than ever. Yet initial important steps forward have been taken in the field of international climate finance by putting a global finance pledge into the wider climate discourse - despite the prominence of the global financial crisis. That is no coincidence since solving the Climate Crisis increasingly becomes an economic challenge and thus debates on the right path and mechanisms focus on questions of quantitative facts and figures. Though this preoccupation with the economics of climate change seems unavoidable, as a political foundation deeply rooted in the ecology and justice movement we strongly believe that it is not enough.

What is missing in the climate finance debate is a normative framework. While a massive scale up of private finance is urgently needed, it is the responsibility of states as signatories of the UN Framework Convention to Combat Climate Change to assure that human rights, international environmental law and democratic approaches are safeguarded and basic criteria in the mobilisation, governance and disbursement of public climate funds are respected.

When we look at the status quo of international public climate finance, the picture looks rather gloomy. While important pledges are on the table—including the US$ 30 billion fast start finance and US$100 billion a year by 2020 made in Copenhagen—a coherent financial architecture is missing, governments are window-dressing and inflating their actual commitments and payments, and some of the investments are actually promoting wrong solutions (e.g. nuclear power, large hydro power dams and other large scale and often harmful technologies).

Climate finance can do better and many best practices around the world exist already. There is no need to invent a new normative framework for climate finance. From human rights to environmental laws – a long list of codified rights and normative principles is available. The problem is that donors tend to lack coherency and implementation of these in their programmes. There is a strong need to learn from past mistakes of development aid organisations and other actors and make sure they are not repeated or exacerbated by new public money for climate finance. We consider it to be a matter of principle(s) and hope that this paper helps to steer the debate in that direction. The framework addresses both bilateral and multilateral actors in the field of climate finance and should also serve as reference framework for the private sector.

We are very grateful to our colleague Liane Schalatek who has put together this paper and thereby helped to contribute to the creation of a coherent framework for global climate finance rooted in equality, justice and human rights which will hopefully not only serve the Heinrich Böll Foundation's current and future work on climate finance but inform the work of other groups and organisations internationally.

In the run up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2012 (Rio+20), governments have agreed to focus on the topic of ‘Greening the Economy in the context of Sustainable Development and poverty eradication’. Climate Finance is one important cornerstone of that challenge. The Heinrich Böll Foundation is ready to engage with civil society actors and other democratic stakeholders around the world to assure that principles and criteria for what is "green" and what is "sustainable" will be addressed in this context. This paper describes the normative framework for our engagement and hopefully inspires others to follow and debate.

We welcome your feedback and ideas and hope for a fruitful and constructive dialogue. Please, send thoughts and comments related to the paper to Liane Schalatek directly at liane@boell.org.

Barbara Unmüßig, Member of the Executive Board of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung
Lili Fuhr, Department Head Ecology and Sustainable Development, Heinrich Böll Stiftung