The recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) renewed promises to strengthen ambitions to reduce emissions and increase climate finance for low-income countries. A commitment was made to âgradually reduceâ the use of coal.
Emanated from inside conference rooms and echoed outside in the streets was a message that immediate climate action is needed globally. Reflecting this sentiment, the Glasgow Climate Pact calls for urgent action to reduce emissions from 2010 levels to 45% by 2030, and to net zero by mid-century. If these goals are met, it will be good news for the planet.
Eighty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the 20 largest economies, tolling the death knell for the planet and taking a heavy toll on the poorest countries. Even if emissions are drastically reduced, greenhouse gases already in our atmosphere can raise global temperatures by 2.4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. Yet the planetary crisis is already here. Many developing countries suffer the consequences in the form of degraded ecosystems and declining economies. Africa and Asia are disproportionately affected by droughts, floods, crop failures, water stress and pollution. Those least responsible for climate change suffer the most.
Vulnerable and the least equipped to absorb the impacts of environmental disasters, poor nations are on the front lines of a war they have not started. Therefore, they seek ânew and additional financial resourcesâ from rich industrialized countries to improve their resilience to climate change. Developing countries say climate change is a matter of intergenerational justice and equity, a view that is increasingly shared by others.
Poor nations are at the forefront of a war they did not start.
Discussions in Glasgow were marked by disagreements between developed and developing countries over approaches to climate finance and over the issue of “loss and damage” – a euphemism for compensating vulnerable countries affected by emissions from nations rich, invoking the principle of historical responsibility.
Current trends in climate finance lean in favor of mitigation. However, the severity of the crisis requires a balanced approach that not only prevents rising temperatures through mitigation by the rich, but also prevents further environmental devastation among poor countries through effective adaptation policies.
Adapting to climate change involves policies and measures that respond to the realities of the impacts of climate change: ensuring food security through climate resilient crops; protect cities and public infrastructure; cope with reduced water availability; protection of coasts and communities from rising sea levels; and better management of forests and land.
Pakistan, among the countries most vulnerable to climate change, will have to prioritize adaptation policies on a larger scale. In addition to planting trees, Pakistan needs to protect its growing urban sector, agriculture, energy and water management from environmental risks.
Implementing these critical adaptation plans would require enormous sums which are beyond the reach of most developing countries. The unfulfilled pledge by rich nations in 2009 to raise $ 100 billion a year for climate finance for developing countries will also be insufficient.
The United Nations Environment Program’s 2021 Adaptation Gap Report: The Gathering Storm published in Glasgow places these costs in the high range of around $ 140 billion to $ 300 billion per year by 2030 and from $ 280 billion to $ 500 billion. dollars per year by 2050 for developing countries. He urges the world to “increase public financing for adaptation through direct investment and overcoming barriers to private sector participation”, while recommending stronger implementation of adaptation actions in communities. developing countries.
Under the weight of debt and poverty, the economic hardships of low-income countries worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, funds allocated for climate action may be diverted to other sectors.
UNEP reports that âoverall, estimated adaptation costs in developing countries are five to ten times higher than current public financial flows for adaptation, and the gap is wideningâ. There is an urgent need to increase funding and the implementation of actions to adapt to the growing impacts of climate change.
In an encouraging signal, the Glasgow Climate Pact urged developed countries to âat least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptationâ to developing countries.
To avoid the accumulating storm, the current pool of climate finance will need to be exponentially expanded to meet mitigation and adaptation needs and ensure an effective adaptation strategy to assist, equip and enable developing countries. to take urgent climate action. It is a prerequisite for creating a just and sustainable future for our fragile planet.
The author is Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, United Nations Environment Program.
Posted in Dawn, December 7, 2021