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Dhaka Tribune

Global climate solidarity: Rhetoric or reality?

Why is it taking so long for any climate commitment to materialize?

Update : 19 Nov 2022, 02:54 AM

The United Nations Climate Change Conference began in Egypt with a warning that our earth is “sending a despotic signal.”

Climate change is a global crisis that does not discriminate among races, adhere to borders, or separate the rich from the poor. It affects everyone and global solidarity is needed to tackle it with shared responsibilities, resources, and technologies. Therefore, climate solidarity is no longer a matter of contribution or compensation; rather it has become a sheer commitment to humanity and civilization.

“Humanity has a choice: Cooperate or perish. It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact -- or a Collective Suicide Pact,” the UN Secretary General told over 100 world leaders reunited for the first official plenary of the UN Climate Change Conference.

However, when at no other point in human history has there been a more urgent cause than tackling climate change, why is it taking so many years to materialize climate commitment? Besides, the world agreed in 2015 during a UN summit in France to try to limit the average global average temperature increase to 1.6C, a deal dubbed the Paris Climate Agreement that was seen as a breakthrough in international climate action.

The commitment has still not been upheld, generating mistrust and reluctance among some developing nations to accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions. In the absence of vigorous action, rousing speeches, and uplifting words on climate change are merely hollow talk.  

Global climate solidarity is at stake due to the global financial and geopolitical crisis.  Inflationary pressures, and food and fuel problems have impacted all countries, and forced developed countries to abandon their climate commitments. They are now revising their previous climate commitments.

The concept of Climate Solidarity has remained a further illusive reality. Against such a backdrop, immediate action is a crying need for pressing concerns including mitigation, adaptation, funding, and climate justice for loss and harm. 

Decades of broken promises

Climate change has exacerbated floods, fires, droughts, heatwaves, and storms, affecting millions of people in 2022 alone. According to a report published in 2021 by the International Institution for Environment and Development (IIED), the 46 least-developed countries vulnerable to the impacts of climate change received less than 3% of the funds they need to adapt to climate change.

At COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, wealthy nations promised to jointly mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 for poor countries to pursue climate action. At COP21 in Paris, the yearly commitment target of $100bn was extended until 2025. Last year, during COP26, the countries committed to releasing the funds as early as possible to fund the adaptation measures in the least developed countries Unfortunately, that goal has yet to be met. 

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), developed nations gave and mobilized $83.3bn in climate funding in 2020. This grant was allocated 58% for mitigation, 34% for adaptation, and 7% for cross-cutting initiatives. Consequently, the least developed and developing nations are concerned about how wealthy countries can reach the $100bn objective, and how climate money would be managed beyond 2025.

Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh asserted: "I'm calling for action today -- action to fulfill the promises made at COP26 to assist nations like mine in facing the harshest realities of a warming planet." This year at COP27, many developing countries have pledged the establishment of a "loss and damage" fund that could disperse cash to countries struggling to recover from disasters. 

However, amid cascading risks and overlapping crises, multilateralism is facing a challenge due to geopolitical situations, spiraling food and energy prices, and a growing public finance and public debt crisis in many countries already struggling to contend with the devastating impacts of the pandemic, all of which demand urgent attention. So, when climate change demands collective action at the global level, to keep the planet stable, the countries are at an all-time low in terms of their ability to act together. 

Who is accountable? 

World climate forums are tasked with greening the global economy and helping the poor and climate-vulnerable nations, who have barely contributed to the problem. Climate-vulnerable countries are victims of emissions by developed nations, as the countries have yet to reach a level of industrialization significant enough to impact climate change.

Politicians in strong nations are jockeying to transfer responsibility and dodge culpability for the catastrophic devastation that is now engulfing humanity. The European Union and the UK are together responsible for 29%. And along with the rest of Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Japan, the Global North is collectively responsible for no less than 92%. Meanwhile, the Global South -- the entire continents of Asia, Africa, and Latin America -- is responsible for only 8% of excess emissions.

The average per capita consumption of power in Europe is 1.6MWh, whereas, in Bangladesh, it is only 323kWh. Sadly, the impacts of climate breakdown fall disproportionately on the countries of the Global South, which suffer the vast majority of climate change-induced damages and mortality within their borders, and where extreme weather is already causing crop failure, food insecurity, and mass displacement. The reactions of the developed world are confined to condoling tweets and minimal aid packages. 

However, the climate crisis is not bound by borders and the whole world has to face its atrocities. Earlier, there was a possibility to combat climate change collectively, but the geopolitical crisis and collapse of the global financial order have overshadowed climate action, making the developed countries more reluctant to fulfill their commitment towards mother earth.

The Conference of the Parties, therefore, isn't incumbent to implement, but raises a false beacon of hope among the victims. However, developed nations must keep in their mind that the developing world may face the worst repercussions of climate change, but the developed world can't evade the atrocities in the long run. 


Saume Saptaparna Nath is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs.

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