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Global Climate Finance: An Updated View 2018

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Published: November, 2018


Climate finance continues to be the central issue in how the global community proposes to follow through with implementation of the Paris Agreement. This is appropriate in the context of the last IPCC report showing a USD 1.6-3.8 trillion energy system investment requirement to keep warming within a 1.5 degree Celsius scenario to avoid the most harmful effects of climate change (IPCC, 2018).

Since 2012, Climate Policy Initiative has sought to comprehensively track domestic and international investment from both the public and private sectors in activities that address and respond to climate change, i.e. both mitigation and adaptation.

In November 2018, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) published its third Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate Finance Flows. To inform this exercise, we reviewed estimates on climate finance flows for the years 2015 and 2016, as previously reported in the Global Landscape of Climate Finance 2017, and incorporated new data released during the year.

This report condenses a set of updated findings from our Global Landscape of Climate Finance 2017 report based on newly published data for 2015 and 2016, to provide the latest and best information possible for policy makers and investment leaders working to scale up investment for climate change action.

Key Findings:

Revised estimates for global climate finance flows for 2015 amount to USD 472 billion and USD 455 billion for 2016. The annual average over the 2015-2016 period is USD 463 billion. We have identified an additional USD 53 billion in the annual average of global climate finance flows over 2015 and 2016, driven by new data on national development finance institutions and the integration of electric vehicle sales into the dataset.

We find that climate finance has been steadily increasing, but more is needed. Climate finance flows reached a record high of USD 472 billion in 2015, driven primarily by rising private investment in renewables. This was followed by a drop in 2016 to USD 455 billion, caused by falling renewable energy technology costs and fewer renewable energy capacity additions in some countries. Taking into account annual fluctuations, the average flows across 2015/2016 were 27% higher than during 2013/2014, although this is partially due to the availability of new data.

Furthermore, there is evidence that this overall increase will continue. Our preliminary estimates for global climate finance flows in 2017 range from approximately USD 510 billion to USD 530 billion, based on early data showing steady renewable energy investment, rising electric vehicle investment, and rising investment from development banks. This range represents a 12-16% increase from 2016.

While these increases are undoubtedly good news, it is important to keep in mind that these figures represent a small share of the overall economic transition required to address climate change, especially given investments in fossil fuel projects that continue to surpass investments in low-emissions, climate resilient infrastructure.

Private investment continues to account for the major share of climate investments. At 54% annually for 2015/2016, private finance actors, such as project developers, corporations, and commercial banks account for most climate finance flows. Integration of EV investment estimates result in an additional USD 11 billion sourced from the household sector in the form of retail purchases of battery-operated electric vehicles.

In terms of public sources of investment, however, National Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) reported almost double climate finance commitments in 2015/2016 over the 2013/2014 period, mostly spent domestically. An additional USD 4 billion was sourced from governments and their agencies in the form of direct grants and incentives for electric vehicle sales.

Renewable energy investment, traditionally the largest sector in the climate finance landscape, fell by 16% from 2015 to 2016. Falling renewable energy technology costs mean these investments continue to get more deployment for each dollar, but in 2016, the drop was equally due to fewer projects financed. Policy changes that came into effect at the end of 2015 in China, Germany, Japan, and the UK were a significant driver in few projects under development in 2016 (CPI-IRENA 2018).

Investment in sustainable transport, on the other hand, is growing. Sustainable transport now accounts for 20% of climate finance flows due to new data coverage. Investment in electric vehicles has been integrated into the dataset for the first time, and shows a year-on-year growth rate of 54% on a compound basis since 2012. In addition, the IDFC (2017) reported significantly more investment in urban transport in China.

Adaptation finance is estimated at just USD 22 billion per year, with significant challenges to comparability over the years due to variations in reporting. Further, data gaps make it difficult to know whether adaptation finance has increased or decreased from previous years. Better metrics and more harmonized understanding is needed across reporting institutions to enable more accuracy in tracking adaptation finance flows.

The vast majority of investment continues to be spent domestically. 81% of climate finance was spent domestically during 2015/2016. The private sector provided 63% of these flows, while the public sector provided 37%. Of the USD 87 billion in international flows, most was sourced from the OECD (USD 73 billion), but spent in non-OECD countries (USD 56 billion).

Flows from developed to developing countries increased by 9% from 2013/2014. We estimate that, excluding potential mobilized flows, USD 45 billion, on average, flowed annually from developed to developing countries, a USD 4 billion increase on the estimate for the 2013/2014 period. Similarly, south-south flows also increased 10% from USD 10 billion to USD 11 billion.

Developing countries continue to be the dominant destination of climate investment. Taking both domestic and international sources of finance, 58% of total climate finance, or USD 270 billion, was invested in developing countries. In terms of regions, much of this was in the East Asia and Pacific region (non-OECD countries), which received 39% of flows over 2015/2016, followed by Western Europe at 23%, and the Americas (OECD countries only) at 12%.

Global Climate Finance: An Updated View 2018
Graphics Library
  • climate finance
  • climate investment
  • climate policy
  • developing economies
  • energy finance
  • financial institutions
  • financial modelling
  • fiscal policy
  • Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)
  • Paris Agreement
  • renewable energy