Financing Climate Resilience

Mobilizing multilateral, public, and private investments at COP28

An issue brief by FP Analytics, with support from the COP28 Presidency

At COP28 in Dubai this year, the international community has a critical opportunity to significantly mobilize climate finance. Global investment in climate mitigation and adaptation reached an annual average of $1.27 trillion in 2021-2022, 84 percent of which was raised and spent domestically. However, the rate of global warming is far from the internationally agreed-upon 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold and international climate financing is essential to averting climate catastrophe, as the states with the highest need are often those with the least domestic fiscal capacity to address climate mitigation and adaptation. In particular, Sub-Saharan Africa, where seven out of the 10 most climate-vulnerable states are located, is dependent on external sources for almost all of its climate funding. While G20 countries have historically been responsible for 81 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in energy sectors as well as 77 percent of global energy consumption, countries with developing and emerging economies are the most vulnerable to climate hazards and bear the brunt of accelerating climate change. Yet, to date, the disbursement of climate financing to countries most requiring international support has been slow and uneven.

Domestic climate investments lead in most regions

Sub-Saharan Africa is an exception, receiving 90% of climate funding from external sources. Totals shown from 2021/22 average, in USD Billions.

DATA SOURCE: Climate Policy Initiative, 2023

Neither the climate financing that has been mobilized to date, nor the climate financing targets agreed upon, are commensurate to the needs of developing and emerging economies, including those most at-risk from climate change. Whereas in 2021 and 2022, multilateral, public, and private actors mobilized an annual average of $158.4 billion in international climate finance, estimates suggest that between $1 trillion to $8.1 trillion will be needed per year by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Scaled up climate financing and policies to create an enabling financial environment for developing and emerging economies are vital to reduce emissions and adapt to already-seen effects of climate change.

Landmark Loss and Damage commitments at COP28


Climate finance is directed towards (i) mitigation, which focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions; (ii) adaptation, which aims to increase resilience in the face of the effects of climate change; and (iii) loss and damage, which compensates for the already-felt negative impacts of climate change. While mitigation and adaptation funding has been in place for decades, start-up commitments of $400 million–including $100 million each from the UAE and Germany–made on the opening day of COP28 will help operationalize the more recent loss and damage fund that the World Bank will host.

Strengthening cooperation on climate financing, between developing and developed countries and across sectors, is crucial to building climate resilience. In particular, the international community needs to accelerate public spending and leverage multilateral financing to remove barriers to private investment, and work in collaboration with business and industry to increase the flow of private capital. This issue brief takes stock of the current climate finance opportunities and gaps, identifying priorities for reform, and highlighting innovative and promising approaches across the multilateral, public, and private spheres. As the analysis demonstrates, addressing inefficiencies and scaling good practices will be imperative to transform the billions of dollars currently mobilized to the trillions needed.

Reforming Multilateral Funding to Streamline Investment

Multilateral organizations and funding mechanisms are able to mobilize vast sums of finance, leveraging their preferred creditor status and government backings. They can pool funds and their missions allow them to focus on impact rather than profit. Multilateral funding has proved indispensable to climate finance, to date accounting for 45 percent of annual international climate finance in 2021 and 2022. However, the climate financing efforts of these institutions and funds could benefit from timely reforms to enhance their effectiveness.

Multilateral development banks drive international climate funding

Public funders mostly utilize debt while private funding relies more on equity investments

DATA SOURCEs: Climate Policy Initiative 2022; Climate Policy Initiative 2023

Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), such as the World Bank face an array of challenges, including insufficient capital; slow bureaucratic processes; and poor targeting of assistance. A range of organizations and experts, including the Bridgetown Initiative, V20 Group of Finance Ministers who represent the world’s most climate-vulnerable states, and the heads of 10 multilateral banks themselves, have called for reforms to multilateral financial institutions, in particular, MDBs and the IMF. These proposals emphasize three major opportunities for reform:

Beyond reforming the structures of multilateral institutions, another issue is how to scale finance without worsening debt burdens. From 2008 to 2021, V20 countries’ total external debt nearly tripled from $350 billion to $929 billion, with the annual cost of repaying debt often outpacing climate finance received. As a result, many vulnerable countries face a vicious cycle of climate need and consequently reliance on debt-based financing, leading to underinvestment in domestic climate mitigation and adaptation. Potential avenues to address the debt burden or provide assistance without increasing debt include altering the IMF’s debt sustainability analysis to reflect the lighter financial burden of concessional debt; implementing debt-for-nature swaps, such as the Nature Conservancy’s Blue Bonds program; and structurally incentivizing alternative climate finance instruments, such as equity and guarantees.

Climate funds are expected to become the primary channel for multilateral climate finance. With targeted reforms, they can leverage the pooled-capital advantages of MDBs, without having to juggle competing mission priorities. The Green Climate Fund (GCF), with its governance structure split 50:50 between developing and developed countries and its financing allocated equally between mitigation and adaptation, is well-placed to support the most climate-vulnerable countries and lead in adaptation funding. In the wake of the GCF’s second formal pledging conference in October 2023, the GCF replenishment and related discussions at COP28 offer an important opportunity to differentiate itself from other climate mechanisms and funds. The fund can also streamline operations by implementing clearer funding mechanisms such as prescribed formulas, more direct funding, and better targeting to those countries and communities with the highest climate vulnerability.

With conducive reforms, multilateral organizations and funds can play a pivotal role in the multisectoral funding ecosystem, especially funding large projects requiring pooled funds and those with lower return on investment. Beyond raising funds directly, they can unlock private sector investment, and catalyze funding across sectors, by encouraging healthy and attractive environments for investment. In particular, they can work closely with the public sector at the national level, for example, by improving regulatory environments and increasing the resilience of infrastructure.

Coordinating Public Sector Efforts for Climate Goals

Alongside multilateral instruments and funding, government resources are necessary for providing climate finance and creating policies for a broader enabling environment. While governments are often able to deploy funding faster than multilateral ones, reforms to international aid and innovative partnership models would enable more efficient government spending to make the greatest climate impact.

Public sector funds are invested in projects abroad to mitigate and adapt to climate change in the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and through climate partnerships. While global climate-related ODA has risen significantly in the past decade, more than doubling from around $23 billion in 2013 to $44 billion by 2020, climate-related ODA investment and innovative partnerships need to increase in scale and speed to meet current and future needs. Governments could collaborate to reform ODA and other international public finance mechanisms to include guarantees, which would reduce investment risks and drive private climate funding. Furthermore, governments can streamline domestic and international financing by developing multistakeholder platforms to manage, attract, and pool public, international, private sector, and nonprofit resources for meeting climate change goals. Country platforms are useful not just in receiving countries, but also in donor countries. For example, the UAE Sustainable Finance Working Group which focuses on the UAE’s economic transition and the adoption of sustainable finance as part of a national strategy. Adopting holistic and systems-wide approaches is crucial to use limited resources effectively for broader objectives.

The international community needs not only to scale the amount of public climate finance, but also consider new modalities for bilateral funding. Recipient countries have criticized ODA for advancing the priorities of donor governments rather than  recipient ones, and for its short-term and fragmented nature due to political cycles. Governments can learn lessons from Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs), an innovative model for championing local project ownership and providing long-term funding. JETPs enable governments from advanced economies to finance rapid decarbonization in middle-income countries by combining political agreements with significant concessional funding for country-led platforms for decarbonization. For example, France, Germany, the U.K., the U.S., and the E.U. have committed $8.5 billion to support South Africa’s $98 billion country-wide JETP Implementation Plan to invest in electricity, new energy vehicles, and green hydrogen while addressing social consequences through training and alternative job creation. The JETP program provides a model, in line with the just transition, for funding transformational climate projects driven by recipient-country priorities.

On the international stage, governments of developed economies can drive climate mitigation and adaptation by providing funding and develop international partnerships to support those most vulnerable to climate change. Countries can benefit from learning about others’ innovative approaches, such as the JETP model, to drive efforts to create a sustainable, country-led climate finance ecosystem. Governments can leverage several other innovative climate finance instruments, especially by partnering with the private sector.

Mobilizing Private Sector Funding through Multistakeholder Partnerships

The private sector is a key stakeholder for strengthening a climate finance system that is not reliant on grants, the political will of wealthy states, or hindered by the slowed speed of reaching consensus in multilateral fora. Private climate finance is required to closing funding gaps and harnessing market opportunities. It also offers unique advantages, including incentivizing innovation and reducing risks such as moral hazard—for example, not paying back loans or taking risky business decisions because of the concessional terms of debt. However, unlocking private capital requires enabling policies and funding interventions from public and multilateral actors.

The private sector already contributes significantly to climate finance flows. As of 2021 and 2022, 49 percent of $1.27 trillion of total annual global climate finance flowed from the private sector. However, that private sector spending was primarily domestic, only contributing to 22 percent of annual international climate finance. In order to achieve net zero by 2050, around 70 percent of global climate funding may need to come from private investment.

Climate needs remain unmet, despite a rise in stated commitments

Private sector investment is essential to close funding gaps and grow financing


While momentum is building and significant private investment is occurring, it is not moving at the scale or speed required to meet climate goals.Investors managing $37 trillion in private capital have committed to net zero goals through the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative. However, up to 80% of that capital is senior debt, which, according to fund restrictions, the private sector cannot used without investment-grade ratings signifying relatively low risks of default. The international community needs to address several supply and demand side barriers to overcome the ratings challenge and unlock private capital investment in international climate projects. For instance, underdeveloped policy and regulatory markets can generate unacceptable political and regulatory risks to investment. Another factor that has hindered private sector investment is that those places with potentially impactful climate projects are often also particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of climate change, rendering such projects risky and hard to insure. Furthermore, investors may not fund even bankable projects in healthy environments because of a lack of insight and market presence or low local capacity to develop proposals and market projects. In order to catalyze private investment, the international community needs to  address these challenges, among others.

Multilateral organizations, public sector actors, and philanthropic organizations—through policy-making and blended finance—have key roles in overcoming these barriers. Such actors can leverage a bevy of innovative mechanisms to encourage private climate finance, in particular, by absorbing risk and developing the pipeline of bankable projects which are investment-ready, promise a return on investment, and fit the criteria of the investing body. In fact, Bridgetown 2.0, the development finance reform agenda championed by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley among others, asserts that IMF and MDB reforms have the potential to mobilize over $1.5 trillion per year in private investment. Risk-reducing mechanisms can help re-conceptualize climate finance by shifting focus to multifold environmental, economic, and societal benefits.

Guarantees, risk-reduction instruments which currently make up only four percent of MDB climate finance, have been heralded for their potential to mobilize $5 private dollars for each $1 public dollar spent. The guarantor, usually a multilateral organization, absorbs the risk of the guarantee holder, and can protect a private investor against a variety of risks such as non- or late payments, expropriation, breach of contract, war, or even currency fluctuations. For example, at COP28, USAID, the US State Department, and Prosper Africa, alongside other public agencies, announced startup funding for the Green Guarantee Company, which aims to leverage $100 million in public funding to unlock $1 billion in private capital by 2024. The public-private partnership will focus on de-risking investment, enhancing credit ratings, and building reporting capacity in developing countries, starting with Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, and Trinidad & Tobago due to their demonstrated private sector appetite and market needs.

Results-based financing mechanisms can also shift attention towards impact. For example, thepay-for-success model, which the IMF has highlighted as a good use-case for adaptation finance. In such programs, the public sector contracts the private sector to develop a climate project before ultimately purchasing the project if predefined climate outcomes are achieved. For example, the World Bank’s Carbon Initiative for Development program provides funding to off-grid solar markets and energy access projects in developing countries based on agreed-upon impact measurements. This approach leverages the expertise and innovation potential of the private sector, while simultaneously encouraging the financing of projects with less open market return on investment.  

Multisectoral climate financing is essential to creating a sustainable international climate finance ecosystem and achieving climate goals. Public and multilateral actors need to consider innovative policy and funding mechanisms, such as guarantees and pay-for-success, to reduce risk and incentivize private capital.

Galvanizing Opportunities at COP28 and Beyond 

Climate finance is needed at scale and speed to get back on track to the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 C goal and effectively respond to the accelerating impacts of climate change. In transforming billions to trillions, cooperation will be crucial to all efforts and, in particular, multisectoral climate financing. The international community can leverage tools, such as guarantees and pay-for-success models, to use public spending and multilateral financing to unlock to private investment. Commitments such as those made by Ajay Banga at COP28 that 45 percent of the World Bank’s financing will be towards climate by 2025 are promising steps with great potential to drive impact.

COP28’s initiative to develop a forward-looking climate finance system presents a timely opportunity to facilitate and deepen such partnerships between sectors. Programming for sharing innovative adaptation financing solutions, creating common taxonomies, examining mechanisms for scaling finance without worsening debt distress, and emphasizing private sector mobilization are essential for creating a fit-for-purpose, sustainable climate finance ecosystem with complementary funding mechanisms and accelerating impact.

Read the first issue brief

Fostering Energy and Climate Security as Part of a Just Transition

Read the third issue brief

Ensuring Our Climate Future



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This issue brief was produced by FP Analytics, the independent research division of The FP Group, with support from the COP28 Presidency. FP Analytics retained control of the research direction and findings of this brief. Foreign Policy’s editorial team was not involved in the creation of this content.