Countries Need to Make Climate Action the Top Priority

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Talking to the reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York, with the pre-COP meeting happening simultaneously in Kinsha, UN Chief Antonio Guterres stressed the urgency to step up climate actions and deliver the $100 billion climate promise by developed countries to the climate-vulnerable countries.

Guterres says that as “climate chaos gallops ahead, climate action has stalled”. He referred to the recent climate extremes that have happened globally – Pakistan’s catastrophic foods, Europe’s highest summer temperatures in 500 years, the Philippines’ series of intense typhoons, and Hurricane Ian that recently hit Florida. He said that no economy, no matter the size is immune to climate change impacts.

When it comes to climate change impacts, the most vulnerable countries suffer the most, but rich countries are doing little to address the problem they have caused in the first place. “The actions of the wealthiest developed and emerging economies simply don’t add up”, Gutteres notes. He pointed out that current pledges and policies are “shutting the door” to limiting global temperature to 2°C, let alone meeting the 1.5°C goal.  

The UN chief also adds that the war in Ukraine is putting climate action on the back burner while the planet itself is burning. Decisions must be made now on the question of loss and damage as “failure to act” will lead to “more loss of trust and more climate damage,” he said, describing it as “a moral imperative that cannot be ignored”.

Speaking about the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, on climate actions, Gutteres says that it will be “the number one litmus test” of how seriously governments take the growing climate toll on the most vulnerable countries.

Dozens of ministers and senior delegates attended the pre-COP conference in Kinshasa, Congo, on 3 October. High-level speakers call on wealthy governments for failing to honour developing countries’ $100 billion funding pledge.

Guterres echoing the sentiment, says that the world needs clarity from developed countries on the delivery of the climate pledge and that climate adaptation must account for half of all climate finance. Multilateral banks must also “raise their game”, and emerging economies need all the support in their transition to renewable energy and to build resilience.

In Kinshasa, incoming COP27 president and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry also pointed out the failure of developed countries to deliver its $100 billion annual pledge, which up until this year has only been partially met and is due to expire in 2025.

Mr Shoukry also criticised the more than 50% shortfall in the $356 million pledge to the climate adaptation fund at the COP26 last year.

Background on the $100 billion pledge

In 2009 at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen (COP15), wealthy nations pledged to give US$100 billion a year to developing countries by 2020 to help them adapt to climate change and mitigate further warming.

But by the year 2020, this promise was broken. Failure to meet the climate pledge resulted in growing tension leading to COP26 last year.

Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka, said, “By the time we get to Glasgow, if they haven’t given us another $100 billion [for 2021], then they are completely unable to meet their obligations,”

Negotiators argue that the $100 billion is only minuscule compared to the investment required to avoid dangerous levels of climate change and that trillions of dollars are needed earth year to meet the Paris Agreement of below 2°C, if not 1.5 °C warming limit. “But the $100 billion is iconic in terms of the good faith of the countries that promised it,” Huq says.

How badly did wealthy countries fall short of their climate pledge?

An article from nature says that based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data, an intergovernmental body comprised mostly of rich countries, shows that they gave $80 billion in climate finance to developing countries in 2019, up from $78 billion in 2018. Most of this money came from public grants or loans.

However, according to the international-aid charity Oxfam, these figures are hugely inflated. The British-founded charitable organisation estimated that only between $19 billion to $22.4 only $19 billion–$22.5 billion in 2017–18, around one-third of the OECD’s estimate.

“Oxfam argues that, besides grants, only the benefit accrued from lending at below-market rates should be counted, not the full value of loans. It also says that some countries incorrectly count development aid as going towards climate projects.”

Tracy Carty, a senior policy adviser on climate change at Oxfam, says that Japan, for example, treats the total value of some aid projects as ‘climate relevant’ even when they don’t exclusively target climate action.

Many low- and middle-income countries agree with Oxfam’s estimates.

The WRI report, a breakdown of developed countries’ public climate finance contributions toward the $100 billion goal, listed the 23 developed countries categorised by the UNFCCC as responsible for fulfilling the $100 billion climate financing pledge.

These countries include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America.

As the top emitting country and the biggest economy, the report shows that the United States should contribute 40-47% of the $100 billion, but its annual contribution from 2016 to 2018 is only 7.6%.

Australia, Canada, and Greece also fell far short of what they should have contributed. On the other hand, Japan and France have transferred more than their fair share — although almost all their funding came from repayable loans, not grants.

Between climate mitigation and climate adaptation, donors favour mitigation projects because they can measure success easily in terms of the avoided or captured carbon emissions. But climate adaptation projects’ success is tricky to quantify. New climate risks and vulnerabilities always emerge, so there is another matter of staying on top of it.

Politicians also get more praise when they spend on projects that reduce emissions, whereas the benefits of climate adaptation are pretty specific to its recipients.

Climate adaptation is always in the form of a grant, meaning that if you give to poor communities to help them cope with climate impacts, that doesn’t always provide a return for your money. But financing climate mitigation projects like renewable energy through loans allows donors to generate investment returns.

The $100 billion pledge has always been considered a minimum contribution that should increase over time. Still, since wealthy countries failed to deliver this pledge, developing countries would want to see a plan on how they will provide the $500 billion in the next five years.

“In July, the ‘V20’, a group of finance ministers from 48 climate-vulnerable countries, called for that plan, including more grant-based finance, and at least 50% of funding to go to adaptation”, the Nature article says.


UN chief: Countries bound for COP27 must make climate action ‘the top global priority’. (2022, 3 October). United Nations. Retrieved from

Rolley, S. (2022, 4 October). Lack of funding in focus as Congo hosts pre-COP27 climate talks. Reuters. Retrieved from

Timperly, J. (2021, 20 October). The broken $100-billion promise of climate finance — and how to fix it. Nature. Retrieved from

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