Billionaires shouldn’t fill climate finance gap, says Bezos Earth Fund director

Billionaires cannot be expected to fill the climate finance gaps left by rich countries that fail to deliver on their promises to the developing world, the head of the Bezos Earth Fund has said.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has created a $10bn (£8.8m) grant to protect the Earth’s environment in 2020. Andrew Steer, Chairman and CEO of Bezos Earth Fund, is overseeing this alongside the billionaire, his partner Lauren Sanchez and the fund’s board.

Speaking to the Guardian ahead of Cop27, with countries like the UK and US failing to deliver on climate finance pledges and often offering loans instead of grants to poorer countries, Steer said it was not the role of philanthropy to fill the resulting funding gaps. .

“We want to resist the simple replacement [government money]. It wouldn’t be good,” he said. “I don’t think we should accept the idea that we are somehow an alternative to government, because governments have an obligation and they don’t fulfill it as much as they should.

“In the case of coal decommissioning in South Africa, for example, it is not our job to step in and replace the $8.5bn (£7.5bn) that governments have committed Last year. [at Cop26].”

Steer’s comments come amid reports from Climate Change News that wealthy countries are pushing for the UN’s Green Climate Fund to solicit donations from very wealthy individuals and big corporations, with three projects pending due to the failure of the UK and the US to look good. their commitments.

The UK government has come under fire for failing to deliver $300m in pledged climate finance payments amid growing frustrations among developing countries over unfulfilled promises on the $100bn-a-year climate finance target.

Earlier this week, Gabon’s Environment Minister Lee White said broken promises over the money had left a “sense of betrayal” in the UN climate process, and he feared governments Westerners only take climate change seriously once their own citizens start dying from the effects of global warming in greater numbers.

Related: If Jeff Bezos really wants to fight the climate crisis, he just has to pay his taxes | Guy T. Saperstein

Steer said the Bezos Earth Fund often seeks partnerships with governments on projects it funds, making its donation contingent on funding from a partner government. So far, the money has been used to fund conservation projects in the DRC and the northern Andes, and improve datasets useful to climate researchers, among other initiatives.

“We spend a lot of time discussing with European governments. Not because we need their money, because we want them to invest in things that we and they think are important,” he said.

“To date, I understand that there is still only 3% of philanthropic money dedicated to climate change. If you could double it, it would make a big difference, up to 6%, because the vast majority of philanthropy goes to fairly well-endowed universities and religious organizations.

“Philanthropy has several characteristics that government money does not. They include the ability to make decisions quickly and flexibly. They include the ability to take risks that others may not be willing to take. We can get in there first, and if we do our job well, that will make it more attractive for private and public investment.

The Bezos Earth Fund has distributed around $1.5 billion so far, often in partnership with NGOs and governments on conservation and decarbonization initiatives. It aims to distribute the full $10 billion by 2030.

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