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27.07.2015
In what is becoming an all too regular scene, the recent UN Climate Summit saw impassioned pleas by the leaders of developing countries calling for stronger climate action. In some of the strongest language the country has ever used, the Chinese Vice-Premier, Zhang Gaoli, told the Summit that China intended to make an “even greater effort to address climate change”, and urged leaders of wealthy nations to give more technical aid and assistance to poor countries vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. While the magnitude of China’s contribution remains unclear, the announcement – made on the world stage – does signal China’s intention to be a visible player in climate change action. Historically, China has given little of its aid budget to climate change adaptation projects. With a budget of around US$6.4bn in 2013, Chinese aid could make a sizeable contribution to the rate of climate change adaptation in the developing world. China sign-posting its intention to be visible in this space gives rise to some interesting questions, the implications of which will likely influence and shape global aid and development considerations into the future.
More broadly, one might ask whether the BRICS countries and the South-South cooperation model that guides their approach to development generally, is flexible enough to encompass increasingly different (and possibly increasingly divergent) interests and intentions. There are also important questions to be asked in regards to key development actors and their engagement with rising donors. The Australian overseas aid and development community will be coming together in Canberra this week to explore these questions and many others as they interrogate what changes in the global arena mean for development at the Australian Council for International Development’s (ACFID) Annual Council. Your post raises an important question about the role of China and other emerging economies in delivering global public goods such as climate change. Having said that, I think it’s important to put in perspective the magnitude of current flows.
The other financing pledge that China made at New York was the one you mentioned – doubling South-South cooperation on adaptation.
It’s perhaps also worth recalling that while China has contributed to the Global Environment Facility for many years, in the most recent GEF replenishment this year it chipped in around half of one per cent of total funding (about US$20 million) ().
So I agree that it’s fair to expect some emerging economies to do more on international climate funding.
Finally, whether or not China earmarks more funding specifically for climate change, another challenge looms large – climate-proofing its existing development cooperation program. Lauren Swank on Flooding and Mitigation Strategies in Wayne Countydchu13 on The Door to HellCarly S. Content is made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License unless specified otherwise. The Responding to Climate Change Global Challenge Steering Group is made up of experts in the field from across the network. For the past 100 years, there has been a widespread scientific effort to monitor and understand the Earth’s climate system. Climate records from deep oceanic sediments and wind-blown deposits span the last several million years, while gases trapped in ice-cores reveal the climate of the past 740,000 years. During the glacial-interglacial Milankovitch cycles, temperature and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), a powerful greenhouse gas, recorded in the ice sheets of Antarctica have been nearly in lockstep (Figure 2).


Changes in the Earth’s orbit and concentrations of greenhouse gases principally drove the temperature oscillations that marked the glacial-interglacial cycles during the past three million years.
Abrupt climate change occurs when the climate system crosses a threshold, triggering a rapid transition to a new climate state. In the geologic record, the most notable rapid climate change occurred approximately 12,800 years ago, marking the beginning of the 1,200-year cool period known as the Younger Dryas. The rapid climate change of the Younger Dryas and the event around 8,200 years ago were not uncommon in the past. With respect to the Southwest, temperatures in Arizona and New Mexico have also been rising, particularly since the mid-1970s. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s, the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and other human activities have contributed to rapid increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane. At no other time in the last 700,000 years has atmospheric concentrations of CO2 or methane been as high as they are presently (Figure 2).
The President of the Seychelles, one of the many island nations threatened by rising sea levels, likened climate inaction to a “crime against humanity,” while the Mongolian President, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, told world leaders they should come to Mongolia if they still had doubts about whether climate change is happening or not.
In a surprising move, Vice Premier Zhang also announced that China would double its commitment to a South-South cooperation fund specifically targeting climate change adaptation. Information collected by AidData, a website that tracks global aid and development flows, shows that China has provided direct assistance for only two projects related to the environment and climate change since 2000. Traditional aid donors, such as the EU, have contributed to adaptation efforts over time, but the sums provided fall well short of what is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Climate change adaptation is costly and a difficult domestic sell for developing country governments still struggling with high rates of poverty. One such question is whether China’s engagement on climate change will influence other BRICS country donors (that is, Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa) to take climate threats more seriously. For example, will the BRICS be able to look past the principle of non-interference on issues of global public goods, such as climate change? China has in the past avoided collaboration with civil society and NGOs in developing countries, but new types of work may make that increasingly impractical, if not counter-intuitive to achieving outcomes. But the big challenge will be to boost this funding beyond token levels, and I’m not sure that there are clear signs that this is happening yet. Some of them are imaging the Earth, recording data that is used to track weather and climate. This data has helped document recent climate change and has also enabled scientists to dive deeper into the geologic record to uncover past climatic conditions. These and other records detail numerous glacial-interglacial cycles of the past three million years that are believed to be instigated by changes in solar energy striking the Earth's surface. Since changes in past temperatures generally precede changes in CO2 by several centuries, many scientists believe that CO2 acted as an amplifier and not an instigator of temperature changes.
A climate system with thresholds behaves similarly to a tipping bucket that is balanced over a pivot—the bucket remains upright until one too many water droplets topples it.


Ice core analyses indicate the period began with cooling occurring in a few, decade-long intervals, whereas the end was marked by an increase in regional temperature of about 15 degrees F over 10 years.4 In the geologic records, warming is often more rapid than cooling. Scientists hypothesize mammoth lakes impounded by the North American ice sheet were able to drain catastrophically into the north Atlantic Ocean during the retreat of the massive ice sheet. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide during the last several decades - the Mauna Loa or Keeling curve.
This is out of more than 2,100 official finance projects funded by Chinese aid in developing countries, worth over $US 70bn.
A 2011 study by the World Bank estimates that developing countries will need between $US 70bn and $US 100bn a year by 2050 to effectively adapt to a 2 degree Celsius warmer world; on the most optimistic forecasts this represents more than half of the current total aid budget from developed countries.
The beleaguered UN Climate Fund, launched in 2009, presently has no realistic chance of making up the shortfall.
Will work in climate change adaptation lead China to engage in new ways with civil society and NGOs? But there’s definitely a case for China and some other emerging economies to step up their international funding as well, not least as an expression of solidarity with poorer countries. As far as I can tell (), China pledged at the Rio+20 summit about RMB 200 million (around US$33 million) for the fund.
These cycles are known as Milankovitch Cycles and they are characterized by global cool periods with major glaciations that recur about every 100,000 years, followed by shorter-lived warm periods. Changes in carbon dioxide concentrations (blue) track closely with changes in temperature (red) during these cycles, but carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at any time during the past 650,000 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that there is greater than a 90 percent probability that CO2 variations strongly amplified climate but did not trigger the end of glacial periods. The ample evidence in the geologic record for rapid climate change suggests that a gradual change, such as an increase in CO2 or the melting of polar ice, may cause a large and rapid jump in temperature.
Pledging the same amount again is quite a bit more substantial than the $6 million figure featured at the summit, but still very small compared to the size of China’s overall development cooperation budget. They combine with modern observations to reveal numerous long periods of glaciations, shorter-lived warmer times, regional temperature swings of 15 degrees F within a decade, and current warming that has made most regions warmer now than at any other time in the past 1,000 years.
During these cycles, the minimum global average temperature has been about 9 to 11 degrees F cooler than the maximum temperature.
Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D.
AWWA Research Foundation, Denver, Colorado and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), Boulder, Colorado.



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