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U.S. President Joe Biden gets his chance to prove that America’s return to climate finance leadership is real.

The Leaders Summit on Climate kicks off today, to coincide with Earth Day. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will offer opening remarks soon, and over the next two days, 40 heads of state and other major climate players will join them virtually. While much of the focus has been on Biden’s expected U.S. emissions reduction pledge, the White House is also facing a “crunch moment” for showing it is serious about helping to close the climate finance gap.

• In a Jan. 27 executive order, Biden committed to developing a climate finance plan for the U.S. government, and a Thursday session on climate finance could be the place to unveil more details about it.

• Earlier this month, the White House released a preview of its fiscal year 2022 budget request, which included $1.2 billion for the Green Climate Fund, part of a $2.5 billion overall proposal for climate finance. Some advocates hope Biden will announce longer-term plans to significantly expand those pledges.

• To help get the ball rolling, on Wednesday a group of financial institutions — which collectively manage $70 trillion in assets — launched the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, Adva Saldinger reports. The aim is to push their investment portfolios toward net-zero emissions — and convince other financial institutions to join them.

Read: A 'crunch moment' for US climate finance leadership

MOMENT OF TRUTH

U.K. aid watchers have been anxiously awaiting an announcement from the government about how it plans to spend its drastically scaled-down foreign aid budget in 2021-2022. The expectation was that it would shed more light on where those steep cuts are going to fall. On Wednesday the announcement arrived, but it was not as enlightening as many had hoped, Will Worley reports.

Mark Miller of the Overseas Development Institute called the government’s data “evasive,” and Ian Mitchell of the Center for Global Development said it, “seems almost designed to make comparisons with last year difficult.”

Read: Will’s latest installment about a process severely lacking transparency.

LISTEN AND LEARN

“As I come toward the end of my time as Emergency Relief Coordinator, I have reached the conclusion that one of the biggest failings of the humanitarian system is that agencies do not pay enough attention to what people caught up in crises say they want.”

— Mark Lowcock, United Nations emergency relief coordinator.

Writing for Devex, the outgoing head of U.N. relief operations proposes a significant change to the humanitarian system aimed at making it more accountable to those it is meant to serve.

COMMUTER SAYS NO

A survey of more than 800 nonprofit employees in the U.K. found that 43% of respondents say they’ll never apply for an office-only job again. That could see employers forced to offer flexible and remote options to retain talent — but given that 38% of nonprofits surveyed said they’ve already started reducing office space, that may be necessary anyway.

Devex Pro: 43% of UK nonprofit workers say they'll never apply for an office job again 

Another way to attract talent? Shake up your internship program. Mercy Corps’ pilot partnership with historically Black colleges and universities sought to draw students from a range of academic backgrounds into development — and it’s been so successful that it’s now expanding.

AD ASTRA PER ASPERA

Satellite imagery for Earth observation has applications for a wide range of global development goals — one recent report estimated it could address water scarcity in Africa and save millions by identifying illegal mining operations. But globally, the technology has never taken off at the kind of scale that was once predicted, says UNOSAT head Einar Bjørgo.

Still, COVID-19 might have changed that, now that actual travel has been made more difficult: “We can get information on any given situation in even the most inaccessible of places,” he writes. “The stars are finally aligned.” Part of our Data for Development series.

Opinion: The rise of satellite imagery — what does it mean for aid and beyond?

IN OTHER NEWS

The Biden administration is in the process of securing an additional $300 million in aid for Afghanistan, according to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. [VOA]

The first batch of COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccines from the COVAX Facility arrived in Idlib, Syria on Wednesday. [France 24]

The U.N. special envoy on Myanmar will not attend the ASEAN leaders' summit, but will be in Indonesia to hold meetings on the situation in Myanmar. [Reuters]

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.