Little hope for climate finance in Bonn conference

climate change, bonn conference

Protesters at Bonn Climate Conference. 


What you need to know:

  • Negotiators have fallen short of agreeing on whether mitigation should be included in the conversation, further scattering hope for an agenda.
  • While Bonn was expected to deliver bigger targets for the Global Goal on Adaptation, disputes among negotiators have left this ambition somewhat paralysed.

Too little. Too slow. Dying hope. This is the situation of adaptation finance at the ongoing climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

Experts interviewed by Healthy Nation on the sidelines of the event reveal the complex nature of climate finance talks, saying the first week of the conference set to close later this week has yielded minimal promise for a truly transformative resolution. 

"We have been pushing for targets and indicators for the overall goals and the sectoral goals. Right now the views are completely divergent. But the bigger problem has been failure by parties to agree on and adopt the agenda’’ says Fatuma Huseein, a senior adaptation advisor from Kenya. 

Fatuma reveals that negotiators have also fallen short of agreeing on whether mitigation should be included in the conversation, further scattering hope for an agenda.

While Bonn was expected to deliver bigger targets for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), Fatuma says disputes among negotiators have left this ambition somewhat paralysed.

GGA was established under the Paris Agreement in 2015 to enhance climate change adaptation by increasing awareness of and funding towards countries’ adaptation needs.

‘‘Much of the work on finance will take place at COP28. This is a political matter that requires political push by [country] leaders,’’ she adds.

Ghanaian climate activist and founder of Green Africa Youth Organisation (GAYO) Joshua Amponsem says as things stand, a deal on adaptation at the talks will be a miracle.

‘‘Unlike the period between COP26 and 27, there is little momentum for doubling finance and mobilising finance for adaptation. Most of the attention on finance has shifted to loss and damage funding,’’ he says while describing the situation as unfortunate.

Delegates from developing countries, known as the Global South, have also renewed calls to restructure climate finance, observing that at least 70 per cent of the funds from wealthy nations (Global North) for mitigation and adaptation have often come in the form of loans. This burdens countries that are already struggling with the climate crisis amid weak economies, he says.

By approving a $150 million loan to support community-led resilience projects in all rural wards in Kenya in 2021, for instance, the World Bank effectively compounded the country’s debt distress. Kenya currently owes Sh10 trillion ($77 billion), thus limiting the government’s ability to adequately support vulnerable Kenyans ravaged by drought, food insecurity and other climate-related complications.

Joshua faults wealthy nations for ‘‘imposing’’ loans on poor countries in the name of climate finance. ‘‘You cannot ask people to take loans for recovery from the climate crisis. This is not acceptable,’’ he adds.

The stalemate in Bonn mirrors findings of a United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report last year that highlighted the sluggishness of finance flows to adaptation projects around the world. The Adaptation Gap Report that was released just before COP27 in Egypt indicated that international financial support for developing countries ranges between five and 10 times below the estimated needs, with the gap said to widen by the year.

This, in effect, puts the estimated $250 billion required annually by 2030 to meet adaptation needs in serious jeopardy, the report noted.

But conversations on climate action are not straightforward. Rather, they are a winding and complicated process. Foremost, climate action is divided into three elements, namely adaptation finance, mitigation and loss and damage (L&D) passed last year at COP27 in Egypt.

There is also no universal agreement on what should constitute climate finance and who should benefit from its flows.

Interestingly, some quarters observe that it is practically impossible to envision and attain a global goal on adaptation, since adaptation interventions are country-specific, depending on the nature of the crises if each individual country.

On beneficiaries, Fatuma says developing countries have never agreed on who is eligible for climate compensation. She argues that Latin American countries have been hellbent on blocking the recognition of African nations as vulnerable. To date, only island states are considered at most risk of climate-induced disruption, she notes.

‘‘Their argument is that African countries are only underdeveloped and essentially not vulnerable to impacts of climate change,’’ she says.

Paradoxically, though, various past studies, including the March report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have concluded that poor countries are less capable of coping with climate upsets and, therefore, at higher risk of devastation. 

In Kenya and elsewhere in the world, adaptation interventions are mostly carried out in the agriculture sector, water conservation and preservation of ecosystems. These activities have gained prominence in recent years as countries seek to cushion their populations from upheavals caused by the changing climate.

Fatuma says negotiators had a two-year mandate to smooth out differences and reach a resolution on the Global Goal on Adaptation. As such, the Bonn conference was a critical moment to finalise the technical aspects of the discussion.

As a climate intervention, adaptation, unlike mitigation, is considered a Global South agenda, with rich nations often hesitant to engage. There is also what appears to be outright refusal by wealthy nations to pay up for climate culpability.

But even as Global South countries push to be compensated, the UN warns that adaptation actions could be overtaken by the growing climate risks if support is not increased. The consequence of this, the body states, would be further widening of the adaptation implementation gap, compounding countries’ inability to cope with the emergency.

Joshua agrees, arguing that while adaptation is critical to the survival of humanity, it has its limits. He notes that the world is inching closer to a point where the damage will be irreversible.

‘‘It is already too late for some communities who have lost their lives and livelihoods. Coral has been lost in some parts of the world. It will take a long time to restore this. Some of it will never be recovered. When lost due to rising sea levels, heritage is not compensable,’’ he says.

Even as minimal funds trickle towards adaptation programmes, experts have faulted the developed world for their continued financing of fossil fuel projects on the continent. In what anti fossil fuel crusaders now call ‘‘dash for gas’’ European countries turned to Africa for oil and gas following the Russo-Ukrainian war that disrupted supply of the commodity.

In Africa today, several new oil and gas projects are ongoing, with others lined up to begin this year, including in Ghana, Senegal, Angola, Uganda and Nigeria.

Harjeet Singh, who heads the global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, says the $100 billion climate finance commitment made by developed countries per year is vital and that it must be this year. ‘‘Climate finance should be in the form of grants. How do you expect poor communities to pay back loans?’’ Harjeet wonders.

Nafkote Dabi, a climate change lead at Oxfam International, says ‘‘the world must move quickly from pledges in billions to trillions’’ to have a significant impact.

‘‘We need to see more money for adaptation and increased action in the world. Right now there is not enough that is being put on the table,’’ Dabi says, insisting that emission reduction is essential to help cut the cost of adaptation finance. 

Yet adapt to climate change the world has to. The other option is destruction and death. But Pratishtha Singh does not think the world is doing enough to forestall potential doom.
“We are not moving fast to help communities to adapt. Populations in developing countries are now forced to do the impossible to survive. There has to be no delay in the loss and damage fund,” says the senior international policy analyst at CAN.

“There is a lack of dedicated attention on the part of the presidency around adaptation issues. This must change forthwith,” Singh emphasises.

All is not lost though. “Countries must scale up their commitments on global goals and adaptation. Providing developing countries with technical support and the right technology is more critical than ever before.”

 Climate expert and renewable energy consultant Samira Ally says the conversation on climate finance and adaptation should happen alongside the discourse on sustainable development in Africa. Ally says commitments to pay climate finance cannot be genuine when rich counties are lumping up “climate debt” on their poor counterparts.

To her, investments in coal, gas and oil are only worsening social upheaval, environmental degradation and climate destabilisation in the countries they are being made. These investments are also hindering Africa’s development and promoting corruption, she notes, saying that continued violation of the order of the planet will further complicate the climate finance discourse.

“If world leaders are genuine in their support for development in Africa, they must shift focus by putting money in Africa’s rich renewable energy resources to spur sustainable development,” Ally says, insisting that this is the surest way to initiate equitable development and to help eradicate energy poverty.

“The outcome of the Bonn conference is important to this process going forward. To win the fight against climate change, it is imperative that conversations are steered in the direction of sustainable development.”

To these experts, the climate war has to be won, and adaptation is the best shot for humanity. They concur that the conference in Bonn must provide a clear roadmap for this quest.