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World's largest climate fund refills purse

The world's biggest climate fund wrapped up a fundraising conference at Paris with US$9.78 billion in pledges raised from 27 mostly European nations.

PARIS (AN) — The world's biggest climate fund wrapped up a fundraising conference on Friday with US$9.78 billion in pledges raised from 27 mostly European nations, which was less than what donors promised to compensate for the U.S. absence.

Donors had vowed to contribute US$10.3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, an amount that still would not have paid for all of the fund's ambitious projects in its more than US$30 billion pipeline.

As of the end of 2018, GCF's pipeline had 82 proposals totaling US$19.4 billion and 231 "concept notes" at a cost of US$10.7 billion. From among those potential projects, GCF selected US$14.8 billion to launch.

To date, however, GCF said it has disbursed US$5.2 billion to 111 climate projects among 99 nations.

GCF serves as a financing tool for “consensus-based” projects among wealthy and developing nations. It was created to help developing countries fulfill their obligations under the 194-nation treaty known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC.

Despite coming up short of its US$10.3 billion-plus fundraising expectations this year, GCF, based in South Korea, said the latest pledges would go a long ways towards accomplishing many climate-friendly projects around the world from 2020 to 2023.

“We are honored by the global community’s confidence in the fund’s ability to support countries and communities to raise and realize their climate ambitions,” GCF's executive director, Yannick Glemarec, said in a statement after the pledging conference in Paris.

“The coming years are critical," said Glemarec, an environmental scientist and longtime U.N. official from France, "as we empower our partners to innovate, accelerate and scale up climate investments that match the pace and urgency of the climate crisis.”

In 2014, GCF's initial pledges totaled more than US$10 billion, then dropped to US$9.3 billion. The final tally plummeted after U.S. President Donald Trump, who took office in January 2017, refused to deliver two-thirds of the U.S. government's US$3 billion pledge. Foreign exchange fluctuations reduced the fund's available cash by another US$1 billion.

This year, GCF hoped to match or exceed what was pledged five years ago after "nearly exhausting the US$7 billion it received from contributors since approving its first climate change project in 2015," according to a GCF statement that emphasized the need "to win the race against the climate crisis."

Support for the Paris climate treaty

Ahead of the pledging conference this month, 16 nations announced they would contribute US$7.4 billion for GCF's next five-year funding cycle. More nations announced pledges at the conference.

Three-quarters of the contributing nations increased — and nearly half of them doubled or more than doubled — the amount that they donated five years ago.

"This is a 70% increase in our programming resources on an annual basis," GCF said. "The pledges demonstrate strong and continued confidence in the fund’s unique ability to promote a paradigm shift towards low-emission, climate-resilient development."

Much of the new money will go towards helping countries develop climate action plans required by 2020 to comply with the 2015 Paris Agreement. Bruno Le Maire, France's economy and finance minister, said his nation, as a leader on climate issues, proudly hosted the fundraising conference.

"A well-resourced fund is a prerequisite for translating the 2015 Paris Agreement goals into concrete actions and helping developing countries to make their economies greener and more resilient," he said.

By contrast, Trump, who disavows the science behind climate change, has said he will begin the process of withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris climate treaty in November.

None of the almost 200 nations that signed onto the deal, which took effect on November 4, 2016, are allowed to withdraw for the first three years. But starting early next month, Trump can formally notify the United Nations of his intentions.

If he does so, the withdrawal process would take a year to complete. The earliest that a U.S. exit could occur would be on November 4, 2020, a day after the next U.S. presidential election. If he loses that election, his successor could reinstate the United States in the treaty as soon as a month later.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who has made the climate crisis a top priority, said "an ambitious replenishment" was important to ensuring that GCF is able to "continue to promote adaptation, resilience and carbon-neutral development in developing countries.”

The 27 nations that pledged contributions to the GCF this year were: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.