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Is Switzerland double-dealing over climate finance?

Many developing countries depend on the financial support of rich countries to cope with climate change. Here, drought-hit Baligubadle, Somaliland, in 2019 Keystone / Mark Naftalin / United Nations D

Switzerland wants to boost investment in climate protection measures for developing countries - it’s one of its priorities at the upcoming COP26 climate conference. But allegations have emerged that behind the scenes the country is lobbying for the opposite.

This content was published on October 22, 2021 - 14:40

During the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, industrialised nations agreed to allocate $100 billion (CHF92 billion) a yearExternal link by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to climate change. This target has not yet been met.

At the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, which starts at the end of the month, Switzerland will therefore call for more investment in climate finance. This is at least its official position.

But according to leaked documents seen by UnearthedExternal link, an investigative team affiliated to the non-governmental organisation Greenpeace UK - and reported on by BBC news on ThursdayExternal link - Switzerland is reportedly attempting to mitigate the responsibility of rich countries to provide financial support to poorer ones.

The documents consist of more than 32,000 submissions by governments, companies and other interested parties on a draft of the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. These UN reports, which are drawn up by scientists, are used by governments to define their climate goals and emission reduction measures.

Switzerland is not the only country trying to influence the content of the report, the documents suggest. According to Unearthed, oil producing countries are playing down the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels and leading meat and dairy producers, including Brazil, are arguing against the message that reducing meat consumption would cut emissions.

 “These comments show the tactics some countries are willing to adopt to obstruct and delay action to cut emissions,” Simon Lewis, a professor of global change science at University College London, told UnearthedExternal link.

Not all countries need help

The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) said that it was a normal part of the IPCC report process for countries to review the reports and submit comments. The process is “transparent” and “all comments are made public,” FOEN told SWI swissinfo.ch via email.

Franz Perrez, head of the Swiss delegation to COP26, added that: "Switzerland's comments on the draft summary [of the report] for policymakers were not intended to question the importance of climate finance or the need for additional funds. Switzerland remains of the view that international support for an ambitious climate policy needs to be further strengthened'.

Climate finance is an important tool for boosting climate protection efforts, FOEN underlined. “But it is not the only relevant tool. Several developing countries need financial support to develop and implement climate policies that are in line with the Paris Agreement goals, but some do not,” FOEN said.

NGO: dismay if true

Georg Klingler, climate expert at Greenpeace Switzerland, said that the BBC news revelations did give the impression that Switzerland was doing the opposite of what needed to be done to tackle the climate crisis.

“If Switzerland was trying to undermine climate protection behind the scenes, when it is officially being ambitious [in this direction], then this would obviously be a scandal," he told SWI swissinfo.ch.

For Klingler, what is clear is that Switzerland’s contribution to climate finance (around CHF640 million a year) is not enough. “We think it should be at least CHF1 billion a year, considering how strong the Swiss economy is,” he said.

He is unsure if Switzerland is really pushing internationally for the $100 billion a year sum for developing countries to be collected as quickly as possible. “The suspicion is that it is trying to undermine this promise and that it wants to use gimmicks which in the end will not lead to more money for climate protection,” Klingler said.

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