Feminist Analysis of COP27 Climate Finance Outcomes
Feminist Priorities for COP27 Outcomes
Climate finance funds climate action, and climate justice activists are particularly concerned with how — and how much — climate finance flows from the Global North to the Global South. Feminist frameworks and analyses of climate finance underpin demands for true transformation toward the climate-just, feminist future we know is possible.
Feminists and activists follow the UN climate negotiations, including the recent 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to ensure that not only decisions and processes “do no harm,” but that they also fund transformation and not false solutions. Negotiations on climate finance are often inaccessible, inefficient, heavily influenced by the private sector, and lack transparency. Many of the systemic issues prioritized by activists and feminists do not reach the negotiating tables, except perhaps during civil society interventions.
Our advocacy in the UNFCCC and beyond is grounded in an understanding of climate finance as an obligation of the Global North to pay its historical climate debt to the world. It should not be regarded as a matter of solidarity, but of obligations, including legal ones, and reparations. With this core understanding, climate finance should also be grant-based, gender-transformative, human-rights-centered, have public funding at its core, and be directly accessible, including by enhancing direct access for affected communities. Most importantly, climate finance pledges must go hand in hand with structural change, aligning finance flows with a climate just world and dismantling the unjust global economic order.
COP27 by Five Key Climate Finance Issues
During COP27, which took place in Egypt from November 6–18, advocates from the Women & Gender Constituency (WGC) and the Feminist Action Nexus for Economic and Climate Justice were on the ground following key finance agenda items and advocating for feminist climate finance. Read our summary and analysis of five key areas of negotiations and discussions below, including some of what was on the “Sharm El Sheikh Implementation Plan” (CP.27, CMA.4), this year’s COP cover text.
1. Setting a New Climate Finance Goal (aka the NCQG)
What is the issue? One of the key finance discussions at COP27 was on the continued process of setting a new global climate finance goal, the “new collective quantified goal” (NCQG), by 2024. The existing $100 billion per year pledge set in 2009 has been inadequate on two fronts: first, it was based on political feasibility rather than real needs of Global South countries or the real responsibility of Global North countries for climate catastrophe, and second, rich countries failed to meet it by the deadline of 2020, or ever since. COP27 marked the end of the first year of a three year process to define the NCQG by the end of 2024, to be implemented starting in 2025.
Why is it important? The multi-year process to set the NCQG marks the most substantive discussion we have had on climate finance since the Paris Agreement was signed. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Parties now have the opportunity to discuss the documented need to increase the quantity and consider the quality of climate finance, learning from previous experience. Therefore, comprehensive monitoring, reporting and transparency frameworks are also being discussed.
From a feminist perspective, public climate finance, the majority provided as grants and additional to existing development assistance commitments, must remain at the core of delivering the new climate finance goal. Similarly, it’s important the NCQG includes increased accountability for the accessibility of finance for the poorest, most marginalized and affected countries and communities through gender-transformative decision-making and delivery procedures that are people-centered and human rights-focused.
What happened at COP27? The fourth and final Technical Expert Dialogue (TED) of 2022 took place in Egypt on November 5, focused on climate finance access. Parties also shared their NCQG expectations during many informal meetings and a High Level Ministerial dialogue. A NCQG decision emerged from hours of negotiations.
During these negotiations, Global South countries were aligned to demand a new goal that is needs-based, responds to the principle of climate justice, considers mechanisms that don’t create debt, and promotes more direct access, among other priorities. They also urged some early determination with respect to the scale, scope and quality of the new goal. Meanwhile, Global North countries did not want to agree on any aspects of the NCQG before all of its determinants could be set at the end of the process, using delaying tactics to avoid substantive dialogue. They focused instead on setting the procedures for the next TEDs, arguing that the details of the NCQG should be defined in 2024, under a more political conversation.
The COP27 cover text recognizes that an investment in renewable energy of about USD 4 trillion per year is needed between now and 2030. The text also notes with concern the growing gap between the needs of Global South countries and the support provided and mobilized for their efforts to implement their nationally determined contributions (NDC), highlighting that the NDC needs are currently estimated at USD 5.8–5.9 trillion for the pre-2030 period.
As a way to address this need in the NCQG discussions, Global North countries are focusing on mobilizing funds from the private sector. The Global North is downplaying the importance of public finance provision as the core of the NCQG by proposing using public funding primarily to catalyze private investments, promoting blended finance and other “innovative” financial instruments such as green bonds. They are also pushing for emerging economies like China and India to be also considered as climate finance contributors.
The COP27 outcome text also mentions the importance of addressing inequities in accessing finance, including costs, terms and conditions; encourages simplified access; and urges Parties to provide resources for GCF replenishment.
What’s Our Feminist Analysis? The NCQG deliberations are an opportunity to integrate fundamental feminist climate finance principles into the structure of climate finance actually delivered, but the Global North countries’ lack of commitment to adequate funding and the over-reliance on private finance can derail the potential of the NCQG to offer a substantially different and better way forward.
The Global North’s insistence on using public funding for the primary, exclusionary purpose to catalyze private finance is an abdication of public responsibility to directly provide climate finance, especially after we witnessed the billions mobilized for a global pandemic. An emphasis on private finance also means that adaptation is likely to continue to be under-funded. Private finance is motivated by profit, and adaptation and loss and damage (L&D) projects cannot typically provide a financial return on investment despite the many social returns generated. Private finance and green bonds create more debts for Global South countries.
Opportunity still exists within this process, though, if we mobilize. One important aspect of the discussions and decision was ensuring more stakeholder participation in the TEDs, with particular focus on diversifying the expert input to bring in more voices and experiences from the Global South, including affected communities. This opening could be a good opportunity for women’s rights and feminist organizations and Indigenous Peoples to be more involved. Civil society, including women’s rights and feminist organizations, and Indigenous Peoples — whose rights and sovereignty should guide policy and action — must have the voice and authority to share their expertise. Doing so will contribute to strengthening not only discussions and decisions around the scale, scope, and quality of the new quantified goal, but also the implementation and monitoring of any efforts towards its fulfillment –particularly on their behalf.
What’s Next? The fifth technical dialogue on the NCQG will take place from 8–10 March in Vienna. The meeting and the dialogue will be webcast and open to virtual participation.
Resources: The Women & Gender Constituency’s intervention at the High Level Ministerial on the NCQG, Infographics: Six recommendations to ensure the new global climate finance goal is effective (Eurodad)
2. Providing Loss & Damage Finance
What is the issue? People and areas affected by the climate crisis are facing effects beyond what can be mitigated and adapted to — and this is termed loss and damage (L&D). There are economic and non-economic losses and damages. Examples include damages from floods, sea level rise, hurricanes, and droughts, as well as cultural loss, loss of biodiversity, and migration and displacement. Losses and damages require resources to repair, rebuild and rehabilitate. Prior to COP27, progress on L&D had been inadequate, with mounting pressure from civil society for L&D finance specifically. At COP25, the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage was established to give technical assistance to help vulnerable frontline communities impacted by the climate crisis avert, minimize and address loss and damage. However, the network was yet to be operational — with Parties unable to agree on vision, mandate and resources needed.
Why is it important? Some people lose everything they have in a matter of hours. National and local governments are pushed to cover this L&D with their own public resources or rely on loans to invest in recovery, creating more debt. Pakistan was an emblematic example of L&D in 2022, experiencing terrible impacts of severe flooding that affected around 33 million people with an estimated economic loss of USD 40 billion.
There is also a gendered aspect to L&D, as explained by the Women & Gender Constituency: “Climate-induced losses and damages dramatically multiply the social crises in societies that are already struggling with multiple injustices. The impacts of climate disasters particularly threaten women’s rights and human rights. Over 80% of people currently displaced by climate related events are women and girls.”
Addressing L&D requires new and additional public, grant-based finance from the Global North to be rapidly channeled to affected countries in the Global South, and the sources of these funds could include additional mechanisms than what is already on the table, such as a financial transactions tax. L&D finance should also be needs based. Similarly, L&D needs to be a pillar included within the NCQG and as a permanent COP agenda item. Within L&D finance discussions, there needs to be an acknowledgement of the financial contributions that developing countries and frontline communities have already been shouldering despite no obligation to provide such funding.
What happened at COP27? Responding to the call of Global South countries and civil society, with pressure particularly building since Glasgow, Parties agreed to set up a long-overdue L&D fund, aka the Loss and Damage Finance Facility. The COP27 discourse focused not only on the future, as in some previous COPs, but also recognized that the climate crisis is affecting the whole world in the present, with disproportionate effects on historically marginalized groups of the Global South. Several developed countries also came forward with L&D finance pledges and announcements, but attention will now turn to the source and application of these funds.
What’s Our Feminist Analysis? The creation of a Loss and Damage Finance Facility is monumental. We must now ensure that this fund becomes fully operational and truly responds to and is guided by the needs of most affected people and communities. It’s also important that the quality of the finance is just and feminist, including what’s been outlined–being grant-based, gender-transformative, human-rights-centered, directly accessible, and with public funding at the core.
Moving forward, feminists are advocating for the new L&D fund to be part of the financial mechanism of the UNFCCC, so that it is accountable to and receives guidance from its Parties, as well as applies common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC) and the polluter-pays principle in all its operations. The new Fund should also integrate past lessons learned by remedying current shortcomings in existing climate funds, especially with respect to quick release of and enhanced direct access to funding to directly affected people and communities.
We must ensure that the Transitional Committee process to set up the L&D fund is inclusive and transparent and allows for the active and meaningful participation of observers, including from women’s and feminist groups, Indigenous Peoples and affected communities, taking into account the lived experience and the knowledge and expertise of those bearing the brunt of already existing loss and damage. Ideally, governance arrangements for the new L&D fund should provide affected communities with a voting seat on the Board.
We must call for country pledges already made to be truly new and additional, meaning they are not relabeled existing funding or cannibalizing scarce adaptation finance. Their fulfillment should not focus overly on private sector engagement, especially via insurance (e.g., support to the Global Shield) to the detriment of strengthening social support systems and public service provision. Ultimately, these bilateral commitments and distribution, especially outside of the UNFCCC framework, must not come at the expense of a multilateral L&D fund.
What’s Next? As decisions are made during the meetings of the transitional committee this year, with the first meeting in March, our advocacy must be constant and clear. Countries will be negotiating who will contribute and how funds will be accessed and distributed, as well as determining how much their own contributions will be.
3. Calling for the Transformation of the Global Financial Architecture
What is the issue? The Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) are giant lenders who shape the global economic system and hold too much influence over Global South countries’ national economic and social policies. These institutions include the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and others. Recognizing the influence of these institutions on global finance flows and their connection to fulfilling the promise of Paris Agreement Article 2.1c to align finance with a “pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development,” political conversations are starting to discuss changing IFI and MDB practices and priorities when it comes to climate change. This discourse, happening at COP27, and at the upcoming spring meetings of the World Bank and IMF, arises after years of civil society and feminists consistently calling out these lenders for their destructive practices and inequitable governance.
Why is it important? The majority of climate finance channeled through MDBs is in the form of loans, even for adaptation (in contrast to UNFCCC funds), which exacerbates ongoing debt distress. Under the IFIs, countries’ eligibility is based on per capita GDP, not climate vulnerability, penalizing Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in particular. Furthermore, MDBs continue to invest billions in fossil fuels!
What Happened at COP27? At COP27 there was a clear message from both civil society and an increasing number of Global South governments that climate justice requires changing the global economic architecture. Notably, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Motley’s Bridgetown Initiative is gaining traction. As a result of this building pressure, for the first time, the COP cover text calls for reforming “the practices and priorities” of MDBs and IFIs, including encouraging them to “define a new vision and commensurate operational model, channels and instruments” that address the climate crisis and mentioning that these institutions should not exacerbate debt burdens.
What’s Our Feminist Analysis? As feminists, we warn against placing hope with MDBs and IFIs, especially in ways that may maintain or increase their power and influence. Reforms are a step forward, but ultimately we want to dismantle these institutions and reduce their influence.
First, these institutions do not have mechanisms well suited or designed for climate finance. Most MDBs and IFIs, like the IMF and the World Bank, are colonial institutions with a track record of human rights violations and harm to the Global South by promoting austerity and extractivism. MDB practices often precipitate and exacerbate crises where governments cannot provide social services. MDBs are inequitably governed and are not accountable to the UNFCCC. MDBs can lack robust safeguards, complemented by varying approaches to gender and intersecting issues that are often inadequate and with little room for influence.
MDBs also have problematic track records on fossil fuel investments, with their fossil fuel investments eclipsing their investments in renewable energy and demonstrating insufficient commitment to and alignment with Paris Agreement goals. The most effective action they could take is to stop funding fossil fuels, not creating or repurposing infrastructure for so-called climate friendly investments.
What’s Next? Climate finance discussions extend well beyond the COP and UNFCCC space and into broader financial spaces, including that of the MDBs and IFIs. The spring meetings of the World Bank and IMF will be held in Washington, D.C, in April of 2023, and CSOs can register to attend.
Yet we recognize that feminists and activists, especially those in the Global South most affected by these institutions, have long struggled to access and shape these spaces of power, despite campaigning against them for decades. In order to advance a joint agenda for transformation, economic justice and climate justice movements need to work together.
4. Making Climate Funds Work for Climate Justice: the GCF, the GEF, and the Adaptation Fund
What is the issue? The Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the Adaptation Fund are designed specifically to deliver multilateral climate finance to the Global South. (Of note, the GEF serves other multilateral environmental agreements in addition to the UNFCCC and so also funds other environmental projects.) Each fund is an operating entity of UNFCCC’s Financial Mechanism, which means their work–unlike those of MDBs–is directly tied to and supposed to support the implementation of the UNFCCC and its goals. Each of these funds also serves the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC. As part of the negotiations, therefore, Parties to the UNFCCC review and discuss reports from the funds and issue recommendations to each to help shape their approaches and activities.
Why is it important? These multilateral funds are a vital part of delivering climate finance. They are important not only for the billions of dollars they move for climate action in developing countries–and the billions more they should be moving–but also for the ways they work in comparison to bilateral finance, MDBs, and other finance sources such as philanthropy. They tend to have more transparent governance, greater accountability, and higher standards for adhering to environmental and social safeguards and considering gender than IFIs. The GCF and Adaptation Fund also have mechanisms for direct access. These funds represent the potential to implement climate action that fulfills the promises of Paris.
Further, the Adaptation Fund, GEF, and GCF aspire to set best practices in climate action with transparent decision-making, gender policies, environmental and social safeguards, Indigenous Peoples’ policies, and independent grievance mechanisms. The funds also include observer and civil society voices in different capacities, which, while limited, is still a space for us to influence the approval of projects and policies and follow up on their implementation.
The support the funds receive, though, is inadequate compared to the scale of the need. Rich countries are not contributing their fair share. The ability of the GCF to program outpaces the financial resources it receives. The GEF’s most recent replenishment, while higher than ever before, is a drop in the bucket given the breadth of environmental issues it addresses. The Adaptation Fund attracted fewer pledges in 2022 than 2021, which is worrisome as adaptation is woefully underfunded and constitutes only around 34% of all climate finance, instead of the 50% established as a global goal.
There are also concerns beyond the quantity of finance–these multilateral funds need to be not only better than some other sources of funds, but striving for the best quality of climate finance and held accountable to the communities they should be serving. Nearly every issue in climate finance arises within the design of how these funds work, from concerns about grants vs. loans, to the accessibility of funding and design of direct access mechanisms, the promotion of locally-led solutions, and concern about valorization of the private sector.
What happened at COP27? During negotiations on “Matters Related to the Adaptation Fund” were negotiated, we heard continued calls from Global South countries for at least doubling adaptation finance, though still insufficient to meet their needs, is crucial and could move us closer to achieving a balance between adaptation and mitigation. The cover text and guidance to the funds reflect this urgent need to increase adaptation finance. Discussions on the Adaptation Fund reflected concern about its funding being unpredictable and unsustainable, and many countries from the Global South called for the Adaptation Fund to establish an institutionalized replenishment process like the GCF.
SIDS also raised their voices to express their need for more adaptation finance as well as the need to improve accreditation and direct access and prioritize public finance. Despite these calls, the COP cover text ultimately did not include the paragraph recognizing the need for locally led adaptation and tracking of adaptation finance.
Parties also discussed what guidance to provide to the GCF. These negotiations prominently featured Global South countries expressing the need to improve access to the GCF’s finance through measures such as speeding up the long accreditation processes for entities wanting to access the GCF funds, especially for regional and national “Direct Access Entities”; reducing the time it takes for a proposed project to be approved, and ensuring that funds flow quickly to the project after approval.
The resulting guidance covers these issues and many others. Additionally, in line with key demands from feminist civil society, it encourages the GCF Board to promote “readiness”–or capacity-strengthening funding, “for the development of national and subnational gender strategies, as they relate to climate,” which can unlock climate finance for gender-climate planning. The guidance also called for more ambition in the next GCF gender policy, promoted Indigenous Peoples’ “interest, knowledge, perspectives, and decision-making,” and supported development of and alignment with national adaptation plans, while also encouraging robust implementation of the Private Sector Strategy.
The cover decision also highlighted that the second replenishment period, the time where countries pledge to replenish the coffers of the GCF, must be more ambitious than the first.
The guidance to the GEF emphasized the importance of continuing to provide support, including capacity-building, for reporting under the enhanced transparency framework of the UNFCCC, and with special attention to adaptation monitoring, evaluation, and learning. To feminist civil society who are stretching their capacity to follow GEF, issues of capacity, transparency, and accurate reporting are of concern and will continue to be relevant as the UNFCCC undertakes the first global stocktake under the Paris Agreement, a process feminists have followed closely.
What’s our feminist analysis? The need for significantly more climate finance for both mitigation and adaptation (to say nothing of loss and damage) is high. Doubling adaptation finance, while a welcome step forward, would still not be nearly enough to cover the needs of Global South communities nor would it alleviate the need for more mitigation finance as well. This is why, this upcoming year, our advocacy must focus on demanding that all Global North countries contribute their fair share, especially in the upcoming GCF replenishment where countries will need to pledge higher amounts than in previous cycles and some, like the US, will need to recommit as well as make good on past promises. We must ensure that rich countries shift substantive multilateral funding from MDBs into the UNFCCC financial mechanisms, namely the Adaptation Fund and the GCF, instead. Further, real climate finance pledges are new and additional, not pledges mixed up with existing development assistance.
What’s Next? The next GCF Board Meeting (B.35) will take place March 13–16 in South Korea, followed by B.36 in Kigali on July 10–13 (TBC) and B.37 on October 23–26 (venue TBD). Further information will be available on the GCF website.
The Adaptation Fund Board usually meets twice a year, around March and October, with an intersessional meeting around June. The next meeting will take place March 21–24 in Bonn, Germany. Details will be published on their website.
Resources: The GCF Observer Network Principles, The Adaptation Fund CSO Network website, The GCF: A Guide to Advocacy from a Women’s Rights Perspective (WEDO), The Gender Just Climate Solutions Directory (Women and Gender Constituency)
5. Addressing Debt Justice
What is the issue? Feminist calls for debt justice recognize that only with relief–preferably cancellation–of unjust debts can countries appropriately invest in climate justice and gender justice. These unjust debts were created by loans from the Global North to Global South as part of harmful, often conditional “aid” and “development” packages.
Why is it important? Existing debt repayments diminish the amount of money countries have on hand to address social welfare, crises, and climate mitigation and adaptation. Currently, most climate finance is being delivered through loans and therefore exacerbating these debt burdens. In 2020, 71% of public climate finance was given out as loans instead of grants. According to a new report from Debt Justice and CAN International, countries in the Global South are currently spending 5 times more on debt repayments than they are addressing the impact of the climate crisis. The last two years have also seen an increase in debt levels due to the multiple crises and the uneven recovery measures applied under a neocolonial financial system that promotes loans as the best alternative.
Our debt justice demands include: (1) automatic debt suspension after climate disasters, and (2) unconditional debt cancellation, especially for the most affected countries with the least resources.
What happened at COP27? This issue was not directly on the agenda, as agendas result from years of historical precedent and/or key advocacy. But there was space for debt justice to be brought into submissions and discussions for the NCQG. COP27 provided an excellent platform for civil society to advocate for debt justice and for countries to make proposals related to debt relief. Civil society made numerous calls for debt cancellation including in actions and in the Peoples Declaration. Global South governments also joined in: Pakistan called repeatedly for debt relief after recent devastating floods; Egypt presented a proposal regarding a Sustainable Debt Coalition; and the new president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, even proposed a program under the IMF to cancel debts of all “developing countries” to use that money for mitigation and adaptation actions in the Global South. The cover decision expresses concern over growing indebtedness and how its impending climate action and recognizes the need to take into account debt burdens and employ non-debt creating climate finance instruments.
What is our feminist analysis? For climate finance to truly be equitable, it must be delivered in the form of grants or any non-debt creating mechanism, and it should be transparent and free of conditions. Debt and climate are interconnected and must be addressed together. The increasing discussions and mentions of debt relief during COP27 signaled the potential willingness to not only see this interconnectedness, but to also finally address the problems together. Demands and proposals for newer ideas, such as debt-for-climate swaps, suggest that conversation may be opening to address the real structural transformation that is needed (even if debt-for-climate swaps are limited in reach and impact).
On the other hand, business-as-usual proposals dressed up as innovation were also discussed; green bonds, for example, are another debt-creating instrument.
There is a danger that calls for debt justice, which is entwined with true transformation of the global financial architecture, will be co-opted by the same powerful private interests that have rallied around the ineffective and harmful promises of false solutions, like net-zero, nature-based solutions, and public-private partnerships.
Resources: Debt Justice UK’s COP27 Analysis, The debt and climate crises: Why climate justice must include debt justice (Debt Justice & CAN International), Nov 17 ECO article
Movement-Building Beyond COP27
The climate finance conversation must expand to recognize that we need to shift the financial and economic global architecture to be just and ecologically sound. The struggle will have to happen at all levels: local, institutional, and global, as well as in many spaces of power, formal and informal. A cross-movement and a multi-level strategy is needed to promote the just solutions that people and the planet need.
We invite you to take part in our collective advocacy and global movements for gender, climate, and economic justice. Here are some opportunities:
- Interested in advocacy around the UNFCCC? Join the Women & Gender Constituency! The WGC is an official observer to UNFCCC processes such as the COP. Over their years of advocacy, they’ve also developed key resources for feminist climate justice.
- Interested in advocacy around climate funds? Join the GCF Observer Network of civil society, Indigenous Peoples and local communities or WEDO’s regional networks for GCF gender monitors by reaching out to email@example.com. You can also join the Adaptation Fund NGO Network and check out their resources. WEDO has also outlined engagement pathways for women’s organizations in regard to each of the four primary multilateral climate funds.
- Want to build advocacy across economic and climate justice spaces? Check out the Feminist Action Nexus for Economic and Climate Justice! Browse the resources and join the listserv to be in the loop on regional trainings and strategy sessions.