COP26 is off to a good start, with money flowing in

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COP26 president Alok Sharma expressed his joy at a promising start, looking at the developments in the early days of the first week of the UN climate crisis conference. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
COP26 president Alok Sharma expressed his joy at a promising start, looking at the developments in the early days of the first week of the UN climate crisis conference. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


Private and public purse strings were seemingly getting a bit loose in favour of climate finance as the world renews its vows to bankroll what is set to be an aggressive battle against the climate crisis.

COP26 president Alok Sharma expressed his joy at a promising start, looking at the developments in the early days of the first week of the UN climate crisis conference, which is currently under way in Glasgow, Scotland, until Friday next week.

About 200 countries are meeting in the UK to discuss how the world can be saved by reducing greenhouse emissions to net-zero, with a target for 2050 set for this and keeping global warming at 1.5 degrees.

However, as many have argued, it will take more than just speeches; concrete and financial commitments are needed for all these to be realised before it is too late, when the world would be under severe attack by water scarcity, severe droughts, wildfires and other extreme weather events.

Wednesday was finance day at COP26, where finance ministers, international finance institutions and the financial sector met to get the global funds for the climate crisis flowing.

This comes after new pledges of public climate funding and climate adaptation were made by developed countries at the world leaders’ summit on Monday and Tuesday.

Wednesday was preceded by the watershed announcement of a partnership between the US, the UK, Germany, France and South Africa, in which partner countries would mobilise R131 billion over the next three years to assist President Cyril Ramaphosa’s country in the transition from coal to a low-carbon economy.

READ: SA scores R131 billion in major boost to move from coal

The $130 trillion (R1.977 trillion) of private capital by, among other organisations, 450 big companies from 45 countries, through the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, was aligned to science-based net-zero targets.

Sharma thinks all this was not bad for the first few days of COP26 and has expressed confidence that many things out of the conference currently underway will materialise.

“We’re off to a good start at COP26. Leaders came armed with the ambition that they should rightly be showing and, of course, the commitments we have seen so far are welcomed,” the COP26 president said.

“It is clear that there is no turning back ... the world is firmly united in delivering a net-zero resilient future. Around 90% of the world’s economy is now covered by the net-zero target and this compares with less than 30% when the UK took on COP26 and, as I’ve said on many occasions, Paris promised and therefore Glasgow must now deliver.”

Sharma said he was leading a highly ambitious regime of COP.

“We won’t, at this COP, be able to say with credibility that we are limiting temperature rises to well below 2 degrees ... keeping 1.5 degrees within reach.

“I want to be clear here – we are not deviating from the Paris agreement pledge, but we are an unapologetically high ambition presidency, and [on Wednesday] we saw the start of that with commitments from countries across the world to halt deforestation, curb methane emissions, and ensure that finances are flowing to cleaner and more resilient infrastructure,” he said.

“The most vulnerable countries are at the front and centre of my mind.”

Sharma said:

Countries are setting the tone on ambition and now the finance needs to follow.

“I’ve said over the last couple of days, it is regrettable that we are highly unlikely to have met the $100 billion goal in 2021 but, based on the information submitted by donors, the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] analysis shows that developed countries will make significant progress towards the $100 billion goal in 2022, and I believe it also provides confidence we will meet it in 2023.

“I think today the force of the private sector is plain to see and now of course the task is to ensure that finance flows to where it is needed the most.”

Meanwhile, a statement by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change identified some of the highlights from the past few days of the conference, especially on countries having made new commitments to increase finance to support developing countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

READ: World leaders under pressure at COP26 to put their previous commitments and pledges into action

This included a commitment by “Norway to triple its adaptation finance, commitments from Japan and Australia to double their adaptation finance, and commitments from Switzerland, the US and Canada for the Adaptation Fund”.

But it remains to be seen if all these commitments and pledges will, in the end, amount to nothing but “blah, blah, blah”, as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, as he urged world leaders to get the ball rolling on action against the climate crisis and not just make empty undertakings, and on whether Glasgow would be the genesis of the active battle against the looming global crisis.


Poloko Tau 


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