The Future is Equal

True value of climate finance is a third of what developed countries report

Reporting international climate finance remains flawed, and profoundly unfair.

Many rich countries are using dishonest and misleading accounting to inflate their climate finance contributions to developing countries – in 2020 by as much as 225 percent, according to investigations by Oxfam.

Oxfam estimates between just US$21-24.5 billion as the “true value” of climate finance provided in 2020, against a reported figure of US$68.3 billion in public finance that rich countries said was provided (alongside mobilised private finance bringing the total to US$83.3 billion). The global climate finance target is supposed to be US$100 billion a year.

“Rich country contributions not only continue to fall miserably below their promised goal but are also very misleading in often counting the wrong things in the wrong way. They’re overstating their own generosity by painting a rosy picture that obscures how much is really going to poor countries,” said Nafkote Dabi, Oxfam International Climate Policy Lead.

“Our global climate finance is a broken train: drastically flawed and putting us at risk of reaching a catastrophic destination. There are too many loans indebting poor countries that are already struggling to cope with climatic shocks. There is too much dishonest and shady reporting. The result is the most vulnerable countries remaining ill-prepared to face the wrath of the climate crisis,” says Dabi.

Oxfam research found that instruments such as loans are being reported at face value, ignoring repayments and other factors. Too often funded projects have less climate-focus than reported, making the net value of support specifically aiming at climate action significantly lower than actual reported climate finance figures. 

Currently, loans are dominating over 70 percent provision (US$48.6 billion) of public climate finance, adding to the debt crisis across developing countries.

“To force poor countries to repay a loan to cope with a climate crisis they hardly caused is profoundly unfair. Instead of supporting countries that are facing worsening droughts, cyclones and flooding, rich countries are crippling their ability to cope with the next shock and deepening their poverty,” said Dabi.

Least Developed Countries’ external debt repayments reached US$31bn in 2020.

For example, Senegal, which sits in the bottom third of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change, received 85 percent of its climate finance in form of debt (29 percent being non-concessional loans), despite being at moderate risk of falling into debt distress and with its debt amounting to 62.4 percent of its Gross National Income.       

“A keyway to prevent a full-scale climate catastrophe is for developed nations to fulfil their US$100 billion commitments and genuinely address the current climate financing accounting holes. Manipulating the system will only mean poor nations, least responsible for the climate crisis, footing the climate bill,” said Dabi.

“A climate finance system that is primarily based on loans is only worsening the problem. Rich nations, especially the heaviest-polluting ones, have a moral responsibility to provide alternative forms of climate financing, above all grants, to help impacted countries cope and develop in a low carbon way,” said Dabi.

“At the upcoming COP27 climate talks this November, rich countries must urgently commit to scaling up grant-based support to vulnerable countries and to fixing their flawed reporting practices.”

Notes to the editor

  • Download a full copy of the report, Climate Finance Short Changed Report 2022: The real value of the US$100 billion commitment in 2019-20, here:
  • The 2020 reported climate finance totalling US$83.3 billion included public finance (US$68.3 billion), private finance mobilised (US$13.1 billion) and export credits (US$1.9 billion) in 2020. Oxfam has assessed the value of finance provided, IE the public finance element. OECD (2022), Climate Finance Provided and Mobilised by Developed Countries in 2016-2020: Insights from Disaggregated Analysis, Climate Finance and the USD 100 Billion Goal, OECD Publishing, Paris,
  • Overreporting of loans is incentivising the use of loans which are dominating climate finance provision. According to the latest assessment by the OECD, loans made up 71 percent of public climate finance in 2019-20– a significant share of which were non-concessional – while only 26 percent was provided as grants.[i]  [i] OECD (2022a), Climate Finance Provided and Mobilised by Developed Countries in 2016-2020: Insights from Disaggregated Analysis, Climate Finance and the USD 100 Billion Goal, OECD Publishing, Paris.
  • Oxfam’s US$21-24.5 billion figure includes the estimated grant equivalent of reported climate finance rather than the face value of loans and other non-grant instruments. It also accounts for overreporting of climate finance where action to combat climate change is one part of a broader development project. For more details please check Oxfam methodology note.
  • Senegal’s debt instrument figures are based on 2013-2018 climate finance reports, according to Oxfam “Climate Finance in West Africa” report, 2022. Please also see (2021). Climate Change: OECD DAC External Development Finance Statistics – Recipient Perspective. Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  • Senegal ranks Senegal is 134th out of 182, or in the bottom 30 percent in terms of vulnerability according to the ND-GAIN Index.