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An employee cleans the podium before the arrival of leaders for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 1, 2021.

Rich nations backtrack on climate pledges, vulnerable countries cling to hope

As wealthy nations turn back on their earlier pledges, representatives of developing countries still see little progress in negotiations midway through the Glasgow Climate Change Conference COP26.

The issues related to Article 6, approaches to loss and damage, response measures, common timeframes on climate finance issues, and transparency were deferred to the second week as the negotiators could not reach any agreement.

Developing countries are emphasising the US$100 billion per year pledge by rich nations which was supposed to be given to less wealthy nations by 2020 to help adapt to climate change and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. But now, their wealthy counterparts want to delay the support to 2023, with a fixed timeframe yet to be decided.

Speaking to The Business Standard, leading climate scientist Professor Saleemul Huq, said, "The COP26 is so far disappointing. Without fulfilling the commitments, it has turned into a photo session with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson."

He said the world leaders had turned away from their $100billion pledge, which was "absolutely unacceptable."

"The leaders who were begged to come here all gave rousing speeches, but are not delivering."

As one of the most vulnerable countries, Bangladesh is pushing 6-8 issues at the Glasgow summit.  

It is demanding the pledged amount be used at a 50:50 ratio for climate adaptation and climate mitigation projects. Currently, 20% of the climate finance is for adaptation projects and 80% for mitigation.

Bangladesh also wants a decision on the approaches to loss and damage.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in her opening speech on November 1, said, "Developed countries should fulfill their commitments of providing $100 billion with a 50:50 balance between adaptation and mitigation. There must be synergies amongst the various climate funds."

Mohammad Mostafa Kamal, secretary to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said, "We were hoping for the climate finance as the developed countries had committed. But that has been delayed and now they are not even saying they would start releasing the funds from next year."

He said the issue was yet to be resolved, but developing countries are demanding the funds are released immediately. "We have requested them to start disbursing the funds right away."

At the Glasgow Conference, developing countries are also prioritising the issue of loss and damage, with a focus on global sharing of responsibility for climate migrants displaced by sea level rise, salinity increase, river erosion, floods and droughts.

Mohammad Ziaul Haque, director, Department of Environment and one of the negotiators for Bangladesh, said, "The developed countries don't want to finance loss and damage. They said that after every cyclone or disaster, they provide help. So why the need for new funds for loss and damage? We are now negotiating that."

At the summit, developing countries also said only holding conferences would not be enough if the working groups do not ensure the implementation of goals.

Discussions are ongoing on Article 6 of the Paris Climate Agreement to establish an international market to mitigate global emissions.

Mirza Shawkat Ali, the Bangladesh negotiator on Article 6, said, "We have some recommendations on it. Like other developing countries, our demand is to increase the levy from 2% to 5%, which is kept for adaptation. However, no decision has yet been taken as developed countries have not agreed."

Apart from the stalemate, one major success of the summit is the agreement to implement the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forests and Land Use, which has been endorsed by 134 countries, including Brazil, which has the world's largest forest. The declaration aims to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.

Moreover, some countries have updated their net zero targets. 

The World Bank will also commit to spending $25 billion in climate finance annually through its Climate Action Plan, including a focus on agriculture and food systems. 

Furthermore, 23 countries have made national climate education pledges, including net-zero schools and putting climate at the heart of national curriculums. The UK leads 45 governments in new pledges to protect nature.

Professor Saleemul Huq said that there were some prospects of good results, but not significant results at the Glasgow summit. 

Helen Mountford, vice president, Climate and Economics of World Resources Institute, felt "there is some positive momentum and the negotiations are still on track."

This story was originally published by The Business Standard on November 7, 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: An employee cleans the podium before the arrival of leaders for the UN Climate Change Conference / Credit: Adrian Dennis/Pool via Reuters