Wealthy countries have pledged $100 billion a year to help reduce the effects of global warming. But Reuters found large sums going to projects including a coal plant, a hotel and chocolate shops.
(Reuters) – ITALY helped a retailer open chocolate and gelato stores across Asia.
The United States offered a loan for a coastal hotel expansion in Haiti.
Belgium backed the film “La Tierra Roja,” a love story set in the Argentine rainforest.
And Japan is financing a new coal plant in Bangladesh and an airport expansion in Egypt.
Funding for the five projects totaled $2.6 billion, and all four countries counted their backing as so-called “climate finance” – grants, loans, bonds, equity investments and other contributions meant to help developing nations reduce emissions and adapt to a warming world. Developed nations have pledged to funnel a combined total of $100 billion a year toward this goal, which they affirmed during climate talks in Paris in 2015. The funding helped crown Japan and the United States as two of the top five contributors.
Although a coal plant, a hotel, chocolate stores, a movie and an airport expansion don’t seem like efforts to combat global warming, nothing prevented the governments that funded them from reporting them as such to the United Nations and counting them toward their giving total.
In doing so, they broke no rules. That’s because the pledge came with no official guidelines for what activities count as climate finance. Though some organizations have developed their own standards, the lack of a uniform system of accountability has allowed countries to make up their own. The U.N. Climate Change secretariat told Reuters it is up to the countries themselves to decide whether to impose uniform standards. Developed nations have resisted doing so.
“This is the wild, wild west of finance,” said Mark Joven, Philippines Department of Finance undersecretary, who represents the country at U.N. climate talks. “Essentially, whatever they call climate finance is climate finance.”