Separate Commitments, Separate Targets, Same Money?

Posted on Wednesday, 27 April 2022
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Earlier this week, Irish Aid published its Climate and Environmental Finance Report 2020 detailing the "levels and channels of Ireland’s international climate finance". In the opening paragraph of the Executive Summary, the Department confirms "The Programme for Government (2020) sets out a commitment to double the proportion of Official Development Assistance that is climate finance by 2030." and the commitment by the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin T.D., to to the provision of €225 million per year of climate finance to developing countries by 2025.


But let's be clear, Official Development Assistance (ODA) and Climate Finance are not the same thing, and by conflating the two Ireland runs the risk of reneging on our international commitments.



The Report further states that "Climate finance represented 10.18% of Ireland’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2020 across all channels. Similarly, approximately 10.4% of ODA delivered through bilateral and CSO channels specifically in 2020 was climate finance.". Begging the question if climate finance is erroneously included in the calculation of ODA, just how far away is Ireland from the UN target of 0.7 per cent of national income?

Ireland and the Paris Agreement 

At the Conference of Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen in 2009, it was agreed that developed countries would reach a climate finance target of $100 billion per annum. This was written in to Article 9, paragraph 3 of the Paris Agreement, agreed in December 2015, which provided a commitment by developed countries to a contribution of $100 billion per year to developing countries by 2020 and extended to 2025. This $100 billion per year was intended to meet the needs of developing countries most impacted by climate change. However, this commitment relies on each developing country involved pledging, and does not include any formulae for determining how the target should be apportioned.

Research published in 2021 by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) sought to provide a formula based on three metrics: gross national income, cumulative carbon dioxide emissions and population. Acknowledging that these metrics are not perfect, the authors offered these metrics as an indicative range to begin holding individual governments to account. 

Using these metrics, the ODI report found that of the 23 developed countries responsible for providing international climate finance, only Germany, Norway and Sweden have been paying their fair share of the annual $100 billion goal. All other countries, including Ireland, fell short. The report also noted that "Ireland should be contributing $364–900 million a year depending on which metric is used to attribute fair share. In 2017–2018, it provided an annual average of $199 million, or 33% of its fair share measured against the composite index." (p.14). 

The report also contained a scorecard of progress towards a fair share of international climate finance (2017–2018) (Table 3, p.10) which ranked countries according to the proportion of their share of climate finance actually being paid. The ranking is in quartile increments and indicates that, in the period 2017-2018, Ireland paid just 25-50 per cent of our share. Noting that Ireland "has committed to at least double the percentage of official development assistance spent on climate finance by 2030 (IrishAid, 2021), further indicating that this would be a minimum of €80 million ($94.4 million) annually (Germany and the European Commission, 2020). At this minimum rate, Ireland would provide only 26% of its fair share." (p.14).

Using this methodology, the provision of €225 million committed to by the Taoiseach would equate to approximately 73 per cent of Ireland's share. A significant improvement, but only if it represents actual climate finance (as distinct from ODA).


Ireland and the 2030 Agenda

In the same year as Ireland signed up to the Paris Agreement, Ireland also committed to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Under the area of 'Partnership', the Preamble to the Declaration, signatories pledge "to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through a revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focussed in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people." Part of this mobilisation, according to Article 43 and target 17.2, was for developing countries to reach an ODA target of 0.7 per cent of national income by 2030. 

This is a separate commitment to that made at COP15 in 2009 and in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Ireland spent €867.5 million on ODA in 2020, 0.41 per cent of GNI*. If, as the Irish Aid Report suggests, €88.3 million of that was actually climate finance, this reduces our ODA / GNI* to 0.37 per cent. Just over half of the 2030 target.

Social Justice Ireland has called on the Government to develop a strategy with a view to reaching the UN target by 2027. However, this needs to provide clear delineation between ODA and climate finance. Rebuilding our commitment to ODA, honouring the UN target, and developing a comprehensive strategy to meet our ODA and climate finance targets should be important policy paths for Ireland to pursue in the coming years.