It’s a target that keeps being missed, the $100 billion a year that the world’s richest countries first pledged 13 years ago to help pay the costs of battling climate change in low-to-middle income nations. Bangladesh, a densely populated country vulnerable to rising sea levels, is at COP27 in Egypt urging the countries that caused most global warming in the first place to finally meet their obligations, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.
It was back at COP15, held in Copenhagen in 2009, that world’s most developed countries committed to providing $100 billion every single year to help poorer countries combat climate change. The logic was simple, the wealthy countries had built their economies using the CO2-emitting technologies that had heated up the planet. In many cases it was the countries that had missed out on that legacy of prosperity that were were now facing the most severe consequences.
The rich cut themselves some slack. The $100 billion target would not be reached until 2020. Then at COP21 in Paris in 2015, often seen as a triumph in securing international agreement, the target was put back until 2025.
Even after new guidelines were agreed at COP26 in Glasgow last year, the wealthiest countries have been “long on promises but woefully short on deliveries” in the words of Bangladesh Department of Environment Director Ziaul Haque, who is a member of his country’s delegation in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh.
Not that $100 billion a year is likely to be enough but it would be an improvement on the $83.3 billion that was achieved in 2020, according to OECD figures. Negotiators at COP27 are at least discussing whether to formally consider how to pay the vast bill for the loss and damage caused by climate change.
Bangladesh is trying to convince the world’s most advanced economies to finally start paying up. Their governments face competing priorities, notably soaring energy costs of course, but they are supposedly committed to doing what it takes to meet climate change targets.
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has stated that this is not just the most urgent cause of our age but the most urgent cause in human history. Words simply aren’t enough, she argues, not least for the people of Sylhet in Bangladesh, who are facing the worst floods in a century. Tweets of support and small aid packages aren’t enough either.
It has long been time for action is her message to COP27, with a call for the doubling of finance by 2025. The Prime Minister sees it as a moral obligation on the countries that grew rich using fossil fuels that they now aid countries such as hers, which accounts for just 0.56% of current global carbon emissions.
Bangladesh has been an economic success story. In fifty years it has gone from a devastating war of independence to being on course to become a middle-income country. However global warming puts so much at risk. Rising sea levels, coastal erosion, droughts, extreme heat and flooding all inevitably wreak economic damage as well as human misery.
The Bangladesh delegation is making its country’s case -in truth a case on behalf or the entire world- with great urgency and huge credibility in Sharm El Sheikh.