Rich world’s leaders fail to commit to Paris global financing summit

Photo: Institute for International Economic Policy

Two weeks ahead of a highly-anticipated climate finance summit, most developed country leaders have not confirmed their attendance, sparking concerns they are not taking it seriously.

In sharp contrast, the leaders of many developing countries have indicated they will be at the gathering in Paris.

Last week, the French government shared with civil society a list of heads of state or government who have confirmed their attendance at the June 22-23 summit for a new global financing pact.

The two-day meeting aims to build momentum behind the push for reform of the global financial system so that developing countries can more easily finance climate action and other development goals.

But while Brazil’s president Lula da Silva, China’s premier Li Qiang and ten African leaders plan to be there, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Scholz are the only major developed country leaders who have promised to attend.

As of last week, the leaders of the U.S., UK, Japan, Italy, Canada and Australia were missing from the attendance list.

E3G analyst Franklin Steves said that European and North American leaders “need to commit to attending the summit now” if they are “serious about resetting relations with the ‘Global South’ and combatting climate change.

African Climate Foundation advisor Faten Aggad told Climate Home that “the summit could have been an opportunity to show commitment to finding a collective solution but African countries are getting used to the no-show approach to dealing with sensitive matters”.

Last year, three African presidents flew to the Netherlands for an Africa Adaptation summit but the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte was the only leader there to meet with them. Senegal’s president Macky Sall expressed “bitterness” about the no-shows with others echoing his disappointment.

The U.S. will be represented by finance minister Janet Yellen and climate envoy John Kerry. President Joe Biden will be hosting India’s prime minister Narendra Modi in Washington DC at the same time.

The UK’s prime minister Rishi Sunak is likely to speaking at a Ukraine recovery conference in London, which takes place on 21-22 June , but campaigners have urged him to make the short trip to Paris after that.

“Your presence at this summit would demonstrate a serious intent to deliver upon your Government’s rhetoric and commitments,” a group of civil society leaders told Sunak in an open letter this month.

Caroline Brouilette, the head of Climate Action Network Canada, told Climate Home that Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau should attend.

“Canada can’t be a climate leader if it doesn’t show up at the table,” she said, “Canada needs to be a loud voice for substantial change that addresses the converging crisis of debt and climate in Paris, but it cannot do that from an empty chair”.

At the summit, the politicians and bankers will take part in roundtable discussions on the reform of multilateral development banks like the World Bank, debt issues and the role of the private sector.

There are not expected to be any major announcements from the summit but the hope is that it will build momentum towards reform at other get-togethers like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s annual meetings.

This agenda stems from calls by Barbados’s prime minister Mia Mottley for reform of the international financial system, which was largely drawn up by the U.S. and Europe in the wake of World War Two.

Mottley’s proposals are known as the Bridgetown initiative, named after the capital of Barbados where an early meeting of supporters took place.

Alongside the gathering of world leaders and bankers, entertainers like Billie Eilish and Lenny Kravitz will perform at a free concert in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower to promote the summit’s aims. When this list of confirmations was put to the summit organisers, they declined to comment. But the summit’s website confirms a number of those who have confirmed.