In the COP24 held in Katowice, Poland, observers from a climate NGO walked around wearing a badge that read in big letters ‘WTF’. Under the shocking legend, was a different expansion of the abbreviation—Where’s The Finance? 

Things apparently haven’t improved since. Many observers and climate experts have expressed their dismay over the lack of strong, binding commitment on finance flows from the rich to the developing countries, without which no meaningful climate action is possible. 

True, the final text released by the COP28 Presidency (UAE) talks a good deal about finance, such as noting that “scaling up new and additional grant-based, highly concessional finance and non-debt instruments remains critical to supporting developing countries” — they are seen as just motherhood-and-apple-pie statements. 

There is nothing in hard substance. For example, the text notes that developing countries need $ 5.8 - $ 5.9 trillion dollars for the pre-2030 period to meet their climate action commitments (or, ‘nationally determined contributions’). Yet even the promised $ 100 billion per year of finance flows – that, too, mostly loans – is not happening. Developed countries were supposed to mobilise $ 100 billion a year from 2020; they did $ 89.6 billion in 2021. They also claim to have met the $100 billion in 2022, but there is no proof. The COP28 text “looks forward to further information on the positive progress.” 

Against this backdrop, many observers have expressed disappointment over any firm financial commitments. “COP28’s failure to instate effective financial mechanisms, obliging historical emitters to contribute, jeopardizes support for developing nations in meeting their NDCs,” says Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a Delhi-based think-tank.  

Ulka Kelkar, Executive Director, Climate, World Resources Institute, India, notes that the COP28 text “exonerates developed countries from making up the finance gap, even though it recognises the cap in adaptation finance is widening.” 

Echoing similar views, Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends, a Delhi-based firm engaged in climate advocacy and capacity building, says, “with much hype on COP28 being a ‘finance COP’, there isn’t any landmark outcome on finance.” 

The ‘Loss and Damage Fund’, which was set up at COP27 held in Egypt last year, has attracted funding pledges of $ 792 million. The requirement runs into hundreds of billions of dollars. Pakistan alone suffered ‘loss and damage’ worth $ 30 billion in 2022. 

Harjeet Singh, Head – Global Political Strategy, Climate Action Network International, notes that “although COP28 recognised the immense financial shortfall in tackling climate impacts, the final outcomes fall disappointingly short of compelling wealthy nations to fulfill their financial responsibilities – obligations amounting to hundreds of billions, which remain unfulfilled.”