The Growing Trend of South-South Cooperation on Climate Change

Su-WeiOn Monday China’s Chief Climate Negotiator, Mr. Su Wei, offered some interesting views at a COP20 side event on a significant and growing trend in the efforts to tackle climate change – South-South cooperation.  The event, “Perspectives on the 2015 Paris Deal: Options on the road from Lima 2014 to Paris 2015,” was organized by the South Centre and the Third World Network and also featured representatives from the Africa Group on ADP and India.  Mr. Su Wei stated that while China welcomes the announcements of pledges totaling $9.7 billion to the Green Climate Fund, the goal was to reach $10 billion by the time the Parties convened in Lima.  Moreover, according to Su Wei, though we have heard many pledges that developed country Parties will contribute up to $100 billion per year by 2020, we still have no clear road map as to how those funds will be raised.  On top of that, countries such as the United States and Japan, which have pledged a total of $4.5 billion between them, must still gain approval from their respective legislatures in order to actually live up to their pledges.  This task will certainly be difficult in the United States, where the Congress has already vowed to block the US contribution.

Su Wei stated that developing countries can no longer continue to wait for developed countries to provide the climate funding they are legally required to provide.  Therefore, China has begun to fill in where it perceives the developed world to be lagging behind and started providing financing of its own to developing countries.  For example, at the 2012 Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development Premier Wen Jiabao announced that China would “make available 200 million yuan to help least developed countries and those in Africa tackle climate change.”  More recently, China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli announced at the September UN Climate Summit that China would pledge $6 million to support South-South cooperation on climate change.  Finally, Chinese President Xi Jinping revealed at the G20 Summit in November that China would establish a South-South Cooperation Fund on Climate Change.

Su Wei’s remarks reflect the growing trend of South-South cooperation on climate change.  The UK think tank Foreign Policy Centre has reported that in 2013 “there was $92.7 billion in new investment in renewable energy in developing countries and $121.7 billion in developed countries,” representing a very significant narrowing of the gap gcf_logobetween the two since 2007.  Additionally, FPC noted a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report that in 2012 “South-South development bank clean energy flows totaled $7.5 billion, up from $2.8 billion in 2008 and compared to 2012 North to South flows of $9.9 billion.”  In a “break with tradition,” developing countries Mexico and Mongolia are also actually beginning to invest in the Green Climate Fund.  Therefore, it seems that as the developed nations continue to drag their feet with respect to their pledges to provide climate financing and enhance the implementation of the Convention, developing countries are starting to pick up the slack and forge ahead.

On December 8 the National Development and Reform Commission of China, UNEP, and the UNDP are co-sponsoring a forum on South-South Cooperation on Climate Change in Lima.  The forum will bring together ten leaders from various countries and international organizations to discuss strategies to enable a rapid scaling up of South-South cooperation initiatives.  It should prove to be a very interesting event.