Developing countries ‘deeply frustrated’ by COP26 outcome

KATHMANDU: Climate commitments finalised at COP26 will be too little and too late to protect vulnerable communities already living with the impacts of the climate crisis, delegates and observers from around the world have said.

While some progress was made at the summit in Glasgow on ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, advocates argue that critical financial support for developing and vulnerable states was lost in the final hours of negotiations.

With decisions on the UN Climate Change Convention, the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol delivered on Saturday, Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of the island state of Fiji, said: “The 1.5-degree target leaves Glasgow battered, bruised, but alive.”

Small island nations and developing countries battled intensely for two weeks to secure commitments to phase out the use of fossil fuels, as well as financing for loss and damage – the irreversible harm caused by climate change – and adaptation and mitigation.

While draft decisions held some promise of meeting these goals, delegates accepted ‘in the spirit of compromise’ a decision to phase down – rather than phase out – unabated coal power, and a reversal on a clear plan for a loss and damage funding facility.

Broken trust

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres said the summit did not achieve key goals relating to putting a price on carbon, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and delivering on the promise of US$100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries.

But, he said there were “building blocks for progress” in the final texts, which “reaffirm resolve” to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, boost climate finance for adaptation and recognise the need to strengthen loss and damage support for vulnerable countries.

“Protecting countries from climate disaster is not charity. It is solidarity and enlightened self-interest,” Guterres said.

“We have another climate crisis today. A climate of mistrust is enveloping our globe. Climate action can help rebuild trust and restore credibility.”

Small island states repeatedly called for support for communities already living with sea level rises and loss and damage.

Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, in Bangladesh, said that a proposal for the creation of a Glasgow loss and damage facility was submitted by 138 developing countries representing five billion people.

He said that vulnerable and developing countries were “deeply frustrated” that reference to this facility was deleted from the final text, saying the UK as COP president was “bullied” into the compromise.

Mohamed Adow, director of Nairobi-based thinktank Power Shift Africa, said it was disappointing that climate-vulnerable countries had “nothing to show” for their hard work. “But loss and damage is now up the political agenda in a way it was never before and the only way out is for it to be eventually delivered,” he added.

“We are leaving empty handed but morally stronger and hopeful that we can sustain the momentum in the coming year to deliver meaningful support which will allow the vulnerable [countries] to deal with the irreversible impacts of climate change created by the polluting world who are failing to take responsibility.”

COP president Alok Sharma shared this frustration over changes to the language relating to the phase-out of coal, appearing to become tearful as he apologised for the way the process had unfolded.

Many pointed the finger at India for the watered-down language on fossil fuels. But Brandon Wu, director of policy and campaigns at non-profit ActionAid USA, said blaming India overlooked issues of equity. “The problem is not India; the problem is the US and rich countries refusing to couch fossil fuel phase-out in the context of global equity,” Wu said.

He said that an equitable phase-out of fossil fuels would place “most of the burden squarely on the US and rich countries”.

The Maldives’ environment minister Shauna Aminath said COP26 had served as yet another conversation that left their homes on the line, while those who had options decided how quickly they wanted to act.

“We have heard that the technology is available. We know trillions are spent on fossil fuels,” Aminath said.

“So we know that this is not about the lack of either of them. We have 98 months to halve global emissions. The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is a death sentence for us.”  SciDev

Fiscal Nepal |
Tuesday November 23, 2021, 12:01:39 PM |

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