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COP26: For Africa, Success Is Holding Rich Nations To Their Climate Finance Pledges

Rich countries committed to mobilizing $100billion yearly in long-term financing under the Paris Agreement as part of their historical responsibility for climate change but they are not fully holding up their own end of the bargain.

Therefore the African delegation to COP 26 should not be quick to give away the house unless they extract commitments from rich countries who bear more responsibility for climate change to pay a fair share towards efforts to combat its impacts.

Nigerian environmental non-profit, The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), has called on African governments to be resolute in their demand for climate change liability and payments for carbon debts by rich countries.

Godwin Uyi Ojo, executive director, ERA/FoEN said the pledge to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020-2025 as funds to address climate change actions stands at about 30 percent  and is nowhere near what is needed to address the change.

“African delegates should ensure to speak with one voice to demand transitional justice in the payment of carbon debts currently put at 334 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere,” he said.

Ojo, citing a 2015 study published in Nature Climate Change, in which Concordia University researcher Damon Matthews showed how national carbon and climate debts could be used to decide who should pay for the global costs of climate mitigation and damages, the world’s leading polluters have racked up a $10 trillion carbon debt for carbon dioxide emissions since 1990.

“This demand for carbon debt payment is sacrosanct and does not deflect from the US$100 billion commitment for climate actions,” Ojo said.

How rich countries can meet their financial commitments

The governments of Canada and Germany have published a ‘Delivery Plan,’ commissioned by COP26 President, that outlines how developed countries can meet their joint commitment of mobilizing $100 billion in climate finance for developing countries annually from 2020 to 2025.

“Though developed countries pledged twelve years ago to mobilize $100 billion in climate finance annually by 2020, the ‘Delivery Plan’ confirms it is unlikely that they delivered the requisite contributions last year,” said Lorena Gonzalez, senior associate in the WRI Finance Center.

Gonzalez said developing countries need finance now so that they can invest in climate action to shift their economies’ long-term trajectory, as well as deal with mounting climate impacts.

According to the report, based on recent estimates from the OECD, climate finance provided and mobilized by developed countries increased from US$58.5 billion in 2016 to US$79.6 billion in 2019.

This represents an overall increase since committing to the US$100 billion goal in 2009, when collective climate finance, reached US$30 billion for the period 2010–2012.

Based on the latest data, more than US$20 billion annual increase would be required to meet the US$100 billion goal in 2020. While it will not be known until 2022 whether the US$100 billion goal has been met in 2020, recent trends show that it appears unlikely, the report said.

One way to raise this funding is for rich countries to increase the scale of climate finance and increase financing for adaptation. Article 9.4 of the Paris Agreement states that the provision of scaled-up financial resources should aim to achieve a balance between adaptation and mitigation.

Rich countries were also urged to prioritize grant-based finance for the poorest and most vulnerable whose situation has become complicated by the ravages of COVID-19.

“Developed countries will hence prioritize grant-based resources, as part of a wide variety of financial instruments, to ensure there are adequate financial tools at the project level,” the report said.

The report also suggested addressing barriers in accessing climate finance, strengthening the Financial Mechanism of UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, working with Multilateral Development Banks to increase and improve climate finance better manage private finance, and reporting on collective progress transparently.

Africa, least responsible for, and yet most vulnerable to climate change impacts, cannot afford to be complacent on the need for strong negotiating positions and astute diplomacy in order to get good outcomes from the UN meeting.

“Of the many negotiation issues that concern Africa, climate finance has to be among the priorities,” said Chukwumerije Okereke, director, Center for Climate Change and Development, a think-tank out of the Alex-Ekwueme Federal University, Nigeria.

At the recent 76th UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, rich nations pledged to commit funds towards climate financing. For example, US President Joe Biden doubled the US Government climate finance pledge from $5.7bn to $11.4bn per year by 2024 though this is now up in the air with the uncertain negotiations at the Capitol.

The UK prime minister Boris Johnson pledged 11.1 billion pounds and Japan said it would provide climate finance, both public and private, to developing countries including small island states, totaling approximately $60 billion over the next five years from 2021 to 2025.

“While these new financial pledges are commendable, it is important that African leaders are not naïve or ignorant about a host of outstanding issues on climate finance in COP26,” Okereke said.

African leaders must know that the $100 billion pledged by rich countries is insufficient in comparison to what climate change is costing and will cost developing countries, so African governments must get rich countries that are responsible for climate change to increase their pledges in COP26.

African governments must also ensure that rich countries will provide new and additional financing to the existing Overseas Development Assistance and not conflate the two. They must also make a sound case for energy security for Africa who is being railroaded to abandon its gas resources in the midst of energy poverty.

Rich countries are making a poor case for climate change as many including the UK switched to coal immediately after gas prices went through the roof. As developing nations are being asked to give up gas, and are starved of fresh investments to develop their fossil fuel resources, oil producers in rich countries still have gas as part of their long-term investment portfolios.

“We cannot expect African nations, which together emitted seven times less CO2 than China last year and four times less than the US, according to the Global Carbon Atlas, to undermine their best opportunities for economic development by simply aligning with the Western view of how to tackle carbon emissions," said Nj Ayuk, executive chairman, African Energy Chamber, an energy think at the launch of the International Energy Association Net-Zero target earlier this year.

While some actions by rich countries question their legitimacy to ask that developing countries make concessions that will hurt their economies, developing countries must moderate their righteous indignation. It is after all one planet, one climate, and one environment, at the end of the day, it won’t matter who destroyed the planet, we’d have ruined our beautiful home.

The  ‘Delivery Plan,’ developed under the leadership of Minister Wilkinson from Canada and State Secretary Flasbarth from Germany, could be a key step toward ensuring developed countries rapidly scale up climate finance. Developing countries deserve to see a clear, credible and robust plan for realizing the pledge, analysts say.

While the Delivery Plan is said to be an important start, especially in outlining a path to achieving an average of $100 billion per year for the period 2021-2025, but it does not address the likely shortfall from 2020.

Building on this, developed countries and multilateral development banks need to ramp up commitments so that the $100 billion per year goal can be met before the expected 2023 date. They should also recognize that the $100 billion is a floor and not a ceiling, the document said.

Most developed countries have not yet mobilized finance in accordance with their fair share. The United States is responsible for the greatest shortfall, and Australia, Canada, Italy, Greece, Iceland, and Portugal, among others, would need to do more.  

The plan called on developed countries to continue to work toward a robust and credible collective strategy to deliver on this long-standing commitment as soon as possible, making up for any shortfalls—including those from 2020—and strengthening reporting and adaptation finance.

“As a pillar of the Paris Agreement, much stands on climate finance. The stronger this pillar, the stronger the Agreement and the faster and farther we can move toward rapid decarbonization and enhanced adaptation and resilience that will save lives and promote human livelihood around the world,” the report said.

Climate financing will be a critical issue at COP 26 and the annual $100 billion goal born at the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, formalized in Cancun in 2010 and affirmed as part of the Paris pact will take center stage. Failure to make progress on this goal would undermine much-needed trust in the Paris Agreement.

This story was originally published in BusinessDay Nigeria on October 30, 2021. It was produced as part of the 2021 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.

Banner image: Climate justice / Photo credit: ArtShift on Flickr.