COPs, the climate crisis and broken financial promises

COP27 Demonstrators

Demonstrators protesting against the lack of ambition shown at COP27 climate conference held in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Photo credit: Courtesy | AFP

The rallying call of COP27 is to “take action and tackle the climate emergency”.

Yet the $100 billion a year pledged to developing nations at previous COPs has not been forthcoming. Advanced countries and donors that made those promises are now delaying the matter until 2025.

UN summits are platforms to exchange views, strengthen networks, develop programmes and sign agreements. Their success has been mixed. Negotiations on programme financing are often laborious and arduous for developing nations with limited financial resources and capacity. Invariably, developing nations leave these summits disappointed. 

A typical example was the 1992 Rio Summit, in Brazil. With more than 30,000 participants, it was one the biggest. Negotiations around financing took many days but the conference report on financing, Agenda 21 Chapter 37, was inconclusive—a trend which has continued. How can this be avoided, considering the human hours which go into the preparation and negotiation of these conferences?

First, and ironically, funds have not been delivered because a major part of them is in the form of grants. Were they loans, with the associated need to repay them and accrued interest, it is likely that the money would have been made available by now.

Loss and damage

Secondly, developing countries introduced a ‘loss and damage’ item into the COP27 agenda. That is necessary. But given recent and current disasters—floods, droughts, famine and bushfires—another fund could lead to further fragmentation and delays in realising the original promise. Experts say it would be unlikely to receive many contributions. 

Some donors suggest that existing international funds be leveraged to tackle loss and damage. But critics say during a disaster, there are invariably long delays before donor countries make funds available. Moreover, funds for humanitarian aid are often limited and shared among many humanitarian organisations; by the time they reach the target population or disaster areas, they are severely depleted. 

Establishing a loss and damage facility is tricky. Major donors have been lukewarm on the issue due to the possibility of subsequent liability claims. If they do not see the need for such a facility, then let them increase their contribution to humanitarian aid programmes. At the moment, this is not the case.

A third and radical approach to generate funding is to apply the ‘polluter-pays principle’. The fund would target major emitters, such as oil companies. The fossil fuel sector contributes 30 per cent of carbon emissions.

Oil companies and their countries of origin should be made to contribute to this fund. But the challenge is that some of the big oil companies are based in developing countries—such as Petronas, in Malaysia, Sinotrach (Algeria), Senangol (Angola), Petrobras (Brazil) and Sinopec (China). 

The G22 must also be targeted; they are responsible for more than two-thirds of carbon emissions. That will not only yield funds to finance climate disasters but also incentivise fossil fuel companies to transition to producing cleaner energy.

COPs energise people; yet the citizens, especially in developing countries, see very little results flowing from there. The ideas generated are good but should be accompanied by gestures of funding to mitigate and adapt to climate change. To address the calamities of the climate crisis, we appeal for generosity from Opec and the G22, just like that shown by the major powers during the Covid-19 pandemic!

Dr Kakonge, PhD, development expert, was Kenya’s Permanent Representative and Ambassador to the UN Office and WTO in Geneva. [email protected].