November 2022: The 27th Conference of Parties of the UN Summit on Climate Change, commonly referred to as COP27 is currently underway at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt. More than 40,000 delegates and participants from all across the globe have been participating at the event and ActionAid Association is proud to be a part of this global dialogue. With the ongoing release of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Round reports, the COP27 plays a significant role in the fight against the global climate crisis. The Egyptian Presidency of the COP27 also makes us hopeful that the conference would focus on one of the most climate vulnerable areas of the world – the African continent.
The COP27 presidency has already underlined four main focal areas for discussions – adaptation, mitigation, finance and collaboration. However it becomes important for us to see that how these four areas are addressed, because developed nations, who bear the major responsibility for causing the climate crisis, have always tried to evade the responsibility of climate financing for adaptation and mitigation. In 2009, developed countries committed to jointly mobilize $100 billion annually in climate finance by 2020, so that developing countries can undertake climate “mitigation” activities to transition to greener pathways, as well as “adaptation” actions to strengthen resilience to the future impacts of climate change. While this target remains insufficient, the developed countries have repeatedly failed to meet this target. Instead of providing finance in the form of grants the majority of finance provided is in fact in the form of loans which must be repaid. According to the OECD, 60% of bilateral climate finance and 88% of multilateral climate finance between 2013 and 2019 was in the form of loans. This lack of grant-based finance is heavily detrimental to the efforts of the global south and again passes the burden to the shoulders of those who have had little role to play in creating the crisis.
In addition to this funding gap, however, there is currently no international mechanism to provide real climate finance to help countries address climate-induced loss and damage, so that they can recover, rebuild or even relocate after they have suffered from the impacts of disasters or slow-onset events. The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, created in 2013, acknowledges that “loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change includes, and in some cases involves more than, that which can be reduced by adaptation”. However, it makes no provisions for liability or compensation for loss and damage. Compensation for loss and damage should be an important agenda to be focused on at this year’s COP. While few nations like Denmark have already made announcements to finance loss and damages, the commitments remain significantly insufficient. It should be emphasized that calls for compensation at international climate negotiations are an extension of calls for reparations, and both are intrinsically linked to the language of the climate debt. Such debates regarding the framework for loss and damages in relation to compensation and reparations have high importance in furthering the ideas of climate justice.
It is to be noted that the discussions at the COP27 have already started to go down the path of market-led solutions and untested technological fixes of the climate crisis. ActionAid Association supports the call by the National Platform for Small-Scale Fish Workers, India rejecting ocean geoengineering for carbon sequestration. The method has not yet been properly tested and it can lead to further destruction of ocean biodiversity and lead to further marginalisation of small-scale fish workers. Such technical solutions again promotes that global carbon trading regimes and diverts attention from real climate solutions. There have also been calls for major overhauls of the IMF and World Bank in dealing with climate finance since the last COP in Glasgow and such calls have gained momentum. ActionAid Association welcomes an overhaul of the world’s largest multilateral financers, but only if this overhaul leads to equitable power in the hands of the global south in the management of these funds. Without changes to power structures of these institutions, any “novel and innovative development” to fund climate financing through them would again lead to manifestations of the colonial attitudes of the global north and pave way for another mode of restricting funding for the countries in need.
Lastly, the discussions on climate change has for long been a very elite discussions among governments, academia and international actors. It lacks the participation of local and marginalised communities who are at the forefront of the climate crisis. Even among the eleven thematic days of COP27, indigenous communities do not find any mention as a separate and important stakeholder group. ActionAid Association calls for further representation of various stakeholder groups including local and marginalised communities in the high-level negotiations at these conferences. Even the Working Group III of the IPCC AR6 reports on the role played by “non-state and sub-national actors including cities, businesses, indigenous Peoples, citizens including local communities and youth, transnational initiatives, and public-private entities in the global effort to address climate change.”
Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director of ActionAid Association, who will be present at Sharm El-Sheikh for the conference also concurs that, “Climate action must prioritise locally-led people-centric mitigation and adaption solutions. We must recognise vulnerable communities’ silent and unassessed contribution to climate action. These include small farmers, indigenous communities, fisherfolk, pastoralists and many informal workers such as waste pickers. These communities continue to provide ecological services, help protect carbon sinks in the form of natural resources and provide waste management services.”