Climate change: Will the rich bury the poor?

By Greg Odogwu

This year’s midterm climate negotiation in Bonn, Germany, was heartrending. Going with what came out from the talks, the world may as well kiss our net-zero emissions dream goodbye. The developing world needs money to set our countries on the path to an emissions-free future, as agreed by the world. The Bonn Climate Change Conference, which took place from 6 June to 16 June, was expected to flesh out and tie up the major areas of collaboration between nations, especially regarding the Green Climate Fund. But it failed to deliver.

The poor countries of the world are in dire need of green funds. But, it seems the longer they wait for the cash, the more the caskets are buried. The ordinary man in the street, who may not even understand the meaning of net-zero emissions, still has a grasp of the impacts of climate change – extreme weather events, storms, floods and droughts. This is because they suffer the effects of climate change more than the rich nations, yet they have less financial capacity to cope with these exigencies.

At Bonn, the poor countries’ negotiators argued that the climate change they are experiencing has been caused by carbon emitted by richer countries as they developed their economies. They said that Europe and the United States of America have a responsibility now to compensate them for this. But the US and Europe did not agree. Perhaps, they feared that if they paid for historic carbon emissions, it could put their countries on the hook for billions of dollars for decades or even centuries to come.

The talks that ended in Bonn last week are a key item on the annual climate agenda, setting the stage for the United Nations-sponsored Conference of Parties, or COP, in November. For two weeks, negotiators worked to translate into action the big commitments made at the twenty-sixth COP in Glasgow last year, in preparation for COP27 later this year.

Alas, it is like a déjà vu. During the last year’s pre-COP negotiations, there was also no agreement. A target for rich countries to provide poor nations with $100 billion in aid each year to tackle global warming was missed, which effectively slowed down the climate talks at Glasgow, last year November. Senior officials from Britain, Canada and Germany, who had hoped to break a deadlock in negotiations later announced that current data showed the goal would not be reached until 2023 — three years later than agreed.

The gloom is deepening; failure to fulfil the pledge first made in 2009 and reaffirmed at the 2015 Paris climate talks, has been a source of deep frustration for developing countries. Yet, the experts still maintained optimism and confidence that the $100 billion would be met in 2023, and importantly, projecting that the $100 billion would be exceeded in subsequent years, with up to $117 billion being mobilized in 2025. To be specific, they projected that over the 2021-2025 period, $500 million would likely be mobilized in public and private finance.

Subsequently, the COP26 at Glasgow delivered a half-full cup. The package of decisions consists of a range of agreed items, including strengthened efforts to build resilience to climate change, to curb greenhouse gas emissions and to provide the necessary finance for both. Nations reaffirmed their duty to fulfil the pledge of providing 100 billion dollars annually from developed to developing countries. And they collectively agreed to work to reduce the gap between existing reduction plans and what is required to reduce emissions, so that the rise in the global average temperature can be limited to 1.5 degrees. Remarkably, for the first time, nations were called upon to phase down unabated coal power and inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.

Going from the above, there was still a window for optimism as we entered 2022. However, these hopes now seem lost when the Bonn conference became a manifest disappointment. After two weeks of talks, negotiations representing dozens of developing nations left Germany empty-handed as rich countries blocked their attempts to secure compensation for the damage caused by climate change.

The debate around “loss and damage” has been ongoing since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was approved in 1992. While rich countries have recognized that global warming leads to disasters that are impossible to adapt to, they had never agreed that it warranted financial compensation. However, the final resolve to set up the 100-billion-dollar green climate fund for the developing world had made the world move forward. This is why the implementation is critical. Meanwhile, the issue is still expected to take centre stage at COP27 IN Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, end of this year.

Now, in order to put this in perspective, we could look at Nigeria’s latest promise to the world. A few days ago, the president, General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) renewed Nigeria’s commitment for a safer and healthier global climate with the inclusion of elimination of kerosene lighting by 2030, increase in use of buses for public transport and reduction in burning of crop residues. He laid out these plans as they are contained in our country’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution, while in a virtual meeting hosted by President Joe Biden of the US on Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate Change (NDCs are a set of pledged climate action plans of individual nations who are signatory to the UNFCCC).

Herein lies the paradox: The American negotiators refused to make…

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