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Chart: These rich countries are falling far short on their climate pledges

New analysis pegs U.S., Canada and U.K. among the worst laggards on climate finance pledges. Will COP27 help even things out?

a group of protestors carrying signs that say "climate finance now!" and similar slogans imploring rich countries to pay
Activists demanding climate finance at a demonstration at COP27 on November 9, 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

During the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009, wealthy nations agreed to start contributing $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries cope with climate change. They failed to meet that goal, contributing only $83 billion in climate finance in 2020, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The U.S., Canada and a handful of other rich nations have fallen especially short of paying their fair share,” according to new analysis from Carbon Brief.

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The agreed-upon $100 billion target did not specify how much each wealthy country should pay, so climate news outlet Carbon Brief came up with a formula that calls on each country to contribute a fair share that reflects its historical greenhouse gas emissions — essentially, its overall contribution to the climate crisis. It found that a number of countries are exceeding their fair share of financing, leading with Switzerland, Norway, France and the Netherlands.

At the other end of the spectrum, the U.S., which bears the most responsibility for causing climate change, has paid the least of its fair share — less than $8 billion in 2020, just 19% of the $40 billion that the Carbon Brief analysis determined the country should pay. 

Even countries that look good on the chart are coming in for criticism, though. Developing nations have asked for climate finance to come in the form of grants rather than loans, but some of the countries with the biggest surpluses above have given much of that money in the form of loans. 

And $100 billion a year falls far short of what developing countries will really need in order to simultaneously develop clean energy systems and deal with climate disasters. One new report out this week calls for an order of magnitude more — $1 trillion in climate finance per year by 2030 for developing countries and emerging economies excluding China. 

At the COP27 U.N. climate conference now underway in Egypt, there are small signs of progress as some rich nations make new pledges for climate finance. But don’t expect much more from the U.S. in the next few years. If Republicans take control of the U.S. House, as they look to be on track to do, you’re not going to see that money,” U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry said during a COP27 panel discussion.

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Maria Virginia Olano is editorial and research associate at Canary Media.