COP28 outlook soured by climate finance blame game at UN talks

COP28 outlook soured by climate finance blame game at UN talks

As Cyclone Biparjoy approached southern Pakistan this week, top Pakistani negotiator Nabeel Munir told governments at mid-year UN climate talks in Bonn it felt like he was “conducting a primary school class”, amid squabbling over the meeting agenda.

The evening before the two-week negotiations were due to end in the German city on Thursday, a compromise was found, avoiding a diplomatic embarrassment ahead of December’s key COP28 summit in Dubai.

But the Bonn outcome did not resolve the stark differences between rich nations that want to focus on a formal work programme to boost emissions reductions – and some developing countries that are demanding they also address a lack of international finance to help them shift to clean energy.

“Here in Bonn, negotiators have been playing the blame game and pointing fingers at each other’s insufficient action,” said Tom Evans, policy advisor on climate diplomacy and geopolitics at environmental consultancy E3G.

The “big prize” at COP28, he noted, would be an ambitious political deal to step up climate action in response to a global review that is set to highlight how the world is failing to limit warming to a global goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius, and is unprepared for climate disasters.

“There’s a real risk we end up with a lowest common denominator outcome if champion countries don’t step in to cobble a deal together before COP28,” warned Evans.

As the Bonn talks wound up, climate policy experts said the unwillingness of wealthy countries to deliver on their climate finance promises and to discuss increased funding for poor and vulnerable nations had soured the atmosphere on most issues under negotiation – and was set to spill over into COP28.

Since 2020, developing countries have been waiting for US$100 billion a year in finance to help them adopt clean energy and adapt to a hotter planet – a pledge rich nations have said they should finally meet this year. The latest estimate put such funding at about US$83 billion in 2020.

That delay has led to a lack of trust that is needed for effective political negotiations, noted David Waskow, international climate director at the World Resources Institute.

“Progress (in Bonn) was underwhelming on nearly every front, with one main culprit: money,” he said. “Developing countries are increasingly frustrated that funds promised to implement their climate plans are not materialising.”

The ripples from the impasse over finance meant that many key issues at the mid-year talks – which were intended to prepare the ground for a successful outcome at COP28 – also remained mired in disagreement and were delayed until further workshops and meetings before the year-end summit in Dubai.

Those key areas of work ranged from setting targets for a global goal on adaptation to making agriculture more climate-friendly and planning for a just transition to a low-carbon world.

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Photo:, UNclimatechange, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Flickr

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