Eight steps to improve understanding of climate finance flows in your city or country
Understanding how much climate finance is flowing, where it comes from and how it flows to which activities and projects on the ground is not only useful at the global level to help understand progress towards climate finance goals. It can also help countries, regions, cities, and organizations to understand their progress toward meeting their own development, economic, and environmental goals by:
– Establishing a baseline against which to measure progress, reveals current patterns of investment and any blockages in the system.
– Revealing interactions between public finance and private investment which can inform decisions about how to redirect flows from business-as-usual to low-carbon and climate-resilient investments.
– Helping international partners see how they can support domestic efforts.
– Identifying opportunities to increase climate finance and providing an important basis for policymakers to develop more effective policies, particularly when combined with analysis of what is working or not in different interventions.
Climate Policy Initiative produces the most comprehensive overview of global climate finance flows available. We have also carried out in-depth mapping of climate finance flows for Germany and Indonesia. The following eight steps summarise the approach we take to map climate finance flows in different contexts. Although the process is complicated because of significant data gaps and inconsistencies, the principles behind such mapping are relatively simple. Applying them can improve understanding of climate flows. They are:
1. Decide what finance you want to measure.The first step is to decide which activities you want to focus on. For some you’ll also need to decide what makes a particular activity low-carbon or climate-resilient. This is relatively easy to do for something like renewable energy generation. However if you want to understand how much finance is flowing towards more climate-resilient, productive and sustainable land use, you will have important decisions to make on what you want to include and what you should leave out.
2. Set the geographical scale.Are you going to track finance flowing to these activities at the international, national, regional, city or organizational level?
3. Decide whether to track public finance, private investment, or both. Information on some climate finance flows (e.g. official development assistance) is easier to track than for others and there are some – like private investment in energy efficiency – where very little reliable data is available at all. But ideally a mapping exercise for a country, region, or city would include both public and private flows to the extent possible because understanding how these different sources of finance interact is essential to making best use of your financial resources.
4. Consider total investments, not just additional investment costs.Research into the additional costs of low-carbon interventions above higher-carbon alternatives is useful and has even shown that some low-carbon transitions may be cheaper than business-as-usual. But, when dealing with the practicalities of tracking and managing climate mitigation and adaptation investment for planning purposes, it is simpler to consistently track current total investment rather than additional investment costs.
5. Focus on project-level primary financing.Project-level primary financing is finance going to activities and projects on the ground and the best indicator of progress on climate action. Aggregate data does not allow the same insights as project-level data while data on secondary market transactions (e.g. refinancing, selling stocks) represents money changing hands. Such transactions can play an important role in providing project developers with capital to reinvest in further projects but they do not necessarily represent additional efforts to reduce emissions or increase climate resilience.
6. Track public framework expenditures.Many projects would be impossible without the development of national climate strategies, specific regulations and enabling environments for investment but these costs are not seen at the project level. Tracking them is important to have a real understanding of how much public finance is flowing to and needed for climate action.
7. Exclude public revenue support for projects such as feed-in tariffs and carbon credit revenues.While these revenue support mechanisms are often essential for climate action they pay back the investments made in climate-relevant projects and activities that you are already counting. Including investment costs and policy-induced revenues would therefore mean you were counting the same flows twice.
8. Exclude private investments in research and development.These are investments that private actors try to recover when selling their goods and services so counting them in addition to investment costs would, once again, mean you were counting the same flows twice.
The quality of your mapping exercise will depend on the quality of the data you have. Fragmented data in the land use sector is the reason we are working with the European Forestry Institute and Climate Focus, in an upcoming publication, to provide policymakers with a series of mapping tools to understand potential entry points for climate finance flows in their land use sectors. Often these countries are aware of the opportunities to shift from unsustainable to sustainable land use but lack financing strategies to deliver their goals. This project will help them identify which fiscal and financial mechanisms are available to unlock new investors and more efficient investments.
We are happy to assist countries, cities, or organizations looking to better understand their climate finance flows by undertaking mapping exercises, just get in touch.