COP26: Why could climate finance make or break the Glasgow summit?

At the UN climate conference, expect one topic to drown out the cacophony of promises from countries and companies around the world: money.

The COP26 summit, which began on Sunday in Glasgow, will attempt to complete the rules to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, and secure more ambitious commitments. countries to meet their goals.

The basis of progress on both issues is money. Climate finance refers to the money that richer nations, responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet, give to poorer nations to help them reduce their own emissions and adapt to deadly storms. , rising seas and droughts worsened by global warming.

So far, the money has not arrived.

Developed countries confirmed last week that they had failed to deliver on a promise made in 2009 to provide $ 100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020. Instead, it would arrive in 2023.

A banner announcing the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), where world leaders debate how to tackle climate change on a global scale, is seen inside the conference area in Glasgow, Scotland, Great Britain, on 31 October 2021 (credit: YVES HERMAN / REUTERS).

“His credibility has now skyrocketed,” said Saleemul Huq, an advisor to the 48-country Climate Vulnerable Forum, adding that the broken financial promise could “spoil everything else” at the Glasgow talks.

“Basically, they are leaving the most vulnerable people on the planet in the lurch, having promised that they are going to help.”

The Alliance of Small Island States, whose influence in past UN climate talks has exceeded the size of its members, said: “The impact this has had on confidence cannot be underestimated.”


The backlash made clear the struggle countries will face at COP26 as they negotiate divisive issues that have derailed past climate talks.

The $ 100 billion pledge falls far short of the needs of vulnerable countries to tackle climate change, but it has become a symbol of trust and equity between rich and poor nations.

Vulnerable countries will need up to $ 300 billion per year by 2030 for climate adaptation alone, according to the United Nations. That’s aside from potential economic losses from bad harvests or weather-related disasters. Hurricane Maria in 2017 cost the Caribbean $ 69.4 billion.

European Union climate policy chief Frans Timmermans said handing over the $ 100 billion was one of his three priorities for COP26, along with finalizing the Paris regulation and securing more ambitious emission reduction targets.

“I think we still have a chance to hit $ 100 billion,” Timmermans told Reuters. “It would be very important for Glasgow to do that, also as a sign of confidence to the developing world.”

Italy said on Sunday it was tripling its contribution to climate finance to $ 1.4 billion a year over the next five years. The United States pledged in September to double its contribution to $ 11.4 billion per year by 2024, which analysts said was well below its fair share, based on size, emissions and ability to pay.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased frustration among the poorest countries over the lack of climate cash. The $ 100 billion is a tiny fraction of the $ 14.6 trillion that major economies mobilized last year in response to the pandemic, according to the World Economic Forum.

“One thing the pandemic showed is that if the priority is high enough, spending can continue,” said Lorena Gonz├ílez, senior associate for climate finance at the World Resources Institute.

A series of mini-deals on climate finance are also planned for the two-week COP26 summit, in an attempt to rebuild trust.

The EU, the United States, Britain, Germany and France will announce a funding project to help South Africa phase out coal-fired power more quickly and invest in renewable energy. Further announcements are expected from development banks and the private sector.


Finance will dominate the COP26 negotiating agenda on the Paris Agreement regulation.

Countries will start talks to establish a new post-2025 climate finance pledge, which poorer nations say should have enough checks and balances to ensure the money arrives this time.

Another sticking point will be the rules for establishing a carbon offset market under the Paris Agreement, an issue that derailed the last UN climate talks in 2019.

Developing countries want a portion of the revenue from the new carbon market to be set aside to fund climate adaptation projects, such as storm shelters or defenses against rising sea levels. Some richer countries are against it.

“Those markets need to put 1%, 2% – this is nothing – in adaptation. But this is a ban for the very countries that are preaching adaptation finance,” Mohamed Nasr, climate finance negotiator for the group of African countries at COP26, he told Reuters.

Obtaining private financing for adaptation projects is challenging, as they often do not generate a financial return. Public support has also been delayed. Of the $ 79.6 billion in climate finance contributed by donor governments in 2019, only a quarter went to climate adaptation, according to the OECD.

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