Life and Death on the Line as Rich Nations Evade Climate Obligations

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Life and Death on the Line as Rich Nations Evade Climate Obligations

Bloc of developing countries says wealthy UN member states are trying to shift financial obligations onto World Bank, IMF

The latest blueprint of climate pledges reportedly omits key mechanisms that were included in previous drafts, such as financing for poorer countries and accountability for wealthier ones. (Photo: EcoWatch)

Rich nations are blockading efforts to reach consensus on financial climate pledges in Bonn, Germany this week as the upcoming United Nations climate talks approach—a move which could derail the entire process, a bloc of developing nations said Thursday.

The Group of 77 (G77) and China, a coalition of nations and alliances that represent more than 80 percent of the world's population, said wealthy UN member states were shirking their financial responsibilities to help developing nations stave off the impacts of climate change and attempting to shift those obligations onto institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The latest blueprint of climate pledges reportedly omits key mechanisms that were included in previous drafts, such as financing for poorer countries and accountability for wealthier ones, according to AllAfrica.

"When you take out the issues of others, you disenfranchise them, and disempower those who suffer the most," said G77 chair and South Africa climate envoy Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko.

With the COP21 talks approaching fast, and no more chances to negotiate after the Bonn session ends this week, those roadblocks could mean a difference of life or death for frontline nations, Mxakato-Diseko said.

"It's a matter of life or death...and we are dead serious," Mxakato-Diseko told journalists in a media briefing on Thursday. While the G77 had come to an agreement on financial positions, she said, "developed countries have not negotiated, in the hope that it will be sorted [out] external to the agreement, where we are weakest."

Legally binding financial mandates for wealthy nations must be included in the agreement to guarantee that frontline countries actually receive funds to address the impacts of climate change, Mxakato-Diseko continued. "Otherwise we are left to the whim of charity, the whim of individual countries to decide if and when [to pay], depending on the circumstances."

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According to a recent report by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a number of sources including government funds, private institutions, and development banks raised $62.8 billion in 2014 to stock up the climate war chest. Developed nations previously swore to mobilize $100 billion by 2020 to help frontline countries adapt to the impacts of global warming, such as sea level rise.

But on Thursday, the G77 said those figures were not accounted for and that the fine print included 'development aid' as a form of financial contribution, which raises "serious and valid concerns over the way that $62 billion figure was arrived at," said Angolan diplomat Giza Gaspar Martins. "It accounts for credit guarantees, loans that have to be repaid."

And because the World Bank and IMF, as private institutions, are not going to be bound by the COP21 climate agreement, delegates say there would be no way to guarantee that those funds would ever reach the developing nations.

The World Bank is "a competitor with developing countries for finance to give to us on conditions that are unregulated," while the IMF "has no status in the agreement," Mxakato-Diseko said. "Beneath the darkness, where there is no scrutiny from civil society, the hope is that our will will be bent so much that we are tired, we give up and then the issue is resolved by announcements that are external" to the UN climate process.

Gurdial Singh Nijar, a spokesperson for the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) coalition—which includes Argentina, China, India, Iran, and Vietnam, among others—told journalists that the new draft "completely ignored the submissions of G77 on finance."

"We demand that the text be balanced for negotiations to commence," Nijar said.

Harjeet Singh, policy manager for the humanitarian organization ActionAid, explained the G77's position this way: "If your house goes up in flames, the first thing you do is put the fire out. Developing countries are already fighting the fires of climate change and so are demanding strategies and money to deal with its impact. For rich nations who have the money, technology and skills, the devastation of climate change is not a pressing issue."

"The current climate talks are reflecting the contrasting order of priority of issues between developed and developing nations," Singh said. "Rich nations need to recognize the crisis is here and now. The money to prepare for and deal with climate impacts must be at the center of the deal in Paris."

The G77's call follows a report released Monday that found the U.S. and other wealthy nations' climate pledges to limit greenhouse gas emissions were not enough to prevent an average surface temperature warming of 2°C, the agreed threshold to prevent irreparable global warming and extreme weather events.

The success of COP21, said Mxakato-Diseko, will be judged by "what will be contained inside" the final accord.

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