Climate finance has been a major theme of the climate deliberations. As one of the key outcomes of the 2015 Paris Agreement, world leaders pledged to mobilise US$100 billion per year by 2020 in “new and additional” funds to help developing countries adapt to the worst effects of climate change. It is worth noting that this is still significantly lower than what is needed under a 1.5˚C scenario with adaptation costs alone estimated at USD 180 billion annually from 2020 to 2030, while developing countries may require as much as US$600 billion per year for mitigation efforts. This initial pledge made at 2015 Paris Agreements has not been realised at this COP26, but it was announced that it is expected to be achieved by 2023. There are serious concerns whether the amounts being pledged can be considered “new and additional” or simply re-packaged development aid. The Centre’s staff are well-aware that, despite bold promises, the poorest and most vulnerable, especially women and girls, are struggling to access climate finance and much more emphasis needs to be given to accessibility and availability of such finance to support livelihoods, and wellbeing of those who need it the most.
Professor Tahseen Jafry, Director of the Centre, began the day setting out why gender-sensitive climate finance is needed for climate justice with the Green Zone event Mobilising Equitable, Just and Gender-Sensitive Climate Finance – Click here to watch. This event included poignant speeches from Dr Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders, Flávia Bellaguarda, Climate Justice Coordinator at ClimateReality, Jacinta Silakan, Founder of Sang’ida Foundation, and Nancy Tembo, Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources of the Republic of Malawi.
Professor Jafry argued that the transition to an equitable, just and gender sensitive ‘distribution’ of climate finance requires that the current financial architectures be ‘revamped’ at global, national and local levels. There needs to be bold, ambitious, and creative action driven by climate justice. This action must place inclusivity, representation, voice, and participation at the core of their design principles. This view was echoed by the invited speakers, with Flávia Bellaguarda highlighting the various issues facing indigenous communities accessing finance to recover from climate-related disasters. Nancy Tembo described the “painful” and “cumbersome” bureaucracy that has hindered access to climate finance for grassroots women’s organisations, Indigenous women and local communities. Jacinta Silakan explained the hugely negative impacts of this bureaucracy and injustice on the resilience of women, particularly in rural areas, on the frontline of climate change.
“Women’s voices are muted when decisions on policy are made but women are uniquely positioned as fierce agents of change in responding to the climate crisis.” – Former President of Ireland Dr Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders
Radical change is needed across the board on the implementation of climate finance. New innovative mechanisms are needed to deliver finance for climate adaptation and resilience among those who need it most and this means adopting gender-sensitive climate finance. However, it was highlighted by the audience questions, the panel, and our own staff, that we need these messages to reach the climate negotiators who have so far have been elusive to the official observers and those on the frontline of climate change and negotiating behind closed doors. The panel reflected on the seemingly lack of representation of women in these negotiations and ‘business-as-usual’ approach to the talks when describing the negotiations being dominated by “men in suits” and negotiations as “stale male and pale”.
“Hurry Up Please It’s Time” by Cornelia Parker
Centre staff also attended the UNFCCC Capacity Building event focused on the use of storytelling as a method to convey climate change issues. The sharing and telling stories about climate change can help to put a human voice and face to climate change. Climate science can seem abstract and hard to relate to, but we can connect to stories on a personal level, and this can be more meaningful for encouraging climate action. The workshop shared insights and ideas on ways that storytelling can be used within climate change research, policymaking and education. The event showcased how stories, by spoken word and digital storytelling, have been used to express the urgency for climate action. However, our team lamented that the inclusivity of COP26 has in some areas been undermined by issues relating to late issuing of visas, clunky COVID-19 testing requirements, vaccine inequity, and prohibitive costs of travel. This has culminated in many of those living on the frontlines of climate change being unable to join COP26 to share their stories in-person.
COP26 has been beset by difficulty of observers to observe many of the dialogues and navigate the scheduled events, but one of our team, Eilidh Watson, managed to attend the High-Level Ministerial Dialogue for Long Term Climate Financing. It was acknowledged that one of the key challenges with climate finance is making sure funds are accessible for the intended beneficiaries. Jochen Flasbarth (State Secretary, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Germany) stated that the $100 billion goal for developing countries would not be achieved this year or next but expects that it will be achieved by 2023. He noted that the $100 billion goal will not go far enough to address the loss and damage that some of the developing countries have and will experience due to climate change that they contributed little to in the first place. He stated “there is no reason for developed countries to be proud as we did not reach the target” despite being close. However, “at the same time, developing countries are not to be disheartened as we will make it [and subsequently] exceed it”.
Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina (President of the Africa Development Bank) said that the Bank are doubling climate finance by 2025 and will be the first development bank to exceed adaptation funding goals and mentioned a $20 billion renewable energy project for Africa that will benefit 250 million people. Dr Adesina did say, however, that even if the $100 billion goal is achieved, commitments will need to shift from billions to trillions as “that is what it will take to save our planet, so let’s do the right thing and save our planet”.
Annika Saarikko (Minister of Finance, Finland) also echoed the importance of meeting the $100 billion goal and calls for ensuring that this fund is accessible for those that need it. Although, she went on to state that they need more information on “what are the numbers and what will it [climate action] costs? We need the numbers so that we can work out the costs…”. As an observer in the event, Eilidh was disappointed this comment was not challenged or picked up. The costs of inaction and the science of attribution are well-researched and show the devastating impacts of climate change. This is perhaps a case of the science behind climate change not being communicated clearly to policymakers and those in positions of power. Does more need to be done to explicitly break down the numbers and make this clearer for decision makers?
Following this, Rishi Sunak (Chancellor of the Exchequer, UK Government) moderated a panel on Resilient Finance for Net Zero. He said, “My goal is that whatever climate ambitions we set over the next two weeks, that the climate finance is there”. Carlos Dominguez (Secretary of Finance for the Philippines) said that the Philippine people “will not wait for Western Nations to get their act together”, but the worst polluting countries should be pledging the biggest financial commitments.
It was an increasingly dynamic discussion as the various panels highlighted that there is no time to wait for climate finance to be mobilised as action needs to happen now. Engagement with the private sector was also a key area of discussion in the final panel where it was highlighted that clarity is needed for transition finance guidelines so that businesses and private sector can invest and know practical steps that they can take to be part of the process.
Later in the dialogue event, it was announced that that $130 trillion of private sector capital is now committed to transforming the economy for net zero. Rishi Sunak also announced that UK firms will have to publish decarbonization plans through to 2050. Whilst this is a welcomed announcement, it was discouraging to hear of some young climate activist barred from entering the dialogue space after putting some critical questions to Rishi Sunak on the UK Government’s announced tax benefits for aviation and the wealthy as he entered the space. This incident seems to be feeding into a narrative that some activists and even observers are being denied access to meetings and dialogues which are intended to be open and frank spaces for discussion.
Additionally, and strikingly, the principle of polluter pays, i.e. the principle that those who cause the pollution should pay for its clean up, was not discussed in any details despite Carlos Dominguez’s clear implication that the topic is hugely relevant. Similarly, various panellists expressed an opinion that climate finance needs to reach those who need it the most, but little was discussed on how this would work in practice. In fact, a meeting of Finance Ministers who met to discuss “best practice” in climate finance processes and implementation was a private meeting and off-limits to the official COP26 observers. Our team does not know whether equity and inclusivity featured in the discussion on best practice by Finance Ministers, but if the open-discussions were any indicator, then we can suspect that ‘business-as-usual’ approaches to climate finance are likely to continue.
This needs to change. There needs to be a space for thought-provoking, critical and reflective discussion with a wide range of stakeholders (global thought leaders, NGOs, Govt, academia) if we are to accelerate and promote the radical change in the ambition for climate finance and how it is implemented. There is an urgent need on the ground to help the poorest communities, especially women and girls, to get access to climate finance – and COP26 represents an opportunity to address this longstanding injustice with greater ambition and not shying away from the gender and equality dimensions of finance.