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‘Stop wars and step up ‘measly’ contributions’ to climate finance

Guest content
21 December 2023

The United State’s contribution to the Loss and Damage Fund equals nine minutes of Pentagon spending, says Jeffrey D. Sachs, renowned economist and global leader in sustainable development.

While the Loss and Damage Fund promise was made at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, this was the first major milestone announced at COP28 in Dubai. So far, pledged contributions by various countries to the World Bank-hosted Loss and Damage Fund have reached USD 700 million. While this is a major step in the right direction, there are concerns that the fund is too small and that powerful nations are not doing enough to halt the pace and rate of climate change.

“The COP process is still a formalism, not a breakthrough.  Yes, there is a new losses and damages fund, but it is tiny—USD 700 million pledged—compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars of climate-related losses each year,” Sachs says.

Estimates are that by 2030, the total estimate of loss and damage for developing countries could be between USD 290 billion and USD 580 billion; another says it is USD 400 billion per year and rising.

Africa is on the frontlines of the devastating effects of climate change, despite accounting for the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions—3.8 percent.

“The US pledged a measly USD 17.5 million, which equals nine minutes of Pentagon spending. All other financing remains tiny compared to the real needs.  The US and Europe are engaged in war, not in climate financing.  The wars in Ukraine and Gaza are the only things of interest to US foreign policy,” Sachs told IPS. “John Kerry is powerless in reality.  He is there to give speeches.  He has no authority to deliver any real policies.”

He says it is crucial to stop the wars; once that is done, real diplomacy could start.

“On to COP29, in a rapidly warming world of great danger.  The first priority is to stop the wars, and that requires the world community to tell the US to stop the warmongering and to force Israel to stop the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Gaza.  By stopping the wars, we could begin real climate diplomacy among the major fossil-fuel-producing countries.  The top three fossil-fuel-producing countries are China, the US, and Russia.  The three need to cooperate.  That depends on a fundamental change in US foreign policy.”

The Loss and Damage Fund refers to the economic, social, and cultural losses and damages caused by anthropogenic climate change to natural and human systems. It is a vehicle to deliver climate justice to communities disproportionately affected by climate change. The climate injustice lies in the fact that, despite a low carbon footprint, developing countries are facing the full force of climatic changes, slowly wiping out their biodiversity and destroying lives, livelihoods, and cultural heritage.

Climate change is the most serious threat facing culture today. Globally, World Heritage properties are bearing the brunt of climate change, from increasing ocean acidification, desertification, droughts, floods, and fires related to rising temperatures. Climate change is slowly eradicating the African coast and its cultural heritage; 20 percent of Africa’s heritage sites are in danger.

Communities uprooted by climate-induced disasters are losing their ways of life, including the preservation of traditions for future generations. This is the cultural cost of climate change for many vulnerable communities, particularly indigenous people, who are currently suffering greatly from severe and drastic changes in weather patterns.

Vulnerable developing nations face greater risk from climate change and lack the funds to recover from climate events that have become increasingly frequent and more severe. While some losses from climate-induced disasters are impossible to recover from, such as loss of life, the fund is expected to help build better infrastructure after a severe climatic event.

While there is wide applause for the loss and damage fund, there is also criticism that the fund’s contributions at COP28 thus far cover less than 0.2 percent of climate-induced losses in developing countries. Additionally, powerful nations are reluctant to address critical issues such as phasing out fossil fuels that could significantly slow down climate change, giving Africa and other vulnerable nations in the global South much-needed relief.

“The United States political class is not serious. China is more interested.  Only an end to the wars, followed by serious negotiations among the major fossil-fuel producers, will work. The top 10 fossil fuel producers are: China, US, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, Iran, and Iraq. These 10 countries need to make serious, cooperative, and coordinated plans to phase out their production. They have not yet begun to hold such talks. In the meantime, funding for Africa is also seriously neglected,” Sachs says.

To reaffirm the 1.5°C-aligned energy transition, COP28 set out to firm up a number of ambitious goals, such as tripling global renewable energy generation capacity by 2030, doubling annual energy efficiency improvements by 2030, and an orderly decline in fossil fuel use demand by 2030, starting with no new coal plants.

The Summit further sought commitment from the oil and gas industry to align their strategies and investment portfolios with 1.5°C, with a focus on a 75 percent reduction in methane emissions by 2030. And financing mechanisms for a major scaling-up of clean energy investment in emerging and developing economies.

However, on Monday, December 11, 2023, the draft text of the agreement excluded the words “phase-out” or “phase-down” of fossil fuels, instead only promising to reduce oil and gas, and several countries, including Australia, the US, the UK, Canada, and Japan, said they would not sign what would essentially be “death certificates for many small island states.”

The first-ever global stocktake, released in October 2023 ahead of the Dubai Summit, revealed that the world is not on track to achieve the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. It is the first time that a UN climate summit has surveyed progress towards achieving the goals agreed in 2015, following the landmark Paris COP.

The stocktake report is akin to an inventory, as it looked at everything related to where the world stands on climate action and support. It provides a critical turning point. At COP28, UN member states will negotiate their response to the stocktake’s findings, looking at the state of planet Earth, and chart the best course for the survival of both planet and humankind.

Original source / Image credit: Inter Press Service