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The Rich Get Richer Off of Climate Aid

On climate finance, shifting solar landscapes, and marine pollution.

The Rich Get Richer Off of Climate Aid
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Strong thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hail on Tuesday killed multiple people and knocked out power across the Midwest • Heavy rain is exacerbating ongoing flooding in southern Brazil • Miami is having its hottest May on record.


1. Rich countries are enriching themselves with climate aid

The world’s developed countries have pledged to spend $100 billion per year helping developing nations grapple with the effects of climate change, but many of them are channeling economic benefits back to themselves, according to a new report from Reuters. France, Japan, and Germany — the three countries that reported issuing the most climate financial aid between 2015 and 2020 — each gave more in the form of loans than they did grants, saddling already debt-burdened nations with yet more interest payments. Other aid agreements required recipients to purchase materials or employ organizations from the donor country’s own suppliers.

“The benefits to donor countries disproportionately overshadow the primary objective of supporting climate action in developing countries,” Ritu Bharadwaj, principal researcher on climate governance and finance at the International Institute for Environment and Development, told Reuters.

2. Solar-plus-storage projects gain ground in the West

Solar projects that are co-located with storage are dominating Western interconnection queues, according to an energy research analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence. More than 98% of proposed solar capacity within the territory of the California Independent System Operator and about 87% of proposed solar capacity in the rest of the West is paired with storage, or, in some instances, with wind, S&P’s Adam Wilson said. Only about one-fourth of the West’s existing solar capacity is co-located with storage. Hybrid solar projects have “yet to gain firm foothold,” Wilson told Utility Dive, but recent data “suggest that tide may be turning.”

3. ICYMI: The world will be renewable-powered, even without more government help

We’re almost halfway through the decade that will make or break our climate future. To get to net-zero by 2050, we’re going to have to spend a lot more money a lot more quickly.

These are among the main conclusions of BloombergNEF’s 2024 New Energy Outlook, which determined that emissions will have to peak and renewable capacity will have to triple this decade for the world to hit net-zero by midcentury. Decarbonizing the global energy system within that time frame could cost $215 trillion, the report found — 19% more than the cost of an economics-driven transition that would miss the Paris Agreement goals and result in 2.6 degrees Celsius of warming. Even in that economics-driven scenario, which assumes no new climate policies other than the ones we’ve already got, renewable sources power 70% of global energy needs by 2050. The conclusions illustrate both the momentum behind the clean energy transition and the urgent need for stronger government support.

Charts of future renewables use.BloombergNEF

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  • 4. Coal fraud pollutes the air in India

    The Adani Group, a multinational commodities trading conglomerate with close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, allegedly bought cheap, highly polluting coal and passed it off as expensive, low-polluting coal, achieving a fat profit and worsening air quality in the process, according to reporting from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project published in the Financial Times. Invoices from 2014 appear to show nearly two-dozen instances of the group buying low-grade coal from one company and selling it to another with which it had a contract to supply high-efficiency coal — 1.5 million metric tons in total. Adani Group denied the allegations, and other companies involved in the transactions did not respond to FT’s request for comment.

    The report comes in the midst of nationwide voting in India, which began in April and will end next week. Modi is running for a third term, but questions about his relationship with the powerful Adani family have dogged his campaign. Meanwhile, air pollution kills millions in India each year.

    5. International tribunal declares greenhouse gases a marine pollutant

    In a win for island nations threatened by rising seas, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea said in an advisory opinion Tuesday that greenhouse gases count as marine pollution, making countries responsible for limiting the impacts of their emissions. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the tribunal found, countries are required to “take all necessary measures to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from ‘any source.’” This includes greenhouse gases that are absorbed by the ocean, according to the tribunal. The opinion is the tribunal’s first climate-related judgment and, while not legally binding, could set a precedent that shapes decisions in courts around the world.


    Drought in Mexico is worsening the strain already felt by some species of endangered axolotl, an aquatic salamander with an unusual life cycle.

    An axolotlIva Dimova/Getty Images

    Nicole Pollack profile image

    Nicole Pollack

    Nicole Pollack is a freelance environmental journalist who writes about energy, agriculture, and climate change. She is based in Northeast Ohio.


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