COP26: rich countries still do not want to pay their climate bill
Climate change has a central injustice: the parts of the world that contribute the least to global warming are those that suffer the most from rising temperatures.
Rising sea levels, warmer heat waves and more frequent torrential rains disproportionately hit low-lying coastal areas, islands, tropics and deserts that are home to people who historically have not burned as much coal, oil or natural gas. The slow and acute impacts of climate change are already destroying homes, forcing migrations and killing people, especially in countries with few resources to begin with. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the countries most vulnerable to climate change are Haiti, Myanmar, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Bahamas.
During this time, major producers and consumers of fossil fuels, like the United States, have become the richest countries in the world. This wealth also means more government and private resources to respond to a warming world, whether by building infrastructure to withstand higher tides, managing forests to reduce severe forest fires, or compensating citizens for their losses. ruined houses.
This inequity is the mainstream of the ongoing climate negotiations at the UN COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. The meeting is an opportunity for major polluters and those impacted by it to sit down across from each other – and countries most affected by global warming say tackling this central injustice must be at the heart of any climate deal. Otherwise, hopes of reaching agreement on other key climate issues could collapse.
“Most of the historic broadcasts came from developed countries,” Diego Pacheco Balanza, head of the Bolivian delegation to COP26, told reporters on Thursday. “There is therefore a historical responsibility of the developed countries and [industrialized] countries to deal with the climate crisis.
The most concrete way to discharge this responsibility is to pay it. And some rich countries at COP26 said they would – to some extent, at least, and in principle.
“The most responsible countries in history[al] and current broadcasts are not yet doing their fair share of the work, ”British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the start of the summit.
Actions to date, however, are still lacking. “There have been a lot of very positive statements,” said Janine Felson, deputy head of the delegation of Belize and adviser to the Alliance of Small Island States, a negotiating bloc of 39 island and low-lying countries. “What we see, however, in the [negotiating] room is very different. It’s more business as usual, so the rhetoric and deeds are far removed.
At COP26, several governments, including the United States and the United Kingdom, announced additional funding to help low-income countries switch to clean energy, as well as more cash to help them cope. the inevitable losses due to climate change.
But the amount of money on the table still falls short of past commitments, and it’s not enough to cover the huge changes that are needed, say developing country negotiators.
Without settling the money issue, COP26 negotiations on other topics – trading carbon credits, phasing out fossil fuels, schedules for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – could stall or collapse . “Climate finance is the glue that holds a package together at the end of a COP,” Richie Merzian, director of the climate and energy program at the Australia Institute, told reporters on Thursday.
As the talks approach their final day, pressure is on wealthy governments to contribute more to global efforts to reduce emissions. “My message to donor countries is very, very clear: without adequate funding, the task ahead is almost impossible,” said Alok Sharma, President of COP26.
Rich countries still fail to meet their climate finance commitments
At COP15 in 2009 in Copenhagen, rich countries set a goal of pooling $ 100 billion by 2020 to help less wealthy countries adapt to climate change already underway as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The money, coming from public institutions like governments rather than private banks, would be deployed in the form of loans, investments and grants in initiatives ranging from decarbonizing power generation to construction. of dikes.
The target has been missed. The latest tally shows that $ 79.6 billion in international climate finance was provided in 2019. Now the target is 2023 for the $ 100 billion target, given the current pace of commitments.
Developing country negotiators have been pushing to close this gap even faster and want the final agreement of the COP26 meeting to underscore their “grave concern” that the amount of funding available is not sufficient to meet the needs to do so. in the face of climate change. They also want the text to stress that rich countries are required to contribute more to climate finance programs.
“Finance is not the charity of the developed countries towards the developing world,” said Pacheco Balanza. “Finance is an obligation. “
At the same time, there are huge financial resources to mitigate climate change. One estimate found that the shift from the global economy to sustainable energy would save the world $ 26 trillion by 2030. But the costs of climate change mitigation and the benefits often accrue to different people, and it has proven difficult to leverage them in the negotiations.
Today, some developing countries say they need a lot more money to reach their goals. India, the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, pledged at COP26 to achieve the goal of net zero emissions by 2070. But it says it wants $ 1 trillion in international climate finance by 2030 to achieve its goal. African governments have said climate finance funding is expected to reach $ 1.3 trillion per year by 2030.
It is likely that the $ 100 billion funding target will be solidified at COP26 with the momentum underway. However, these much larger demands are unlikely to be taken into account, given that the parties to the Paris Agreement failed to reach a much smaller target in time.
Who will pay for the climate devastation in the most vulnerable and poorest places?
Many discussions at COP26 focus on climate change mitigation – what countries will do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, what their goals should be, when they should be met, and what tactics count to achieve their goals. Goals.
But the world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius compared to global average temperatures before the Industrial Revolution, and this warming is already having effects. Global sea level, for example, has already risen 8-9 inches, resulting in more devastating storm surges.
Dealing with climate change already underway is a high priority for countries like island nations who are seeing their lands engulfed by rising seas and seeing disasters amplify with more rainfall and higher heat.
In COP language, this is called loss and damage. There is a mechanism to manage this under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, building on an earlier framework known as the Warsaw International Mechanism. One estimate found that the loss and damage caused by climate change would cost the world between $ 290 billion and $ 580 billion annually by 2030. And the losses can go beyond those that are easily quantified, such as wealth. culture and ecosystems degraded by rising average temperatures.
The problem is, there is no set target for how much money should be allocated for loss and damage, who should participate and when, and how that money should be distributed. Most importantly, loss and damage has been largely excluded from discussions on climate finance.
“We have heard a lot about solidarity [from wealthy countries] for the loss and damage of our experiences, ”Felson said. “But if in the finance room I bring up loss and damage, I hear it’s a red line. We can’t talk about life and damage in finance [discussions]. “
For countries like Belize, the goal is to have a system that does not respond to disasters and climate-related damage on an ad hoc basis like an emergency relief fund. Rather, they want a systematic approach that makes consistent money not only in the aftermath of hurricanes and wildfires, but also for slow-moving issues like declining coral reefs and declining crop yields. .
Scotland on Thursday announced it would contribute £ 2million to a loss and damage fund, making it the first country to participate.
Funds were also allocated at COP26 for indirect measures related to loss and damage. Twelve donor governments have pledged $ 413 million in new funding for the Least Developed Countries Fund, which helps countries like The Gambia and Togo cope with the effects of climate change. The United Nations Adaptation Fund also announced that it had raised $ 351.6 in new pledges.
One of the big hurdles, however, is that rich countries do not want any language in a loss and damage agreement that suggests they are responsible for climate change. Some already oppose the formulation of loss and damage in the draft agreement.
“With rich countries, it is always the fear of some sort of reparation framework that will impose ever higher costs,” said Rachel Kyte, climate negotiations adviser and dean of the Fletcher School at the ‘Tufts University. “They are ready to talk about today and tomorrow. They don’t want to talk about yesterday.
Negotiators from the countries most affected by climate impacts are now saying they want to at least start the movement by paying for the current destruction of the climate. They demand that the COP26 agreement create a financing mechanism dedicated to loss and damage and give it long-term stability.
But as the negotiations enter their final day with so many outstanding issues, the loss and damage could again be put on hold until the next COP.