US sub-national contributions to the financial mechanism of the Paris Agreement
By Benito Müller, Felipe Floresca, and Emilie Parry
There is a growing realization among US ‘sub-nationals’ – that is states, cities, corporations, counties, universities, grass-root networks, non-profit organizations, individuals (in essence, anyone outside the White House) – that climate change is a serious issue that needs to be tackled, and the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement by the Trump administration is viewed as a reckless act of geo-political vandalism.
The fact is, the Paris Agreement is necessary for us to come to grips with global climate change. Why? We need most, if not all, countries to ratchet up their emission reduction ambitions significantly if we are to get on top of the problem, and this requires international collaboration. Yet that will not be forthcoming if the global climate regime is seen to be blatantly unfair. A solution requires a lot of goodwill and good faith from everyone, and not only with regard to reducing emissions.
The Paris Agreement is not just about emission reductions. It is, as highlighted in a recent Climate Home article (‘US cities and states back Paris deal but ignore climate finance’), equally about providing financial support to (particularly vulnerable) developing countries in their fight against climate change and its adverse impacts.
One of the key instruments of the Paris Agreement for this purpose is a number of multilateral funds collectively known as the Agreement’s ‘financial mechanism’. While the sums of money flowing through this mechanism are minuscule in comparison to the amounts that developing countries will have to spend themselves, the mechanism itself is of key importance for the international regime:
- It serves as a beacon for the developed world – signalling to developing countries that their plight is recognized and appreciated.
- It symbol character helps to reduce the prevailing sense of injustice which otherwise will scupper all efforts to enhance the worldwide mitigation ambitions that we all need to address climate change successfully.
With this in mind, the question then is how can ‘sub-nationals’ contribute to multilateral climate funding under the Paris Agreement? What can they do to minimize the erosion of global trust instigated by the Trump White House decision to renege on the contributions to the Paris financial mechanism signed up to by the Obama administration?
The most straightforward option, available to all, is the crowdfunding tool of the multilateral Adaptation Fund, collecting credit card contributions through a web ‘donate’ button.
US state governments could follow the precedent set by the government of the Canadian Province of Quebec which contributed CA$6 million to the UNFCCC Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) at the 2015 Paris climate summit. Alternatively, they could establish dedicated state-level ‘international climate solidarity funds’ to collect funding for the Paris financial mechanism. One example of this already underway is the ‘Massachusetts UN Least Developed Countries Fund (MLDCF)’, currently under consideration in the Massachusetts State Senate. This fund would be replenished through an income tax refund check-off programme and by a range of other public and private sector contributions, for the benefit of the LDCF.
In terms of demonstrating individual state efforts, and also to provide some much-needed funding predictability, the best way forward would be to create such state funds for the collection of donations from individual residents, city networks, corporate actors, as well as local and state governments. In the case of state governments, this would ideally be though earmarking a small share of some innovative source of revenue – such as carbon taxes or the proceeds of auctioning emission trading permits. For example, a bill currently under consideration in the California State Senate to modify the existing California Cap and Trade Programme envisages the distribution of emission permit auctioning revenue as ‘climate dividends’ to all residents on a per capita basis. In order to show solidarity with the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities, California could then, for example, introduce a voluntary climate dividend check-off programme for the benefit of LDCs through the establishment of a California Least Developed Countries Fund, maybe with the additional provision that the climate dividends of the top x per cent of earners are mandatorily checked off in that manner.
Only in the presence of such support for the Paris finance mechanism can state governors truly make the claim: We Are Still In the Paris Agreement!
 Managing Director, Oxford Climate Policy; Convener International Climate Policy Research, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford.
 Climate Justice Advocate and Senior Consultant, Emerald Cities Collaborative.
 Associate Fellow, Oxford Climate Policy.
 In the case of the Green Climate Fund alone, this leaves a shortfall of $2 billion against the $3 billion contribution signed off by the previous administration
What you write about affects the whole of humanity, including the present White House administration who will be affected by climate change as much as the rest of us but perhaps not as soon as those in vulnerable situations.
As well as the practical measures, which you have outlined, we also need to consider why and how we humans behave as we do. Why do some of us continue to smoke cigarettes when we know they are harmful for our health? Why do some of us continue with activities that we know are harmful to the climate of this planet? Why most of us support the Paris Climate Agreement and why some of us do not?
The answer is simple: it is because we do what we want to do and we avoid doing what we do not want to do. Smokers like smoking – some, even when pregnant. Some of us like frequently flying off for holiday trips, or to spend weekends in the south where it’s warmer, or to unnecessary business trips. Some of us like driving cars regardless of their fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. Some of us like running factories and businesses for personal profit regardless of how they (we) adversely affect the climate. And so it goes on.
When we look at what underlies much of our behaviour we find emotion. We find the emotion of desire, the emotion of greed, the emotion of aversion, the emotion of hatred, the emotion of fear, the emotion of not wanting to see and so, metaphorically, turning a blind eye to what we do not want to see or to know about ourselves and to what frightens us.
Benito, this is what we touched on in Oxford.
Some of us believe what scientists tell us about their measurements and predictions on climate change and some of us choose not to believe it. Both are based on self-interest, with or without concern for others. Self-interest and concern for others, empathy, compassion and altruism, are deeply affected by emotion, whether we realise this or not – and it is apparent that usually we do not.
The future of this planet and of the human race, with or without a viable planet to live on, depends on our learning to adapt to the emotion that lives in each and every one of us, and which is aroused in us whenever we want to have something or want to get rid of something. For when emotion flares up in us it drives us blindly in what we say, in what we do and in what we think.
We volitionally and wilfully commit all the harm and damage to the environment, to each other, to ourselves and to other living creatures and plants, because of the untamed primitive emotion in each and every one of us. When blinded by emotion (as in blind rage, blind greed, blind love) we are unaware of being controlled, or we are powerless to stop it. But ignorance is no excuse and does not mitigate or stop the effects of what we do. It behoves us to dis-cover this and to do something about it.
Even the pillars of society, including presidents and men of the church in different religions, are driven blindly in what they say, do, think and believe.
We have developed science, medicine, manufacturing and technology and have acquired a bundle of knowledge but emotionally we are sadly undeveloped: we have not changed one iota since prehistoric times. The evidence for this is in the news (true and fake) every day of the week in connection with war, terrorism, rape, child abuse and paedophilia, vast amounts of personal wealth. And so it goes on.
If we are to stop, and to have a chance of reversing the present trend in climate change, we have to develop the strength not to be overwhelmed by and controlled by emotion. This can only be done voluntarily and willingly by each individual. No one can be made to do it. Prescribing for others, telling them what they should and shouldn’t do or in any way using force does not work; it only causes resistance and conflict. And in any case, the one who prescribes and tells others what to do is almost bound to be self-interested and therefore to be subject to untamed emotion.
We know more about the landscapes of the moon and of mars than we know about our own inner landscape: that of human emotion. As we turn our gaze, with great excitement and backed by vast budgets, to explore outer space, we ignore what we are doing here on earth and we distract ourselves comfortably from our own emotional landscape that is in all of us. Even if we could go to another planet we would do the same there. So why not stay on what Stephen Hawking recently called our beautiful planet in his comments about Donald Trump’s pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and learn how to control our own behaviour.