Last month, the Muisyo family turned on the lights for the first time thanks to climate financing from rich countries. But the fund is falling short of its $100 billion goal to help poor countries.



Developing nations have a message at the climate summit in Scotland, a message that has the benefit of being true - the countries with the fewest resources face the greatest climate change threats. To combat the disparity, developed countries promised $100 billion a year to help, but they are not meeting that goal. NPR's Lauren Sommer has more.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTIN: At a small house outside of Nairobi, Kenya, there's a big moment happening that's also big for the climate - Winifred Mumbua Muisyo is getting electricity at her home for the first time.


LAUREN SOMMER, BYLINE: An installer from the company d.light is putting a solar panel on her metal roof, which they captured by smartphone. Muisyo is a small-scale farmer who lives there with her three kids. And the solar system comes with more. With a new flock of chicks running around underfoot, they unpack lights, a phone charger and a small TV.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: ...Citizen TV - (non-English language spoken).

SOMMER: Before this, Muisyo and her family used a kerosene lantern for light.

WINIFRED MUMBUA MUISYO: (Non-English language spoken).

SOMMER: "It was expensive to buy kerosene," she says, "and it was still too dark." She would hear sounds outside but not be able to see what was going on. Now she'll have an outdoor light and lights inside, too, for her kids to do schoolwork. D.light has installed 1 million of these systems in Kenya, mostly in places where the electric grid doesn't reach. CEO Ned Tozun says that's important for climate change because the energy isn't coming from fossil fuels.

NED TOZUN: There are hundreds of millions of people in the world today that don't have any electricity access, and solar provides a way to get people immediate access to energy and do it in a way that is completely sustainable.

SOMMER: Some of d.light's investment comes from the Green Climate Fund, which gets its money from a coalition of wealthier countries. It's part of a promise that's central to the world's plan to tackle climate change - that by 2020, richer countries will provide $100 billion a year for developing countries to reduce their emissions through things like renewable energy and to prepare for more intense disasters.

SALEEMUL HUQ: 2020 has come and gone, and there's no sight of the $100 billion.

SOMMER: Saleemul Huq directs the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh. He says the funding was promised 12 years ago, when the inequity of climate change was becoming clear. Developing countries have done little to cause climate change - their emissions are low - but they bear the brunt of the impacts.

HUQ: The case is very simple - it's a moral case. You caused the problem; we are suffering because of you causing the problem. It's your pollution.

SOMMER: But the most that wealthier countries have given was a total of $80 billion in 2019, and Huq says the majority of that is in the form of loans that developing countries have to pay back, which is a burden.

HUQ: For poor people to adapt to floods and cyclones and droughts, they can't repay that. So that doesn't work with loans. That has to come as grants.

SOMMER: Huq says the broken promise for $100 billion has created a huge rift between wealthier and poorer countries, one that's casting a big shadow over the international climate talks in Glasgow.


JOHN KERRY: I know the issue of finance has been much on everybody's minds.

SOMMER: At the summit, Climate Envoy John Kerry says the U.S. plans to quadruple its climate finance to $11 billion per year within a few years. Japan also announced a new pledge, potentially putting the world's goal within reach.


KERRY: That would put us over the 100 for next year, not waiting until '23.

SOMMER: But developing countries aren't convinced.


SONAM WANGDI: So far, the progress here is disappointing and, in a way, also frightening.

SOMMER: Sonam Wangdi of Bhutan chairs a coalition of the 46 poorest countries. He says developed nations aren't offering detailed plans for rolling out the funding. The U.S. funding still needs to be approved by Congress.


WANGDI: These figures cannot be verified. They're not that authentic. And we cannot wait any longer. We would like to request governments to stop skirting responsibility.

SOMMER: Even reaching $100 billion may not be enough. A new U.N. report says developing nations need five to 10 times more than is being spent now to prepare for more extreme storms, flooding and droughts.

Lauren Sommer, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.