Australia has announced it will rejoin the United Nations climate fund set up to help poorer countries deal with the challenges of a heating planet ahead of a key donor conference.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF), the world’s biggest, was set up as part of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change and has so far approved projects worth nearly $13bn in 128 countries.
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Australia withdrew from the initiative under a previous right-wing government in 2018, having contributed about 200 million Australian dollars ($127.4m) during its four-year membership.
A spokesperson for Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Australia recognised the GCF was the “most prominent” of the world’s climate funds, and a lifeline for island nations in the Pacific.
“We have taken on board feedback from our partners in the Pacific on the best ways to direct our climate finance efforts and ensure all elements deliver for Pacific priorities,” the spokesperson said.
The Pacific islands are among the most vulnerable to climate change because of rising sea levels and the more frequent and intense storms that have accompanied higher global temperatures.
A “modest contribution” would be made to the fund by the end of the year, Wong’s spokesperson added, without specifying a figure.
The Australian reversal comes ahead of a GCF donor conference in the German city of Bonn later on Thursday but also reflects the strategic importance of the Pacific to Australia, as Beijing seeks to expand its influence in the region.
Financing is one of the most contentious topics in international climate diplomacy as the world aims to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Developing countries least responsible for climate change are seeking support from the richer polluting nations – both to adapt to the consequences of extreme weather and to transition to renewable energies.
GCF executive director Mafalda Duarte called on the fund’s supporters to fully honour its “initial vision and unique potential”.
Posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, she wrote: “We’re in this together. The GCF replenishment is an opportunity to show global solidarity.”
The GCF has laid out a “50by30” vision to manage $50bn by 2030 with a focus on developing countries between 2024 and 2027.
The United Kingdom and Germany have pledged billions of dollars to the GCF this year, while France followed suit last month with a commitment of 1.61 billion euros (about $1.7bn).
The United States has yet to announce how much, if anything, it will offer.
It pledged about $3bn for the fund’s first resource mobilisation in 2014, but the succeeding government of then-President Donald Trump offered nothing five years later.
The US pledged in 2022 to make climate change the “highest priority” after convening a landmark summit with 14 Pacific leaders in Washington, DC.