Publication - Definitions and Accounting of Climate Finance: Between Divergence and Constructive Ambiguity

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Definitions and Accounting of Climate Finance: Between Divergence and Constructive Ambiguity
Climate Policy
Igor Shishlov & Philipp Censkowsky
Published in
May 2022
The Paris Agreement reaffirmed the commitment to provide USD 100 billion in international climate finance to developing countries by 2020, while COP26 agreed to set a new target by the end of 2024. However, in the absence of a clear, internationally accepted definition of climate finance, the estimates of the progress towards this objective wildly differ. This article provides an overview of different issues related to diverging definitions of climate finance, its main dimensions and proposes to distinguish between counting methods (e.g. Rio markers) and accounting frameworks of climate finance (e.g. by the OECD). We start by reviewing the existing definitions of climate finance both under the UNFCCC and beyond, followed by a discussion of the key dimensions of climate finance that affect definitions, as well as the main climate finance accounting approaches. In the context of the Paris Agreement, attaining a consensus among Parties on the definition of climate finance is crucial, but may result in watering down the level of ambition, for example, by including finance to activities that may not be in line with the latest climate science. Such convergence would require resolving all controversial dimensions of climate finance discussed in this article – notably, provider versus recipient side perspectives, eligible activities, inclusion of controversial sectors and technologies, public versus private finance, climate versus development finance, accounting for negative climate finance and so on. As most likely not all issues can be resolved through a consensual multilateral process, some level of ‘constructive ambiguity’ may be required in defining and accounting for international climate finance.