Diver Everton Simpson is carrying pieces of staghorn coral from a nursery that will be planted in Ocho Rios, Jamaica’s White River Fish Sanctuary. Associated Press
Megan Rowling, Reuters
Like many Caribbean islands, Jamaica is frequently battered by tropical storms. These storms are becoming more intense as the ocean heats up, and threaten to destroy homes, energy grids.
Weather-driven losses to vulnerable islands in the region — now also beset by a dive in tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic — have caused debt levels and borrowing costs to soar.
According to the UN-backed Green climate Fund (GCF), this makes it difficult for them invest in climate protection.
Yannick Glemarec, who visited the Caribbean 10 days ago, said countries such as tiny Dominica are trapped in a cycle of trying to reduce their debt only to have it “explode” again after a hurricane wipes out a large chunk of gross domestic product and more loans are needed to repair the damage.
He said that this is not an inescapable pattern.
“If you invest in adaptation, you can have resilient infrastructure,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview on the sidelines of the UN COP26 climate talks.
“There is something you can do about this — but for that you need money, you need access to capital.”
Cripplingly, many island nations don’t have the cash they need because it is difficult to access international public climate finance. Private investors also view them as too risky.
The multi-billion-dollar GCF wants to shift that status quo with new test projects mapping out how two coastal countries — Jamaica and Ghana — can strengthen their natural defences against rising seas and storms with measures such as restoring wetlands and adding more trees.
The aim is to help them avoid building yet more sea walls and other high-carbon concrete barriers while demonstrating to potential private-sector backers that lending for “green infrastructure” does not carry unacceptable uncertainties.
By helping investors assess projects more effectively — and, where needed, using donor funding to cover part of any losses — “you definitely shift money”, Glemarec said.
These projects, which are aimed at attracting finance to limit the destruction from rising temperature impacts, are urgently required by developing countries and those who work with them.
Christian Aid released Monday’s study, which highlighted the devastating economic consequences that climate change could have on the most vulnerable countries if there are not drastic cuts in climate-heating emissions or measures to adapt to it.
The study predicted that these countries’ economies would still grow in 2025, as the study predicted.
But if global temperatures rose 2.9 degrees Celsius — a hike current climate policies could cause — the poorest nations and small island states could end up with average GDP nearly 20% lower than without climate change by 2050, and 64% lower by 2100.
The study predicted that these countries could see an average GDP decrease of 13% by 2050 and 33% each by 2100, even if global warming is limited to 1.5C as stipulated in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Researchers predicted that Africa would be the hardest hit.
Marina Andrijevic, the coordinator of the study, stated that it only examined the effect of temperature rises, meaning that additional damage from wildweather could make the economic outlook worse for these countries.
The findings “imply that the ability of countries in the Global South to sustainably develop is seriously jeopardised and that policy choices we make right now are crucial for preventing further damage,” said Andrijevic of Berlin’s Humboldt University.
Nushrat Chowdhury, Christian Aid’s climate justice advisor from Bangladesh, said she had seen firsthand how climate “loss and damage” has already affected her people, with houses, land, schools, hospitals and roads hit by floods and cyclones.
“People are losing everything. Sea levels are rising, and people are desperate to adapt to the changing situation,” she said in a statement. “If ever there was a demonstration of the need for a concrete loss and damage mechanism, this is it.”
Although a mechanism was created at the UN climate talks in Warsaw 2013 to address such losses, negotiators have not done much more than research on real-world options despite growing calls to put them into practice.
New types of finance are in high demand to help countries rebuild after disasters and relocate vulnerable communities from flood-prone areas.
However, rich countries have so far resisted any pressure to increase insurance coverage for extreme weather.
Last week, the Scottish government set a precedent by announcing it would provide £1 million ($1.35 million) to help poor communities address loss and damage by repairing and rebuilding after climate-related disasters, such as flooding and wildfires.
At the Glasgow talks, groups of least-developed countries and small island states are pressing hard for an official green-light to establish some kind of global loss and damage funding stream, ideally at next year’s climate summit.
On Sunday, a list of possible points that could be included in a final decision agreed at COP26 was released, in time for discussion by ministers in the talks’ second and last week.
But on the theme of loss and damage, it mentioned only the “need for increased and additional financial support”.
This is unlikely to be accepted by negotiators from fragile countries, but it does signal a decrease in opposition by wealthy nations.
Yamide Dagnet, director of climate negotiations for the World Resources Institute, a US-based think-thank, said the proposal was weak and finance issues broadly were now “the elephant in the room”.
A source of deep frustration at the talks is that rich nations have not fulfilled their pledge to raise $100 million a year starting 2020 to boost clean electricity and help vulnerable communities adapt to climate shifts.
In the Paris Agreement, countries said they would aim for a balance in funding between cutting emissions and measures to adapt to a warmer world — but only about a quarter of finance so far has gone to adaptation efforts.
Bhutan’s Sonam P. Wangdi, who chairs the group of least developed countries at COP26, told Britain’s Observer newspaper on Sunday that adaptation “is extremely important”.
“We need to adapt now, and for that we need money. However, that money is not currently coming. How it’s going to come, I don’t know,” he added.
Glemarec is a GCF head. He sees the urgent need to help countries affected by climate changes and the pandemic.
“When you have people in such dire straits, don’t make them wait,” he said.