Key climate finance pledges from UN General Assembly

US to double climate aid and Ireland proposes new climate agenda for Security Council as pressure mounts on leaders in New York

Global leaders met in the New York this week for the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Discussions focused on recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, peace and security issues and addressing climate change – in particular the challenge of funding the action needed on climate change.

Setting the scene for the urgency of the crisis, a report from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) just days before leaders convened said the world is currently on course for warming of 2.7C above pre-industrial levels.

Pressure on delegates in New York also ramped up on news that climate finance pledges and plans from developed countries will fall short of what they committed to overseas climate aid. Developed nations under the UNFCCC in 2020 agreed this figure would be $100bn a year. However, according to Oxfam, current pledges will only come to $93bn to $95bn a year by 2025.

US doubles climate aid pledge

In his speech to the UNGA on Tuesday, US president Joe Biden described the climate crisis as “borderless” and announced he would be doubling the figure the US is committing to overseas climate aid, in effect, taking the US contribution to $11.4bn.

“In April, I announced the US will double our public international financing to help developing nations tackle the climate crisis. And today, I’m proud to announce that we’ll work with the Congress to double that number again, including for adaptation efforts,” he said.

“This will make the US a leader in public climate finance. And with our added support, together with increased private capital from other donors, we’ll be able to meet the goal of mobilising $100bn to support climate action in developing nations.”

China slows coal growth

On the same day, China’s president Xi Jinping announced the country would stop building coal plants abroad. This is a departure from Belt and Road initiative, which has seen it funding coal projects in places such as Vietnam and Indonesia. China relies heavily on coal for its domestic energy supply.

Brazil announces climate neutral goal

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro used his address at the UN to speak about Brazil’s work on environmental preservation and the fight against climate change and to announce the country would be becoming climate neutral from 2050 to 2060.

Peru declares climate emergency

In another address during the week, Peru’s president Pedro Castillo announced the Latin American country would be declaring a national climate emergency.

“Peru has taken on the goal of becoming a country that is carbon neutral by 2050 and reducing the emission of greenhouse gases by 30% to 40%, thereby respecting what was projected for 2030,” he said.

“As an expression of its commitment to the health of the planet, my government will declare the national climate emergency.”

UK appeals to finance sector to fund transition

There were strong words from UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who told delegates, “it is time for humanity to grow up.”

The prime minister did not deliver new proposals in his speech but acknowledged the US increasing its pledge to overseas climate aid brings industrialised nations very close to the $100bn pledge.

He went on to say how government must work with financial institutions to fund the green transition.

“We must work together so that the international financial institutions – the IMF, the World Bank – are working with governments around the world to leverage in the private sector, because it is the trillions of dollars of private sector cash that will enable developing nations – and the whole world – to make the changes necessary.”

Johnson said the UK had become the Saudi Arabia of wind and celebrated the launch of the UK’s first green bond the day before, which raised £10bn.

Ireland proposes Security Council agenda include climate threat

On Thursday the UN Security Council convened and climate change, again, appeared as a strong theme – this time in the context of security.  

In his address, Irish taoiseach Micheál Martin proposed the threat posed by climate change be added to the routine agenda of the United Nations Security Council.

He described the threat as already contributing to conflict across the world and said the Security Council has the tools and mandate to do more. A failure to do so was an “abdication of responsibility”, he said.

“If the Security Council is to meet its responsibility to maintain international peace and security, it must have the information and tools to analyse and address climate related security risks.

“To help us do so, we should invite the Secretary General to submit a periodic report to the Security Council on how climate change is threatening the maintenance of international peace and security,” said Martin.

The Irish Taoiseach later told reporters he has hope the proposals despite China, Russia and India expressing opposition.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken echoed Martin saying climate was aggravating conflict. He listed Syria, Mali, Yemen, South Sudan, and Ethiopia as examples of where this is happening.

“The climate crisis isn’t coming. It’s already here and clear patterns are emerging and its impact, the consequences, are falling disproportionately on vulnerable and low-income populations,” said Blinken.

Civil society demands fossil fuel funding reform

Ahead of Friday’s United Nations High Level Dialogue on Energy, more than 200 civil society organizations from over 40 countries released a statement calling on world leaders to end international public finance for coal, oil and gas.