At next month’s climate summit in Egypt, poorer nations coping with disasters will press wealthier states for a fund to help them ride out catastrophes.
Women carry belongings from their flooded home in the Qambar Shahdadkot district of Sindh Province of Pakistan, 6 September 2022. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)
Devastating floods in Pakistan, drought and famine in the Horn of Africa and violent storms in Asia and the Americas. In Europe, sweltering heatwaves, triggering wildfires.
These disasters are the backdrop to COP27 — a climate summit in Egypt in November that will bring together nearly 200 countries to debate how to tackle global warming.
Their task is to make progress on limiting warming well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to aim for 1.5 degrees. Those objectives were agreed in the Paris Agreement in 2015.
But temperatures are already up 1.2 C and, based on promises, are set to rise by about 2.7 C by the end of the century, according to data compiled in late 2021 by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), an independent scientific analysis put together by two nonprofit institutes that have been providing reports to policymakers since 2009.
The 2.7C projection assumes that governments will fully carry out their pledges for emissions cuts, something many have failed to do in the past. And many climate scientists say the need for government consensus at United Nations climate meetings means the risks are often understated. The CAT data are also based on just over a 50% chance of staying below 2.7C.
Pressure on U.S., Europe for a fund to help poorer nations
When thousands of national leaders, climate experts and activists gather in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, a key issue will be calls from the most vulnerable states for a fund to help them cope with the catastrophes they already face from climate change.
In the sometimes-opaque language of the UN climate process, this is known as “loss and damage.”
“I think there will be a lot of pressure on the U.S. and the European Union, in particular, to move on creating a new fund, creating new resources addressing loss and damage,” said Alex Scott, an analyst at E3G, an international climate think tank.
“I think we can’t tell at this point how that’s going to end up. I think there’s a lot of resistance coming from the U.S and the EU.”
Delegates left the last Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow late last year just about keeping alive the Paris objectives. There were some gains, particularly over phasing down the use of coal and a call for countries to update their climate pledges, but there was no euphoria.
Since Glasgow, Russia has unleashed war on Ukraine, and much of the developed world has focused on combatting the devastating effects the conflict has had on energy supplies, inflation and slowing economic growth.
Vulnerable nations say the rich world is responsible for most global warming.
So, what are the prospects of success at the 27th COP in Sharm el-Sheikh that begins on November 6 and is due to last 12 days. And what are the key issues?
For small island states that face being overwhelmed by rising seas and countries like Pakistan that have had catastrophic floods this year, top of the list will be efforts to overcome resistance from parts of the developing world to creating funds for loss and damage.
Wealthy nations, fearing they could face open-ended demands for finance, agreed at Glasgow only to continue a dialogue about loss and damage. This time, that is likely not be enough. Progress over loss and damage is widely seen as a litmus-test for success at Sharm el-Sheikh.
Vulnerable countries argue the rich world, particularly the United States and Europe, are responsible for most global-warming gas emissions since the start of the industrial age in the 18th century. In contrast, they have emitted little but suffer the most.
Pools of public and private finance from the developed world are largely aimed at ways to “mitigate” against climate change. That means cutting global emissions drastically through decarbonising and switching to renewables.
A smaller amount goes to “adaptation” — helping countries prepare for the dangers that lie ahead.
Even here wealthy nations have fallen short. They promised in 2009 to provide $100 billion a year to fight climate change by 2020 but will not reach that target now until 2023.
COP27 venue in Africa could sharpen focus on ‘loss and damage.’
The third main plank of the discussions will be over promises countries make toward cutting emissions and work towards a net-zero future. They were charged at Glasgow with updating their plans and targets this year. But so far, only 25 have complied, and even fewer have tightened their pledge.
Egypt did update its nationally-determined contribution (NDC), the name given to a country’s climate-fighting promises. But despite taking over the COP presidency at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt’s plan was rated “highly insufficient” by CAT.
“It would have been good to see a pledge closer in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement because that sort of ambition is sadly needed at this stage,” CAT analyst Mia Moisio said after Egypt updated its plan. “Many countries have failed to show leadership, and it would have been good to see more.”
E3G’s Scott, speaking in an interview, said Egypt had faced an uphill struggle during months of geopolitical chaos to articulate a clear message on how the global summit would play out, but things have come together more recently with Germany and Chile being signed up to lead negotiations over loss and damage.
The fact that the summit will take place on the African continent will also help, she said, since it is the region likely to suffer some of the most devastating effects of a warming planet.
“I think its taking place on the frontline of climate impact and climate risks is really focussing minds, and I think that is really helping to create the political space to really think carefully about the question of financing loss and damage and helps to provide the impetus to get it onto the agenda,” Scott said.
Three questions to consider:
- What does “loss and damage” mean?
- Why are rich nations reluctant to address loss and damage?
- Why is Africa likely to suffer particularly badly from climate change?
Malcolm Davidson worked for four decades as a journalist in Europe, Asia and Australasia. He served as correspondent with Reuters in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Philippines, and reported widely from other parts of Asia. He also worked in Brussels and most recently was the London-based editor of Reuters’s Front Page multimedia news service.