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COP26 delegates tentatively agree on need for more climate finance, adaptation goals

10 November 2021 Amena Saiyid

As the UN COP26 meeting on climate enters its final days, negotiations are still underway among the delegates from the 200 countries on a final accord with a more ambitious climate financing commitment beyond 2025 from developed countries as well as a quantified goal for climate adaptation.

Delegates also are struggling to reach consensus on closing the loopholes in a global carbon trading scheme.

Despite exhortations by COP26 President Alok Sharma to come "armed with the currency of compromise" during a morning plenary session on 10 November, delegates from the developing countries remained concerned, and at times exasperated, with the lack of progress on climate financing commitments, especially as it pertained to adaptation and loss and damage that they have already suffered from.

A draft accord released before dawn on 10 November by the COP26 Presidency reveals some consensus, including a first-time call to all parties to "accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels," but stops short of including any deadlines.

The draft language also reaffirms "the long-term global goal to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels." It also recognizes with "alarm" that human activities have caused 1.1 degrees C in global warming despite the efforts taken to date.

The draft language came a day after UN researchers updated their global warming projections, revealing that a continuation of current policies will result in global warming of 2.8 degrees C with a 66% probability over the course of the 21st century, with a range of 2.3-3.3 degrees C due to uncertainties about how substantial emissions would be after 2030. These projections are a full degree of warming more than the 1.5 degrees C where the world needs to be to avoid the catastrophic impacts from climate change.

Need to address climate adaptation

However, "even if the world limits warming to 1.5 degrees C or 2 degrees C, as outlined in the [Paris Agreement], many climate risks remain," the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a 4 November report outlining the gap between the financing committed for climate financing and actual figures.

"While strong mitigation is the best way to lower impacts and long-term costs, raising ambition in adaptation, in particular for financing and implementation, is critical to keep existing gaps from widening," the UNEP added.

The draft language in the accord that is yet to be agreed on by the nearly 200 delegates to COP26 recognizes this gap, and emphasizes the need for significantly enhanced funding beyond the $100 billion a year in climate financing that developed countries committed to more than a decade ago. Sharma said this pledge would finally be met in 2023, after falling short in 2022.

It also emphasizes the urgency to scale up action to enhance the adaptive capacity and resilience, and to reducing the vulnerability of developing nations, including those that are most vulnerable to climate impacts. And it "notes with concern" that the current level of climate financing is "insufficient to respond to worsening climate change impacts."

Delegates representing countries making up the Least Developed Countries group (LDC) remain frustrated with the lack of progress on the current level of funding or guidance on how the financing already allocated will be disbursed.

LDC refers to 47 nations that are especially vulnerable to climate change despite having done the least to cause the problem. It includes Bhutan, which will hold the presidency of the group until the end of the year, and Uganda, which in recent years has been subjected to intense and frequent floods and accompanying landslides, resulting in loss of crop lands and deaths.

In its revised Nationally Determined Contribution to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement, Uganda said "adaptation remains the country's priority response to climate change."

Global goal for adaptation

In its report, the UNEP revealed that the costs of adaptation will likely be at the higher end of an estimated $140 billion to $300 billion per year range by 2030, and between $280 billion and $500 billion per year by 2050 for developing countries. In contrast, the report noted that climate finance flowing to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation planning and implementation reached just $79.6 billion in 2019.

Aminath Shauna, who heads the Maldives' Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology and was charged by Sharma with seeking delegate views on adaptation, said there is consensus on setting up a two-year work program to develop a global goal for adaptation.

Reporting on climate financing, Egyptian Minister for Environmental Affairs Yasmine Fouad said she said she found delegates agreeing on a need for long-term climate financing and that the financing should clearly be linked with adaptation goals.

Delivering a message on behalf of the intergovernmental group of 77 developing countries (G77) and China, the delegate from the Republic of Guinea said "we remained extremely concerned with the lack of progress on finance issues."

However, he supported the plan for two-year work program to launch a global adaptation goal, saying "work on this issue has been long delayed and needs to be fast-tracked."

Raising money for adaptation

During his turn to speak, EU Climate Chief Frans Timmerman noted that in the past three days nearly $800 million has been raised to support climate adaptation in the most-vulnerable countries, with more than three-quarters of that figure coming from Europe.

Acknowledging the urgency with which adaptation measures need to be addressed, Timmerman said: "We call on those [countries] who have not yet done so, to scale up their efforts now. Adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same coin and both deserve the full measures of financial support."

At a press briefing following the draft language release, Uganda Minister of State for Environment Beatrice Anywar Atim said "the negotiations are just starting." However, she said her message to developed countries, which are responsible for most of the world's GHG emissions, is that the goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C will require them to "redouble their efforts" and to increase financing, particularly for those countries that need to adapt to climate change impacts.

Elaborating on Atim's remarks, Bob Natifu, acting commissioner for climate change with the Ugandan Ministry for Water and Environment, said Uganda hopes that the conversations that have advanced in the last few days of the summit will garner opportunities that respond to the needs of Uganda and other developing countries.

While the conversation at the global level has focused on mitigation measures to reduce GHGs, Natifu said the challenges Uganda faces puts the "spotlight on adaptation," which requires financing.

Uganda, for instance, cannot implement its nature-based solutions without technology, without capacity to implement the technology, and without financing, he said.

Removing fossil fuel subsidies

Environmental groups, notably the US-based nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, was "shocked" by the inclusion of fossil fuel language in the draft text.

"Shockingly, this is the first mention of fossil fuels in the text of a global climate negotiations agreement. That's a very big deal, because it shows the tide is turning against the oil, gas and coal companies that knowingly caused the climate crisis and blocked solutions," Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Energy Justice Program, said in a statement.

Commenting on the draft as a whole, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who serves as the global leader for climate and energy at the nonprofit World Wildlife Fund, said this draft is "a floor not the ceiling" because some of the points raised in the draft must be developed in detail.

On climate finance, for instance, Pulgar-Vidal said, the countries need to clearer about the $100 billion a year they have committed until 2025 and beyond. "Lack of money means consequences, negative consequences to countries that already are suffering," he added.

Sharma agreed that on some of the issues on which there is disagreement there remain "mountains to climb," but said he is confident that a final accord will be reached by the close of 12 November when COP26 formally concludes.

Posted 10 November 2021 by Amena Saiyid, Senior Climate and Energy Research Analyst

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