Forum on Climate Finance and Sustainable Cities - ESCWA

11 Sep 2019

Beirut, Lebanon

Forum on Climate Finance and Sustainable Cities

Minister Fady Jreissati,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

Allow me to warmly welcome you all to ESCWA. We are honoured to host this distinguished “Forum on Climate Finance and Sustainable Cities”. Special thanks to our partners at the UNFCCC and the Standing Committee on Finance, the Islamic Development Bank and the Union for the Mediterranean, and to the Governments of Norway and Australia for their generous contributions to this Forum, as well as to the Government of Lebanon for its continual support.

With over half of its population now living in cities, the Arab region is more urbanized than most, and has already experienced an average increase in warming of 1.5°C. Our RICCAR regional climate projections show that average daily temperature may increase by 4 to 5 °Celsius by end-century, and that extreme climate events are becoming more frequent. Vulnerable groups are among the most impacted, particularly those fleeing from conflict and suffering from socioeconomic dislocation.
In the face of these challenges, Arab countries are pursuing global climate goals through economic diversification and a transition to sustainable energy. Nearly all Arab States are committed to increasing the share of renewable energy in their national energy mix.  Energy efficiency is being improved through public and private sector action, with significant gains achieved by ESCWA and its partners in the building sector.

Distinguished participants,
The Arab region is taking action to reduce emissions. However, let me be frank. Adaptation is our priority, and more support is needed.  This is largely for two reasons.
First, the type of climate finance does not match the demand. This is a quality problem.
The Paris Agreement calls for “a balance between adaptation and mitigation, taking into account country-driven strategies, and the priorities and needs of developing country Parties”. Yet, UNFCCC data on developed-country-bilateral-support to Arab States shows:

And, of particular relevance to Arab cities,

  • Just 14 per cent of these flows are for water and sanitation projects, compared to 76 per cent for energy, transport, and infrastructure; and
  • Globally, developed countries provide 20 times more support bilaterally than through the UNFCCC’s multilateral financial mechanisms by a factor of 20 to 1.

Climate finance provided to Arab countries is therefore not always consistent with national and local priorities.
In this respect, ESCWA has been proudly supporting the Arab Negotiations Group on Climate Change since 2012, and has a longstanding engagement with the League of Arab States and its Ministerial Councils. Our climate change support to Arab States builds on science to identify and promote nationally determined climate policy and action across sectors, and to drive collective efforts across sectors and countries.
Building on this knowledge base and regional partnerships, ESCWA is collaborating with the UNFCCC and the League of Arab States on a forthcoming Regional Needs-Based Climate Finance Assessment, which will  identify new opportunities to unlock additional finance to fund nationally determined climate priorities. We are also assessing and engaging member States on effective mainstreaming of climate action in national development plans with the Islamic Development Bank and partners.
Secondly, the supply of climate finance is insufficient. This is a quantity problem.
In just a few months, the Parties will negotiate a “collective quantified goal” from a floor of $100 billion. Building on the great advances at Katowice, many outstanding issues must be resolved to ensure that the agreed finance targets are meaningful. For example:

  • There is a major risk of double counting official development assistance and humanitarian aid as climate finance.
  • Most developed countries report committed finance, not disbursed finance, which inflates reported totals and creates risks of double counting.
  • Non-concessional finance is counted on par with concessional finance.


Ladies and gentlemen,
Developing countries are facing impacts today based on the practices of the past, and have prepared strategies to overcome climate challengesYet, for developing countries to implement these strategies without indebting future generations, developed countries need to honour their commitments and support nationally determined contributions put forth by developing States. With effective partnerships and collective efforts, the Arab region can take effective action towards a sustainable future.
Arab States are already committed. They have established the Arab Centre for Climate Change Policies at ESCWA. Through this Centre, ESCWA supports Arab countries in advancing climate assessment, policy, action and dialogue in an integrated manner to enhance climate resilience. But the region still needs more support, and we need it at scale.
For those of you who will be in Santiago, I thus ask you to remember “Q-squared” and that climate finance is about quality and quantity. Both are needed to achieve sustainable cities and a sustainable future for all.
Thank you all again and I wish you successful deliberations.

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