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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

COP 26: How much are poor countries getting to fight climate change?


The amount of money rich countries give to the developing world to help it cope with climate change has been one of the big battles of the COP26 climate summit.

A pledge to provide $100bn (£72bn) a year by 2020 has not been met, and poorer countries are demanding action.

What is the money for?

It will be difficult for rich countries to adjust to the need to phase out fossil fuels and carbon from their economies.

However, it will be far more difficult in developing countries, where there is far less money to pay for new infrastructure and technology.

And there are a lot of people who are in danger.

As a result, developing countries are demanding grants, loans, and private investment to help them adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Coastal defences against flood surges and the development of drought-resistant agricultural systems are two critical areas where the developing world requires immediate financial assistance to adapt to changing conditions.

And, in order for the poorest countries to participate in efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, support for a shift to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro power is required.

Senegal has expanded its solar capacity with support from France

How much was initially promised?

As long ago as 2009, the developed world agreed it would provide $100bn a year by 2020 to help poorer countries.

But an expert report commissioned by the United Nations (UN) concludes the target has not been reached – even though a new and more ambitious target is now due to be set for 2025.

“The $100 billion commitment should be viewed as a floor rather than a ceiling,” says lead author Amar Bhattacharya of the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.

“Some progress has been made, but much more work remains to be done.”

This has been the most difficult issue for many countries to resolve at COP26.

A diverse range of countries can access climate finance. It includes the world’s poorest countries, as well as large economies such as China and Brazil, which are rapidly growing but still lag far behind the rich world in terms of average income per person.

What new funding has been agreed at COP26?

In the weeks leading up to and during the first few days of the summit a number of countries announced new climate finance pledges.

  • The US has pledged $11.4 billion per year by 2024, as well as $3 billion specifically for climate adaptation
  • The UK says it will double its climate finance to $11.6 billion between 2020 and 2025
  • Canada has announced a doubling of its climate finance support to $5.3 billion between 2020 and 2025
  • Japan has offered $10 billion over the next five years for reducing emissions in Asia
  • Norway has committed to tripling its adaptation finance; Australia will double its contribution
  • Spain will increase its climate finance pledge by 50% to $1.55 billion a year from 2025

How far short are the pledges now?

Because it is a complicated mix of funding from governments, international lenders, and private companies, calculating what money should be included in the overall figure is difficult.

However, existing pledges are expected to total $96 billion per year by the end of 2022.

The UK government has stated that it is confident that the $100 billion target will be met by 2023.

This delay is unacceptable, according to the LDC group, which represents the world’s least developed countries.

“Delivering US$100 billion by 2023 isn’t soon enough,” says Gebru Jember of the LDC, adding that “there isn’t enough for climate change adaptation, which was promised to be half of the US$100 billion.”

Proposals for a longer-term, more ambitious target for climate financing after 2025 are also being discussed at the climate summit.

The most ambitious option, supported by many developing countries, would aim to mobilise $1.3 trillion per year by 2030. However, it is unclear whether this will be included in the final summit text.

There are also calls for a separate fund to deal with loss and damage, including compensation for the harm caused by all of the greenhouse gases emitted by the developed world over the last 200 years.

Who is still not paying enough?

“The three countries that have been the leaders within the G7 [group of rich nations] in that order are Germany, Japan, and France,” Mr Bhattacharya says.

The United States and the United Kingdom have recently increased their contributions, re-establishing them as the leading contributors. However, given its size and resources, the United States continues to fall short of what is considered its fair share.

The UK is hosting COP26

According to experts, rich countries that have been responsible for massive amounts of carbon emissions must go even further.

According to Dr. Alina Averchenkova of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, “$100 billion isn’t going to cut it; we need trillions of dollars in both public and private funds.”

“The pandemic has shown us that it is possible when there is political will.”

Are there any strings attached to the money?

Yes. By 2018, nearly three-quarters of government funds made available for climate action in developing countries were in the form of loans that must be repaid, rather than grants that do not.

And this is a major issue in countries, many of which are already heavily in debt, where Covid has made access to international funds even more difficult.

There was an agreement at the COP26 summit to give more money in the form of grants rather than loans, but the details of that commitment are limited.

“Developing countries cannot rely solely on loans,” Dr. Averchenkova says. “It is critical that more climate finance be provided in the form of grants.”

As a result, both the quality and quantity of funding are important.

And the message from the world’s poorest countries is straightforward: if you want ambitious climate targets, you’ll have to pay for them.

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