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COP26 Not So Hopeful for Nations in the Throes of the Climate Emergency – Mother Jones
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COP26 Not So Hopeful for Nations in the Throes of the Climate Emergency – Mother Jones


This story was first published by The Energy Mix and is part of Covering Climate NowGlobal journalism collaboration.

If you liveThe progress at the climate talks in Glasgow is not as positive as the flurry and political grandstanding of its first few days. It’s either on a small island, or in the middle of drought-hit Africa.

“We need drastic action now to avoid the cataclysmic impacts of climate change,” said Janine Felson, deputy head of delegation for the low-lying coastal state of Belize. “Reaching net zero by 2050 is a grand target, but we need to start now and have made considerable progress by 2030. We need actions to support the rhetoric. We need to be committed and solidarious. We do not see that happening here.”

Felson serves as advisor to the Alliance of Small Island States. It is a group of 39 island and coastal states whose existence could be threatened by sea level rise and storms and loss of their water supply. “What is needed most is climate finance, and it needs to flow now.”

At the moment, aid is not increasing but it is decreasing. The last year figures showed that $1.5 billion was received by the 39 islands to adapt to climate change mitigation and adaptation. This was 25 percent less than the $2 billion that was allocated in 2018.

“None of these small countries have any responsibility for causing this problem, yet we are suffering the consequences.”

“Bear in mind none of these small countries have any responsibility for causing this problem, yet we are suffering the consequences. Then consider that half the money that has come our way is in loans, not grants, and you see where we are,” she told The Energy Mix. “It is simply not enough.”

These tiny amounts of aid were set aside by Felson against the $2.5 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies that rich countries gave last year. “If the rich world would pledge to end all fossil fuel subsidies by 2023, that would be real progress,” she said. “Climate change knows no boundaries. If that subsidy money could be diverted to us, it would be an investment in our future.”

One of the most contentious topics being discussed in closed negotiating rooms at the COP is the issue known to delegates as “loss and damage.” This is the “damages” the rich countries that have caused climate change should funnel towards those smaller, less-developed states that are already suffering climate change and cannot repair or adapt to prevent further disasters without outside financial help.

This issue has been on the Paris COP 2015 agenda, but it remains unresolved. To measure the success and viability of the talks, it is essential that progress on loss or damage is made by delegates from over 100 countries.

“There is a disconnect between the big announcements,” said Power Shift Africa Director Mohamed Adow. “If you believe in the ‘polluter pays’ principle, then the scale of the finance needed to help developing countries is nowhere near enough.”

He expressed his gratitude for the agreement announced earlier in week to wean South Africa from coal. It was what Africa needed. The sum involved was $8.5 billion over three to five years—but that was just one country being helped ,out of the 54 in Africa. All of them need help to move to the renewables era without using fossil fuels. They’ll be looking for both money and technological help to do so.

Adow’s own country Kenya, with three million people facing malnutrition because of climate-induced drought, already produces 90 percent of its electricity from renewables. It needs help to develop its economy, and it doesn’t have to rely on fossil fuels.

Adow stated that half a billion Africans are living in energy poverty and needing help. He was upset to see the United States and Canada continue to subsidize their fossil fuel industries and tell the rest of the globe not to.

“They are hypocritical. When are they going to phase out fossil fuels?”

He said that international support for developing countries is only a fraction of what is required. “The signs are not looking good for the success of the conference,” Adow told The Mix. “Every country is looking after itself—and the message to us is, ‘You are on your own.’”

At the same time, Adow said he isn’t giving up on the process—or the 1.5° C target. “We are at 1.1° C already, and the impacts are terrible. It is hard to imagine how much worse it will be at 1.5° C, let alone more than that. It would be the same as all of us agreeing to commit suicide at the same time.”

But however badly negotiations are going, he said he would not give up on the 1.5° C target or the COP26 process. “It is all we have got, so we have to work with it and try and push the process as far and as fast as we can.”

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