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Reflections: A blog on tracking climate finance and the research process

By Janssen Mozar Martinez

“Climate Finance”—I was not aware that such a field exists. I only knew that there were anthropogenic environmental abuses that degrade the planet, which gave birth to accelerated climate change. I also knew that there were social movements and civic organizations pushing for major reforms on how society operates in order to prevent or at least minimize these damages. These movements have pressed improvements throughout the environmental spectrum such as the renewable energy, efficient land-use, and minimizing carbon emissions. What I hadn’t realized or had overlooked is that climate change-related efforts, as well as every social development effort revolves around a fundamental element of social life—money. I had forgotten that the pursuit of funds, the main cause of man-made environmental degradation, can also serve as the key to protecting the planet.

Upon joining iCSC’s research team I was tasked with looking into unfamiliar territory. I was assigned to study climate finance from various sources. I soon discovered that I would be facing more unfamiliar concepts as I became more immersed in the topic. It felt like a crash course, familiarizing myself with the concepts of climate mitigation and adaptation, finance tracking, and the dynamics of international funding. It involved lots of reports, video presentations, and other relevant materials . In my understanding, climate change intervention projects are primarily classified into two interconnecting branches, mitigation and adaptation. The former refers to efforts at reducing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and the latter is aimed at increasing human abilities to cope with the risks and impacts of a rapidly changing climate change-related risks.

I extracted climate finance data from the Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database via the OECD website and filtered data of foreign aid channeled into the Philippines. The initial analysis I have made was patterned after Project Philippines: The Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative by iCSC. The analysis is based on variables such as by fund source, climate change mitigation and adaptation  relevance markers, sector emphasis, year of implementation, financial instrument used, and recipient channel—all descriptive data.

When I attempted a more in-depth analysis of the climate mitigation data, I hit a roadblock. While “playing” with the data, I noticed the OECD’s CRS database lacks the exhaustive characteristics relevant to the accountability initiative, such as information on geography, expected start and completion dates, and detailed descriptions. When I discussed this concern with my colleagues, the only solution they saw with the data issues was to track projects individually and ask the concerned parties/organizations for supplemental information. The proposed solution poses a significant challenge to the whole tracking effort, as it contrasts the initial intention of consolidating foreign aid data into the CRS database.

I find myself grappling the concepts more, and that I now have more questions than answers. Even if my new colleagues assured me getting new questions is a sign I had hit the ground running, I am still itching for answers:

  • What are the criteria in considering each climate-related activity so that they belong to mitigation or adaptation classifications, or both? Is it just easier to tick both classifications as relevant to a project in order to satisfy climate-inclined auditors?
  • How does one effectively track finance data related to adaptation and mitigation while treating them separately, while coming from an assumption that in the field of climate change, every effort is considered as part of the whole process of social development?

I am hopeful the research will make outcomes less cloudy. I am likewise confident I will be of help to my team by developing existing methods and by exploring new ways of climate finance tracking. I consider myself a beginner, but maybe not for long.

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