Market signals are starting to reflect the urgency of making all financial flows consistent with a pathway toward low-carbon and climate-resilient development. However, much more ambition will be needed to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

The 2021 edition of Climate Policy Initiative’s Global Landscape of Climate Finance again provides the most comprehensive overview of global climate-related primary investment. We use two-year averages (2019 and 2020) to smooth out annual fluctuations in data.

Global climate finance flows reached USD 632 billion in 2019/2020, a 10% increase from 2017/2018. While public and private actors have steadily increased their climate investments in the past decade, the flows have largely plateaued in the last few years.

In comparison, annual climate finance flows in 2017/2018 were 24% higher than the average from 2015/2016, and in 2015/2016, climate finance grew at 25% compared to 2013/2014.

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PUBLIC FINANCE

Overall, public actors provided the majority at 51% (USD 321 billion) of annual climate finance in 2019/2020.

Development financial institutions (DFIs) continued to provide the majority of public finance, contributing 68%, or USD 219 billion. National DFIs were still the largest group among these institutions, but compared to 2017/2018 their investments fell, while investments increased for others DFIs.

Tracked climate finance from government budgets and agencies increased 17% to USD 38 billion in 2019/2020, accounting for 12% of public flows.

PRIVATE FINANCE

Private actors provided USD 310 billion per year during 2019/2020, a 13% increase from the 2017/2018 average.

Corporate entities provide the largest share of private climate finance, but it has declined to 40%, from 57% previously. Commercial financial institutions are now the second largest source of private climate investment, accounting for 39%, up from 18% in 2017/2018.

Households remain the third largest share of annual climate finance, where spending increased to USD 55 billion. Climate finance from institutional investors and funds reduced 60% and 33% from 2017/2018, respectively.

USES AND SECTORS

Adaptation

The vast majority (90%) of tracked finance continues to flow towards activities for mitigation. Mitigation finance reached USD 571 billion in annual average in 2019/2020, while adaptation finance commitments totalled just USD 46 billion.

Adaptation finance did gain momentum, increasing 53% from 2017/2018. However, adaptation finance falls well short of the estimated USD 180 billion annual need (GCA, 2020) and continues to account for only a minor share of total climate finance (7%).

Public actors continue to account for the majority (98%) of tracked adaptation finance. The largest recipient of international adaptation finance is Sub-Saharan Africa.

Energy and Transport

Renewable energy represented 51% of total climate finance in 2019/2020, most (69%) coming from the private sector.

Finance in transport reached an all-time high of USD 173 billion per yearin 2019/2020, accounting for 30% of mitigation climate finance –the second largest share of all climate finance after renewables. Low-carbon transport is the fastest-growing sector in 2019/2020 with an average increase of 23% compared to 2017/2018.

GEOGRAPHIES

Climate finance raised and invested in the same country accounted for three-quarters of the tracked investments in 2019/2020. A majority (75%) of climate finance flows are concentrated in less than 25 countries in East Asia and Pacific, Western Europe, and North America.

Higher volumes of international flows from OECD to non-OECD countries and non-OECD to non-OECD countries were tracked, but COVID-19’s impact on climate finance is not yet fully reflected in our data.

Recommendations

While climate finance has reached record levels, current investment levels are nowhere near enough to limit global warming to 1.5 °C. Achieving net-zero will require all public and private actors to align their finance with the goals of the Paris Agreement. This is daunting, but it can be done through enabling policies and innovative financial solutions that follow the science.

The report outlines key recommendations to achieve this, outlined below.

The scale of finance must increase – this decade will make or break the transition to a sustainable, net zero world.

High-emissions investment continue to flow in key sectors, which are curbing the impact of new finance in climate mitigation and adaptation. Climate investment should count in the trillions, whereas fossil fuel investments should virtually stop in this decade.

Enabling policies and innovative financial solutions are needed to create bankable investment. With policy incentives that support low carbon shift, and due to falling technology costs, private climate mitigation finance at scale will make financial sense in most regions and sectors.

Public and private actors should prioritize data on credible climate action and impact on the ground.

Currently available disclosure initiatives fall short of providing standardized information on climate investment. Information on investment levels in adaptation, buildings, and industry sectors are scarce, and lack shared science-based standards. This information is essential in assessing collective progress, crafting effective policies, and directing finance where it will have the most impact.

We need credible and coordinated net zero commitments with clear transition plans, including interim goals.

Coordination across silos of public and private financial actors are needed to ensure coherence and impact on net zero and sustainability, in alignment with science and with support of civil society.

We must focus on the nexus between the environment, the economy, and the people.

The urgent ramping up of mitigation investments is imperative for developed economies, while building resilience and adaptative capacity should be the critical agenda of climate finance for developing economies. 

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