Climate change is more than just a temperature rise. Extreme weather events like floods, droughts, hurricanes, storms, and rising sea levels, are just but manifestations of its effects. And these effects are being experienced across sectors and affecting aspects of our lives in ways we never imagined.
The World Bank estimates that as many as 216 million people could be displaced by climate change by 2050.
Two weeks ago, a UN committee of 24 members met and mooted a new climate disaster fund. The World Bank will manage the fund on an interim basis. But there was no clarity nor commitment on who will pay and the timelines.
The new fund and its mechanics will be a subject of consensus building in the ongoing UN Climate summit – COP28 – in Dubai. Hopefully, approval and an action plan will be realised during the gathering of nearly 200 governments.
It is not lost on keen observers that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has for the umpteenth time urged the world’s advanced economies to walk the talk. Urgently!
“This means getting the loss and damage fund up and running with early pledges, delivering all promised financial support, tripling renewables capacity, doubling energy efficiency, and bringing clean power to all by 2030,” he said. “It also means phasing out fossil fuels, with a clear timeframe aligned to the 1.5-degree limit.”
The International Energy Agency says fossil fuel demand ‘must fall by a quarter’ by 2030 to limit global warming, stepping up clean energy supply to avoid shortages and price jumps.
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Rich nations begrudgingly agreed to the loss-and-damage fund during COP27 in Egypt. Some, like the United Kingdom, have made an about-turn, announcing a reversal of the initial targets of selling new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035. The country has flatly rejected calls to regulate efficiency for homeowners.
Facing a consequential election in a year’s time, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says plans to expand oil and gas projects in Britain’s North Sea and drill for fossil fuels would go ahead despite objections from environmental groups. This is a sharp turn away, coming two years after the country hosted the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.
It is this wavering, though citing competing priorities, that is sending shivers across the Global South – the vulnerable poor countries that have suffered irreparable climate-driven damage from drought, floods, and rising sea levels.
In 2015, at the COP21, countries committed to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – a climate action plan to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts.
Developed countries were to provide financial resources to help developing countries meet their NDCs, pay for mitigation and adaptation, and mobilise more climate finance.
Fourteen years have passed without the West delivering the $100bn per year promised for mitigation and adaptation, or the Loss-and-Damage fund agreed more than a year ago.
Achieving the transition to net-zero emissions by 2050 requires substantial climate investment in emerging market and developing economies, which currently emit around two-thirds of greenhouse gases.
One could argue that the reversals or the snail’s pace at actioning the pledges is largely because of the delicate balancing act between committed climate goals and development needs of their respective countries.
But another school of thought would argue that all along the world’s worst polluters have just perfected ways of dodging promises made and seeking refuge in the kraal of pressing domestic considerations.
A key outcome of the next summit, which the Global South will be waiting for, is addressing the deadlock on finance.
The writer is the Senior Account Director at Apex Porter Novelli, a communication consultancy firm in Kenya