In less than a month, the world’s governments will gather in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt for COP27, a crucial summit on climate change. This is a time when there needs to be complete unity of purpose among the 198 countries that are members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, while the impacts of climate change are being felt around the world, unity is the one thing that seems to be in short supply.
It remains to be seen how the summit will be affected by geopolitical tensions between the EU and the US on one side and Russia and China on the other. However, there are other factors at play as well. For one thing, this has to be the summit where climate justice has to take centre-stage. Put simply, the world’s richest countries have to deliver on funding promises made to developing nations. In fact, the rich countries—which account for an overwhelming amount of historic carbon emissions that is causing the climate crisis—have to go even further when it comes to making “loss and damage” payments to poorer countries.
One of the biggest sources of frustration at COP26 at Glasgow last year was the fact that a crucial climate adaptation fund was not delivered. In 2009, developed nations pledged to deliver $100 billion a year (starting in 2020) to less developed countries to help them adapt to climate change. This was a move that was rooted in climate justice. However, by end 2021, that fund was still pending. The final agreement of COP26 stated that it “urges developed country parties to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to developing country Parties from 2019 levels by 2025, in the context of achieving a balance between mitigation and adaptation in the provision”. This year, developed countries have to come good on that pledge.
Getting developed nations to own up to their historical emissions failed at COP26, and is going to be an uphill task at COP27, especially given the fact that rich nations like the UK are currently headed by politicians who think that colonialism was a good thing. “It is very clear why the reluctance is there. They are afraid of making themselves open to liability and compensation. As you know, even the term ‘loss and damage’ is, in fact, a euphemism for a liabilities and compensation fund. We have finally forced them to talk about it here,” said Prof. Saleemul Huq to Lounge at COP26 last year. Haq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh.
The countries of the Global South, however, are increasingly vocal about the fact that they are tired of rich nations talking only about hypothetical “net zero” futures. Developed nations have to lead the way with deep cuts in carbon emissions right now, and channel more finance to vulnerable countries. This year’s COP has to be about climate justice. But with the global energy crisis and rising inflation in the rich countries, that might be an uphill task.