‘Climate Finance’ Saving the Planet, One Ice Cream at a Time



Billions of dollars earmarked for tackling so-called climate change in the developing world have been spent on building new coal and gas-fired power stations, along with airport and hotel developments. As part of the Paris Agreement signed in 2015, wealthy countries pledged to earmark $100 billion a year for climate action in developing countries and even though this target hasn’t been met, a good deal has been set aside nevertheless. ($83.3 billion in 2020.) Alas, not all of it has been spent on funding activities or businesses that could reasonably be described as helping developing countries reduce their climate emissions. For instance, the Italian contributions have helped a retailer open a chain of chocolate and gelato stores across Asia, while Belgium’s donations have funded a romantic film about a green activist and a rugby-playing logger set in a rainforest.

Of course, you can argue that these are all better uses of the money than funding wind turbines and solar panels, which will to little to ameliorate poverty in the Global South. But is it really necessary for the Italian state to promote ice cream shops around the world, given the excellent track record of individual Italians in this particular sector? The annual $100 billion commitment was made by 38 countries, as well as the European Union, but there are no guidelines as to what it should be spent on and different countries make up their own rules.

All of these embarrassing disclosures are contained in a recent database of ‘climate finance’ compiled by Reuters in collaboration with researchers from Big Local News, a non-profit journalism organisation at Stanford University. The database was created by extracting information from UN reports filed by most of the countries signed up to the pledge. It covers almost 44,000 contributions from 2015 to 2020, the most recent year for which reports are available (you can find it here).

The two largest contributors are the U.S. and Japan, with the latter granting itself a good deal of latitude when it comes to defining ‘climate finance’. In total, Japan has lent at least $9 billion for projects that rely on fossil fuels, according to the Reuters review. This includes the Matarbari Ultra Super Critical Coal-Fired power station in Bangladesh. Japan provided $2.4 billion in ‘climate finance’ for this plant, which is expected to come online in 2024. The plant will alleviate local power shortages, but if carbon dioxide is your thing, it will add 6.8 million tons of the gas to the atmosphere every year. This is more than the city of San Francisco reported in emissions for all of 2019, according to Reuters.

Apparently, Japan considers Matarbari a project worth of ‘climate finance’ because it uses Japanese technology that is said to generate more energy with less coal. In addition, Japan has provided loans totalling at least $776.3 million to finance three airport developments including the Borg El Arab airport in Egypt. The project is reported to be important for the local economy with Mohamed Nasr, Director of Climate, Environment and Sustainability in Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, observing: “People have to fly.” The Japanese, meanwhile, refer to the project as an “Eco Airport”. In a June 2021 press release, a Japanese Government spokesperson said the country’s expenditure of $59 billion on ‘climate finance’ between 2015-2020 was more than most other developed countries. “Japan will continue to lead the global effort to tackle climate change,” it boasted.

In 2019, the United States agreed to lend $19.5 million to developers of a Marriott hotel franchise in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. The plan called for new rooms, an infinity pool, a rooftop restaurant and an improved gym. ‘Climate finance’? You betcha. A U.S. State Department spokesperson justified the loan as counting towards the Paris Agreement commitment because it included stormwater control and hurricane protection measures. Meanwhile, Belgium threw in some cash to help fund a love story between a rugby playing logger working to clear Argentinian forests who falls in love with an environmental activist. The grant was classified as ‘climate finance’ because the movie “touches on deforestation”. Italian chocolatier Venchi opened dozens of new chocolate and ice cream stores across Asia backed by a public-private company helping Italians expand overseas. Naturally, Italy claimed the $4.7m equity was ‘climate finance’.

From 2015 to 2020, notes Reuters, 35 governments reported a total of more than $182 billion in grants, loans, bonds, equity investments and other contributions towards ‘climate finance’ in the developing world. However, more than $65 billion of this hasn’t been properly accounted for so it’s hard to say what the money’s been spent on. Some of the amounts didn’t even specify which continent the money has been spent in. The Reuters researchers also found that the receiving countries “sometimes couldn’t say how the money was spent”.

As is often the case with foreign aid, virtue goes hand-in-hand with practical politics, and ‘climate finance’ is little different. Imprecise reporting requirements in many countries allow deals to be tied to political and economic interests. The more cynical might say that some of the aid is little more than a transfer of wealth from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. This is the wild, wild west of finance, says Mark Joven, a Philippines finance official who represents his country at UN climate talks. “Essentially, whatever they call climate finance is climate finance,” he added.

Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.

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June 6, 2023 10:11 am

At least belt and road actually built useful infrastructure.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  ResourceGuy
June 6, 2023 10:07 pm

Yes, for limited values of “useful.” Word is that some number of these projects are falling apart even before they are finished, including one dam IIRC.

June 6, 2023 10:34 am

A sizable percentage of the “aid” money is undoubtedly being routed right back into the pockets of the politicians advocating for action on Climate Change.

… ultimately it’s about money and power.

Reply to  JamesB_684
June 6, 2023 3:52 pm

The UN could probably operate on their 10% admin fee of $100bn in annual climate aid. All those failed politicians and would-be dictators have been looking for a guaranteed money stream for decades. No wonder Trump was a threat to them.

Richard Page
Reply to  JamesB_684
June 7, 2023 10:45 am

Interesting you should say that. Ukraine has received over $330 million from Climate Investment Funds – wonder how much (or how little) actually got used in Ukraine.

June 6, 2023 10:47 am

“The more cynical might say that some of the aid is little more than a transfer of wealth from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.”


1.believing that people are motivated purely by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.
“he was brutally cynical and hardened to every sob story under the sun”

2.concerned only with one’s own interests and typically disregarding accepted or appropriate standards in order to achieve them.
“a cynical manipulation of public opinion”

I disagree. Since when calling things their own names is cynical?
Cynical are the people creating such schemes for redistribution of wealth in their pockets, not the ones exposing them for what they are.

June 6, 2023 11:25 am

One ice cream at a time…

Currently, Ben and Jerrys are running an ad campaign which claims to give cocoa farmers ‘even more justice’.

I prefer Italian

Joe Gordon
Reply to  strativarius
June 6, 2023 1:48 pm

Knowing ol’ Ben and Jerry, they’re probably using it to create a new ice cream flavor called “from the river to the frozen foods aisle”.

I’m not big on boycotts or social media hype, but I did ask my wife, nicely, as she isn’t aware of the persistent racism emanating from that duo, to stop buying their crap.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Joe Gordon
June 6, 2023 4:30 pm

Did she equally nicely tell you she liked the taste so shut the hell up? That’s pretty much where all of my politically-directed buying suggestion go in my family. One wife and three equally mean daughters constrain my better social impulses. I do, however, go to my wife’s purse occasionally to retrieve my testicals when things get out of hand. They all know when they’ve pushed things too far and need to run for the hills. I don’t have toxic masculinity, just testy cals when they are in my possession.

Joe Gordon
Reply to  Dave Fair
June 7, 2023 12:15 am

Not at all. We communicate well. She knows I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think it were important. That’s actually the only time I’ve ever made a request like that. We’re not out to control each other.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Joe Gordon
June 7, 2023 11:49 pm

Its a joke, Joe, a joke.

June 6, 2023 11:40 am

I thought that the Paris signatories were to give money to the UN, which would then give it to deserving nations. How do loans count?

Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
June 7, 2023 3:51 am

were to give money to the UN, which would then give it to deserving nations’ DICTATORS !

There , fixed it for you. !

Mumbles McGuirck
June 6, 2023 11:49 am

Meanwhile, Belgium threw in some cash to help fund a love story between a rugby playing logger working to clear Argentinian forests who falls in love with an environmental activist. The grant was classified as ‘climate finance’ because the movie “touches on deforestation”.
If the rugby player touches on the environmental activist you might have a blockbuster on your hands.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Mumbles McGuirck
June 6, 2023 1:02 pm

So does the story play out such that the logger gives up his tree cutting to please the activist? I suppose that’s the implication- that she enlightened him. Of course then people in Argentina will run short of lumber for their homes. Or if they’re converting the forests to cattle ranches and other farming- so what- that’s a good use of land, when done responsibly.

“The grant was classified as ‘climate finance’ because the movie “touches on deforestation”.

Logging is NOT necessarily deforestation- but climate activists will always say it is- even if it’s part of long term high quality forestry.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 6, 2023 2:29 pm

The problem is that few understand forest management until you live in one.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Yirgach
June 7, 2023 4:56 am

and the reason is that those who should be the spokespersons for good forestry do a lousy job of it, by and large- I’ve been complaining about this for 50 years- one reason is that there is a lot of bad logging, always has been, but the spokespersons won’t admit it- they always say all forestry is and always has been good- yet, there are enviros/greens who know much of it is bad- and they twist it around to say it’s all bad- so I’ve always been caught in the middle, saying the solution is to make it all good- and I tell the enviros/greens here in Woke-achusetts to stop trying to stop all forestry- instead, they should join the forestry people who want it all to be good- it’s been a long struggle- I put up the first forestry web page in MA and maybe one of the first in the northeast, back in ’97- where I said all this- which was not appreciated by the “forestry community” – I took that web site down in ’05, then created some of the first forestry videos- still way ahead of the rest- and more recently I’m creating podcasts, again, way ahead of the rest- but the forestry community is still pitching “it’s all good” when this isn’t true

June 6, 2023 1:13 pm

The US needs to stop all funding of the UN. The UN can suggest countries that need help and the US can investigate those countries to determine if we can help.

Joe Gordon
Reply to  Bob
June 6, 2023 1:52 pm

I don’t think the UN has the bandwidth to, well, do things that unite nations and all that petty stuff. THE WORLD IS ON FIRE! REPENT!

Dave Fair
Reply to  Bob
June 6, 2023 4:33 pm

On its own the U.S. is fully capable of wasting taxpayer money. It doesn’t need the UN’s help.

Reply to  Dave Fair
June 6, 2023 5:13 pm

There is a large fifth column working hard for the one central Politburo to rule them all..

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