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Cop26: Countries hit worst by climate change call for $500bn by 2024

The 55 countries that make up the Climate Vulnerable Forum called on rich countries to deliver on climate financing promises at Cop26 in Glasgow. (Credit: Geneva Solutions/Michelle Langrand)

A group of 55 countries among the worst hit by climate change called for stronger commitments on financial support on the second day of climate talks in Glasgow. 

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) tabled on Tuesday a list of demands for rich countries. These include $500bn of climate finance to be delivered between 2020 and 2024, of which half should go towards adapting to climate impacts and half to mitigation through reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Beyond 2025, the billions should turn to trillions, according to the text endorsed by the cross-regional group of 55 countries, which was joined by seven new members, including Uganda, Nicaragua and Benin.

The group also proposed yearly updates to national plans to slash carbon emissions, financial support for loss and damage and at least five per cent of the proceeds from carbon markets to go towards climate adaptation financing.

“1.5ºC is within reach and I believe that by the end of the conference and hopefully by the end of tomorrow we will have certainty on that,” Maldives former president and CFV’s ambassador for ambition Mohamed Nasheed told Geneva Solutions.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, who expressed support for the CVF proposal, said that “vulnerable countries are not the cause of climate disruption”.

“Advanced economies are investing nearly 28 per cent of their gross domestic product into economic recovery. For middle-income countries, that number falls to 6.5 per cent,” he said, calling on countries to deliver on their $100bn promise to “rebuild trust” on the Paris agreement.

But the group faces an uphill battle as it is still unclear how wealthy countries will deliver the money that was promised. Developing countries pledged over ten years ago to put up $100bn a year to help developing countries fight climate challenges, but have missed the mark every single year by several billions.

The closest to a roadmap that exists so far was published by the UK last week. Developed in partnership with Canada and Germany, the delivery plan projects that the annual $100bn goal will not be met before 2023 but says that developed countries should go beyond the $100bn in 2024 and 2025, essentially making up for the billions that might be missing from the next two years.

“We expect that this demand of $500bn will be fulfilled but we want an action plan and monitoring,” Bangladesh’s special envoy to the CVF Abul Kalam Azad told Geneva Solutions.

As part of the demands, the CVF is proposing that the International Monetary Fund act as an independent monitor. Until now, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has been in charge of keeping track of climate financial flows but observers have said that it is like having developed countries grade their own homework.

“What we are seeing is actually a reclassification of development financing that was already there,” Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali told state delegations.

“There needs to be accountability,” he added.

The group also stressed the need to split the money between adaptation and mitigation as initially agreed. Currently, only a third of investment goes towards adaptation, which entails making the necessary adjustments to face the immediate impacts of climate change such as restoring wetlands that protect communities from floods or developing drought-resilient crops.

Debt relief and restructuring  is also one of the conditions, which they argue overburdens developing countries and which is getting worse as climate finance is increasingly made up of loans and less so in grants. “All of the CVF countries pay more than 30 per cent of adaptation, and then another 20 per cent that we took in loans to make a bridge or a house,” Nasheed told state representatives.

Another key demand is having countries step up their climate targets every year at every COP.  Countries are supposed to update their so-called nationally determined contributions, or NDCs, every five years under the Paris agreement, but most missed last year’s deadline and many have yet to do so.

The measure however is the one which is likely to face the most push back from other countries, said Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands. “It's been really difficult to get countries especially the developed countries on board with ramping up their NDCs so that will be a tough challenge,” she told Geneva Solutions.

As a group of small economies, the CVF will have to fight tooth and nail to get their demands met. “I'm aware of the CVF proposal here and I look forward to hearing your delegations raise these details through the negotiating groups,” Cop26 president Alok Sharma said at the launch of the declaration.

“Yet ultimately, we must find a consensus. So I asked leaders to instruct your ministers and negotiators to come armed with the currency of compromise as we try and build consensus.”

Hitting back on the criticism of big economies, US climate envoy John Kerry said that the US as well as a handful of developed countries were doing their part by submitting plans that were aligned with the 1.5ºC goal, while others – without giving out any names – were not.

“I’m going to be direct with you folks. Your complaint about what got us here is legitimate. But a future is going to be defined by what we choose to do and people are not choosing to do what we need to do,” he told delegates.

The US and other developed countries have not been fond of imposing financing obligations.

“They're killing themselves if they think that big developing countries are going to play ball with the Paris agreement if they don't restore confidence on finance,” Matthew McKinnon, president of the CVF’s secretariat based in Geneva, told Geneva Solutions.

Asked how the group would make sure that wealthy countries engage, Jetnil-Kijiner said: “Our strategy is to use the coalition that's been developed within the CVF between our different nations and use the moral authority that comes with pulling together as the most vulnerable, to be able to influence some of the negotiation process and bring our initiatives into those discussions.”

The Marshall Islands is also the founder of the High Ambition Coalition, a group of developed and developing countries lobbying for tougher climate targets. “The Marshall Islands is using our position in both [groups] to try to make sure that the different initiatives are pushed in different areas,” Jetnil-Kijiner added.