China today boasts the world’s biggest economy, having overtaken the United States according to new International Monetary Fund (IMF) figures. China is also the world’s biggest emitter of “greenhouse gases” blamed for climate change.
At the talks in Lima, China’s negotiator Su Wei singled out Australia, whose conservative government – labeled a “pariah” by climate activists – said last month that instead of contributing to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), it will prioritize climate-related assistance to developing countries through its own development programs.
Despite its fast-growing and now world-leading economy, China is classified a developing country, and as a result has dodged “greenhouse gas” (GHG) emission-reduction targets set for developed nations under the Kyoto Protocol and other international climate agreements. It was just last month that China agreed, for the first time, to work on reducing emissions.
Launched in 2011, the GCF is designed to help developing countries curb GHH emissions and cope with occurrences blamed on climate change, such as rising sea levels. The aim is to raise $100 billion a year from public and private sources, by 2020.
At a pledging conference in Berlin last month, more than 20 governments committed a total of $9.3 billion for the fund. Far in the lead was the United States, with a $3 billion pledge, followed by Japan with $1.5 billion.
Su told reporters in Lima Thursday that the total pledge of $9.3 billion was “far from adequate,” noting the large gap between that amount and the 2020 goal of $100 billion a year.
“We don’t have any clear roadmap or clear picture of meeting that target.”
He said the Australian decision not to give to the fund was “not good news.”
Su also complained that GHG emission cuts planned by developed countries before 2020 were not big enough, pointing to Australia, Japan and Canada in particular. China’s own recent announcement sets a 2030 goal for emissions to peak, but does not specify reduction percentage targets for the years leading up to that date. Su said Thursday China was still researching the issue of an absolute cap on emissions.
(By contrast President Obama on the same day as the Chinese announcement said the new U.S. goal was to reduce emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels.)
Despite Su’s criticism of wealthy countries’ commitments to the GCF, China has not itself pledged any money to the fund. (At a U.N. climate meeting in New York last September China did offer to support “south-south” cooperation on climate change.)
Among countries that did make pledges to the GCF in Berlin last month were some whose economies are dwarfed by China’s. Luxembourg, for instance, pledged $6 million, Panama $1 million and Mongolia $50,000.
According to new IMF data which for the first time saw China’s economy overtake that of the United States, China’s 2014 national economic output (GDP in purchasing-power parity terms) is $17.6 trillion.
By comparison, Luxembourg’s is $50.6 billion, Panama’s is $64.5 billion and Mongolia’s is $29.7 billion.
Even developed countries that made significantly larger GCF pledges have modest economies compared to China’s: Finland, with a GDP of $221 billion, pledged $100 million to the fund, and Denmark, with a GDP of $248.6 billion, pledged $70 million.
Apart from China, other countries with large economies that have made no pledge to the GCF include Russia, with a GDP of $3.5 trillion, and Brazil, with a GDP of $3.07 trillion.
The GCF announced this week it will be ready to start accepting proposals for financing projects by 2015.
Secretary of State John Kerry, an enthusiastic proponent of international action on climate change, plans to join the more than 12,000 negotiators from almost 200 countries in Lima next week.
Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, Kerry described the Peru conference as “the lead-in to a year of important focus on climate change and high hopes for success in Paris next December.”
“With the ongoing meetings in Peru and what will follow over the course of the next year and the U.S. president, President Obama’s, pledge of a contribution of $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund and the E.U.’s early commitments, we believe that we are making clear that the Obama administration and the United States are all-in on this issue and committed to try to take steps that are long overdue,” he said.
The total amount pledged to the GCF so far is $9.3 billion. The contributors are: the United States $3 billion, Japan $1.5 billion, Britain $1.1 billion, Germany $1 billion, France $1 billion, Sweden $500 million, Italy $300 million, Canada $264 million, Spain $150 million, the Netherlands $100 million, Finland $100 million, Switzerland $100 million, South Korea $100 million, Denmark $70 million, Mexico $10 million, Czech Republic $6 million, Luxembourg $6 million, New Zealand $3 million, Norway $1.3 million, Panama $1 million, Monaco $300,000, Indonesia $250,000 and Mongolia $50,000.