‘Uneven Channels’ in Phenomenal World

I wrote an essay on the interaction between private finance and climate diplomacy for Jain Family Institute’s excellent online journal, Phenomenal World.

It’s a topic that has been on my mind for the past couple of years, as I’ve been collaborating a little with experts and veterans of the UNFCCC scene, and seen the way that private finance has been centred in planning for COP26.

One of the joys of researching this was finding an unpublished PhD dissertation from the 1990s by Canadian political scientist, Steven Bernstein, who charted the history of a heavy involvement by “non-state actors” in environmental multilateralism. His research illustrates the strategic push by several former OECD economists to bring environmental action in line with the emerging “liberal market consensus” in the 1980s. Was it necessary? Impossible to say, but the ever-deepening embrace between climate diplomacy and commercial finance so far seems to have achieved little, and should be questioned.

One of the tricky aspects of writing this essay was addressing “the one hundred billion” – the $100bn promised annually by wealthy countries to support poorer countries with mitigation and adaptation. This promise has a very fraught history within the UNFCCC talks. It can seem tokenistic and trivial to anyone looking in from the outside (it’s not enough anyway, and measuring it is almost impossible, etc) and yet to dismiss it helps no-one.

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