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World’s most vulnerable nations call on G7 to step up: “we cannot survive climate change without finance and stronger 2030 targets”

Date: 11 June 2021

Sonam P Wangdi

Some weeks ago, torrential rains swept across Haiti for three days, taking lives as rivers across the centre and northern parts of the island overtopped their banks, affecting thousands.

For me, it brings back sad memories of last year’s monsoon season as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) across South East Asia grappled with unusually heavy rains, the worst seen in decades. Weeks of downpours caused flooding and landslides, killing over 200 people in Nepal. A third of Bangladesh was underwater, and at least 135 people were killed. My country, Bhutan, was also hit, with four soldiers killed while rescuing villagers trapped in floods. 

These are just snapshots of the terrible loss and damage caused by climate-related disasters in LDCs. And they are testament to an ever-worsening trend: despite being hit by 18% of climate-related disasters, and home to only 13% of the world’s population, over the last 50 years, 69% of worldwide deaths caused by climate-related disasters were in LDCs. Representing over one billion of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, LDCs have contributed the least to climate change, yet we suffer the most from its impacts.

Sadly, this injustice is felt across many fronts. Around 87% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in high-income countries, and just 0.1% in the lowest-income countries.

Crises come in many forms, but the urgency with which we respond should not. That is why we have committed to remain carbon neutral as we develop economically.

For many countries, contributing their fair share of the global response to climate change requires more than making deep cuts to domestic emissions, it also involves providing support to poor countries so we can do the same, to ensure no one is left behind.

And that is why, on behalf of LDCs, I call on all governments, especially the richest – the G7 – to step up their climate action, to not only increase their 2030 climate targets, but to match those targets with deep and rapid emissions reductions. Because to limit warming to 1.5 degrees – achieving those mid-century net zero targets – requires the world halving emissions in the next ten years.  And that means the G7 phasing out coal by 2030.

How would the world look if G7 were to divert the money they spent on subsidising the fossil fuel industry to climate finance? They have pledged to stop these subsidies, but we are still waiting. Will this be the meeting for action?

So we are all watching the upcoming G7 Summit with high expectations, looking for answers to some important questions, questions that involve our future:

Will your climate finance promises become a reality before Pacific islands become a distant memory? Will your commitment to reduce emissions be stronger than the cyclones devastating South East Asia and the Caribbean? Will your commitment to climate action last longer than the prolonged droughts in Sub-Saharan Africa?  

For the world to have any chance of having a successful COP26 climate conference in November this year in Glasgow, and indeed a successful decade of strong climate action, the answer must be a resounding yes throughout.

In Glasgow we will begin negotiating a new collective finance target, which we must agree before 2025. But how can developed countries build our confidence and trust ahead of these crucial talks when their current finance pledges remain unfulfilled? There will be no COP26 deal without a finance deal.

To gain our trust, it is vital that developed countries deliver on their commitment to meeting their stated goal of delivering climate finance of US$100 billion per year.

We all need the tools to limit greenhouse gas emissions and protect our citizens from climate change impacts, but for the poorest countries, finance is the key to enabling an effective global response.

The G7 must not only scale up the financial, technology and capacity support, they must also step up the transparency, reliability and predictability of that support. We also need them to financially support adaptation and to address the critically important loss and damage that our vulnerable countries are already experiencing.

But it’s not just about the quantity of finance, it’s about the quality. It’s clear that business-as-usual approaches to climate change are not working. Globally, only 18% of finance reaches LDCs, and of that only 10% reaches the local level. We need climate action driven by and for our countries, yet many responses are externally driven, imposed upon us from the top down, highly intermediated, failing to help us build our institutional capabilities, our structures and systems to build long-term resilience.

That is why, in 2019, the LDCs set out a 2050 Vision to deliver climate-resilient development pathways by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050 to ensure our societies and ecosystems thrive. That vision only gets more urgent as time marches on. We wish to take the lead in charting our own journey to overcome the climate challenges we face. But we need the support to be able to deliver it.

We can tackle the climate crisis — but only with global leadership. We are all in this together, and we must work together to make this world, our only planet earth, a better place to live in.

Sonam P Wangdi is Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group in the UN Climate Negotiations

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