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Postface: fragmentation, failing trust and enduring tensions over what counts as climate finance


The Paris Agreement commits nations in Article 2(1) to “Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.” However there is an absence of internationally agreed accounting rules that would permit overall assessments of progress to this goal and any meaningful comparisons of performance between countries. This is true also for the quantitative Copenhagen/Cancún promise by developed nations to jointly mobilize US$100 billion by 2020. Our goal is to provoke discussion about the depth of the problems this lack of a functional definition and accounting system have created and perpetuated. We do so by describing the fragmented system of national reporting of climate finance and how the OECD’s Rio Marker system is serving neither contributors nor recipients. More than a trust issue between developed and developing countries, we argue that the lack of modalities to account for climate finance also considerably impedes the effective functioning of the bottom-up approach that now prevails under the UNFCCC. The deadline to propose "modalities of accounting climate finance" by 2018 is a crucial window in which to address this chronic issue in international climate policy.

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  1. 1.

    All figures are in current US$ unless specified otherwise.

  2. 2.

    In contrast to the “pledge and review” or “Nationally Determined Contribution” bottom-up approach developed at Copenhagen and Paris, the top-down Kyoto Protocol regime included legally enforceable emission reduction targets for Annex I (developed and former Soviet Union) countries (Hare et al. 2010; Rayner 2010; Ciplet et al. 2015). However, both approaches could more precisely be described as combinations of bottom-up and top-down elements (see Dubash and Rajamani 2010).

  3. 3.

    This section only deals with the accounting and reporting of bilateral climate finance. The coverage and robustness of current accounting and reporting systems for multilateral climate finance and private finance remain even more limited (UNFCCC Standing Committee on Climate Finance 2014; OECD and CPI 2015).

  4. 4.

    The generic term “project” used in this paper also refers to other types of aid modalities (e.g., budget support, technical assistance).

  5. 5.

    Each aid project is also similarly screened on the Rio markers about “biological diversity” and “desertification.”

  6. 6.




Development Assistance Committee


Green Climate Fund


Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


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We thank Jakob Skovgaard, Carola Betzold and Jonathan Pickering for their thoughtful comments on an earlier version of this paper. This research was partially supported by the Belgian American Educational Foundation (Romain Weikmans).

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Correspondence to J. Timmons Roberts.

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Roberts, J.T., Weikmans, R. Postface: fragmentation, failing trust and enduring tensions over what counts as climate finance. Int Environ Agreements 17, 129–137 (2017).

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  • Climate finance
  • Paris Agreement
  • OECD Rio Marker
  • Tracking