No room for hollow promises in COP27

Ahmed Morsy , Thursday 17 Nov 2022

“Formulating an agenda that satisfies 197 parties was not an easy job but it was done. We have a good record in terms of items that have been included," Cecilia Kinuthia Njenga, director of the Intergovernmental Process and Collective Progress at UNFCCC, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Youth climate activists hold signs that read  from COP27 to G20 fight for 1.5   photo: AP
Youth climate activists hold signs that read from COP27 to G20 fight for 1.5 photo: AP


"One of the bottlenecks we now face, however, is an agreement among the parties on how finance will be addressed,” Njenga stressed.

The UNFCCC official was referring to the fact the COP27 agenda included loss and damage for the first time, though an agreement on funding still has to emerge.

Njenga believes that when ministers and leaders take over the final discussions, good will, cooperation, and genuine concern about the effects of climate change will be needed.

For Michael Scoullos, holder of the UNESCO Chair on Sustainable Development Management and Education for Sustainable Development in the Mediterranean and professor of oceanography and environmental chemistry at Athens University, COP27 should be judged not only on its final declaration but also for the dynamics it creates, maintains, and enhances.

Contributing to its success, he said, is that the private sector and philanthropists made generous pledges in mobilising funding for both adaptation and mitigation. The overall language used was also more mature than before, bringing more sectors together.

“I hope that the final declaration of COP27 will reflect all the above and add some concrete numbers and dates,” Scoullos told the Weekly.

It needs to recognise that much effort has already been invested and projects in the pipeline must be supported and promoted. “COP27 has managed, in a period of extraordinary international turmoil, to attract great interest, recognition and commitment for work and resources for climate change.”

Cassie Flynn, the strategic adviser on climate change at UNDP, believes that to make COP27 a success “we have to come together on the climate crisis, which is on our doorstep… We have no time to lose.”

Three things are really important, she said. The first is to show ambition and acceleration since the 1.5 degrees Celsius target must stay alive. COP27 has to put the world on track to close gaps in mitigation, cut emissions, boost climate resilience and address the issue of climate finance and loss and damage.

The second point, according to Flynn, is credibility. “We have to show that governments, business, investors, cities, and regions can deliver on the promises they have made over the years, and that there is real action and real progress on the ground.”

The third issue is solidarity and climate justice. “The climate crisis doesn’t affect us all equally… There are countries and communities that are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate crisis facing huge debt problems.” This means that when a climate catastrophe strikes — like a category-five storm or a flood — the building back process is much harder.

“We have to get concrete results on loss and damage and climate finance to prove that the world can come together.”

“Given that it is the African COP, to be successful it must respond to our aspirations as Africans,” Fidele Niyigaba, communications and knowledge management manager at the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), told the Weekly. PACJA is a consortium of more than 1,000 organisations from 48 African states which share a vision on how to address the climate and environmental challenges facing the planet.

Kenya’s President William Ruto, chair of the Committee of African Heads of State on Climate Change, has underlined that by 2050 climate impacts will cost African nations $50 billion annually.

“This COP should resolve our long-standing special needs and circumstances, address loss and damage and adaptation funding, and be a COP of action not speeches. If it is not, then it is a failed COP,” Niyigaba said.

Africa, according to PACJA, suffers severe climate change impacts not only because it is exposed to unrivalled weather extremes but because it is heavily dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as rain-fed agriculture for economic services and livelihoods and has little capacity to respond adequately due to chronic poverty.

John Nordbo, senior climate advocacy advisor at CARE, also believes that COP27’s success will be judged on its ability to create financial mechanisms to help developing countries deal with climate catastrophes.

“Many poor people are being hit harder and harder by flooding, drought and hurricanes despite not having contributed to climate change. This is fundamentally unjust and polluting countries must agree to help them out,” said Nordbo.

During COP15, developed countries pledged to provide scaled up, new and additional finance to the value of $100 billion a year by 2020 to support the global South with their climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts, pledges that have not been delivered and which, according to Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN climate change high level champion for Egypt, represent no more than three per cent of the required climate action financing.

Egypt’s Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad made the same point on Sunday, saying that developing countries need between $140 and $300 billion in climate finance until 2030, while double that sum — between $280-450 billion — will be needed till 2050.

Even as it is, “most climate finance is taken from development aid budgets, meaning less support for education, health, women’s rights etc. This practice needs to stop,” Nordbo told the Weekly.

Annual climate finance reported collectively by Annex II Parties from 2011 to 2018, and amounts that can be considered “new and additional” in USD billions. (Source: CARE report)

While it appears that climate finance has increased over time, the proportion presented as “new and additional” has in fact decreased over eight years as most public climate finance reported by rich countries is taken directly from development aid budgets, CARE said in its June report. The “world’s richest countries top-up climate finance with funds diverted from world’s poorest,” meaning less finance for broader development priorities which threatens the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Schematic outlining the climate finance qualifying as new and additional under the definition: Fund above a baseline of development finance in 2009. (Source: CARE report)

CARE’s findings were echoed in the latest report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“A key agreement was that climate financing should be new and additional and not at the expense of SDGs. Resources prioritising climate at the cost of non-climate development finance increases the vulnerability of a population for any given level of climate shocks. Additionality of climate financing is essential,” the IPCC said in its 2022 report.

Climate finance reported by Annex II Parties to the UNFCCC from 2011 to 2018 and amounts which can be considered “new and additional” in USD billions. (Source: CARE report)

The CARE report found that G7 and other rich countries have made use of hollow definitions of “new and additional” to overreport their climate finance. Of the total $220 billion of climate finance provided between 2011 and 2018, G7 members collectively accounted for 85 per cent of the total and have consistently failed to provide climate finance on top of their existing development aid obligations.

Absolute and relative amounts of reported and new and additional climate finance contributed by members of the Group of Seven (G7). (Source: CARE report)

“It is quite shocking to see that the world’s leading nations do not care about their international commitments to support climate and development in poor countries. Instead of being the backbone of global governance, these countries undermine international cooperation and create mistrust in the rest of the world,” Nordbo said.

According to the report, just three of the world’s richest countries — Luxembourg, Norway, and Sweden — consistently provided “new and additional” climate finance on top of their existing development aid budgets.

NGOs also point to overreporting by multilateral development banks (MDBs), including the World Bank, which are responsible for a large portion of the climate finance provided to low- and middle-income countries globally. In 2020, the World Bank Group reported to have delivered $21.3 billion in climate finance (56 per cent of the MDBs total), with $17.2 billion contributed by the bank’s main lending arms.

Yet despite it being the largest multilateral provider of climate finance the World Bank provides little to support its own claims, said Oxfam in a briefing paper, “Unaccountable Accounting: The World Bank’s Unreliable Climate Finance Reporting”, issued in October 2022.

Oxfam examined how the World Bank’s reported climate finance is being calculated.

“Oxfam’s audit found that the World Bank’s claims could be off by as much as $7 billion, or 40 per cent, based on publicly available information,” the report said.

Oxfam concluded that the only way to have confidence in the World Bank’s climate finance accounting is through public disclosure of documentation that shows how climate finance assessments are made.

One sign of progress at COP27, reported by AP on Monday, is the increasing amount of attention being paid to how international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank actually work.

World Bank President David Malpass, nominated by the Trump administration in 2019, is under pressure from the US, Europe and others to develop a new roadmap for the World Bank’s response to climate change this year, AP reported.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, a leading voice for reform, and others are calling for $1 trillion already in the international financial system to be redirected to climate resilience projects to help vulnerable countries protect themselves from future climate disasters.

At COP27, AP reported, French President Emmanuel Macron supported Mottley’s call for a shake-up in how international finance works, and together they have agreed to set up a group to suggest changes at the next meeting of IMF and World Bank governors in spring 2023.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

Short link: