Climate finance is a lifeline for communities facing record heatwaves, terrifying storms and devastating floods.
Levels of funding from rich countries to developing nations to tackle the climate crisis may be only a third of the amount reported, Oxfam has warned.
The aid agency estimates true levels of climate finance may be just 19-22.5 billion US dollars (£14.6-17.3 billion) compared to the 59.5 billion US dollars (£45.8 billion) on average in 2017 and 2018 reported by donor countries.
It comes ahead of a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on developed countries’ progress towards meeting the goal of providing 100 billion US dollars in climate finance from a variety of sources per year by 2020, agreed at UN talks in Copenhagen in 2009.
The research by Oxfam warned 80 percent of all reported public finance to help with climate action in developing countries was not provided as grants, but mostly in the form of loans, around half offered on ungenerous terms.
Once repayments and interest have been deducted, the net assistance being provided is less than half the amount reported.
The Oxfam report does show the large majority of the UK’s climate support which averaged more than £1.1 billion a year over 2017 and 2018 was grants.
The charity also warned that there is over-reporting for climate support where action to combat global warming is only part of a broader development project.
And it said that in 2017-2018, only around a fifth of funding went to the world’s least developed countries and just three percent to small island developing states, which face the gravest threat from climate change and have the fewest resources to cope with the crisis.
Just a quarter of funding was spent helping countries adapt to the impacts of climate change such as rising sea levels and droughts, while two thirds of funds went to helping cut emissions, and the remainder cut across both areas.
But the research reveals the amount of money for helping countries adapt to the already inevitable impacts of a warming world has risen significantly, from nine billion US dollars (£7 billion) in 2015/2016 to 15 billion US dollars (£11.5 billion) in 2017/2018.
Tracy Carty, senior policy advisor on climate change at Oxfam and one of the report authors, said: “Climate finance is a lifeline for communities facing record heatwaves, terrifying storms and devastating floods.
“Even as governments struggle with the effects of Covid-19, they must not lose sight of the mounting threat from the climate crisis.”
She urged the UK Government to use its position of global influence as host of key UN “Cop26” climate talks next year to urge other developed nations to provide more finance in the form of grants, allocate more money to helping countries adapt to climate change and prioritising the most vulnerable.
“They should seize the opportunity to set a new path for climate finance beyond 2020 by agreeing robust common accounting standards and a specific finance goal for adaptation,” she added.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “The UK is committed to building a greener, fairer future for everyone, including those in developing countries, and especially for the most vulnerable.
“We have doubled our commitment to climate finance to £11.6 billion over the next five years, with every pound going to tackle climate change and its consequences. As COP26 president, we call on the international community to continue to advance this vital work.”
Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.