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OPINION|Clawing back of climate finance commitments a big loss for the Global South

Climate justice artwork. IMAGE/HIVOS


Less than two years ago, the UK government hosted COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. In a report, the government lauded the progress made under its presidency, crystallized in the Glasgow Climate Pact.

Among the “achievements” was progress on the long-promised and yet to be delivered commitment by Global North parties of USD 100bn a year. The presidency noted that they had “mobilized billions and trillions” and would reach this goal by 2023 by the latest. Less than two years later, it has been revealed that the current UK government plans to walk back their own GBP 11.6b pledge.

Countries make empty promises

I have been working in the climate space for many years, and while these occurrences are disappointingly common, it never becomes any easier to digest.

The ease with which countries decrease funding to both adapt to and mitigate climate change, which is historically and presently largely caused by their actions, is disheartening. In particular, as an African woman, working in the climate space whose work consists in part of convincing financiers of the urgent need that local communities face due to climate change, this is a setback that feels all too personal.

The justification for the proposed walking back is laughably shortsighted. Like many other countries, the United Kingdom cites the need to divert funding to Ukrainian refugees as part of their justification for this reduction.

This implies that climate finance and ODA commitments more generally are commitments that – even when ratified and consequently budgeted for – can never be relied on by governments in the Global South, and more importantly, by the local communities that need them most.

You cannot separate development from climate

Even more laughable was the justification, included in the document the Guardian writes about, that maintaining climate funding commitments “would squeeze out room for other commitments such as humanitarian and women and girls.”

This is a false equivalency. You cannot separate “women and girls” from the climate crisis and citing this as the reason creates a dichotomy between the issues that in reality does not exist. These decisions have real-world impacts on local communities, and in particular on women and girls.

As they suffer the most from climate change impacts, redirecting funds away from the climate response now will only worsen the position of women and girls in the future. Similarly, if we don’t address climate change with the urgency it deserves now; the need for humanitarian responses will only continue to increase with increased extreme events, and increased pressure on habitable land.

A game of chicken with a time bomb

The truth is that the Global North is playing a game of chicken with a ticking time bomb. For decades, the impact of climate change was seen as only taking place “over there” – in countries such as Kenya, where every year we experience ever-worsening impacts of climate change.

These range from devastating droughts to fatal floods, communities being unable to rely on predictable seasons for farming and pastoralist activities, and the growing loss of lives, homes and livelihoods.

The global response has been to develop complicated climate treaties that dictate how much more they can keep polluting and how little they should pay for that privilege and in restorative justice.

The last few years of both floods and heat waves across Europe, forest fires in Australia and Canada and many other occurrences of extreme weather events globally should have been a warning that climate change affects us all and will continue to worsen with time.

A large majority of the world, primarily in the Global South, already lives with the impacts of the climate crisis today. For climate finance to have never reached the goals set at the 2015 Paris climate conference and instead to keep being reduced through redirection and recategorization of what constitutes both climate finance and development aid sets a dangerous precedent and sends a chilling message to those affected: you’re on your own.

Potential budget cuts devastate entire cause

We need urgent action now, and diverting climate finance should never be seen as an option. For a country which positioned itself so recently as a champion of the fight against climate change to go back on its commitments is devastating for the entire cause.

It paves the way for other governments to scale back their climate commitments. In a period where we need action, this is a step back. More should be done, and Global North governments need only to reassess their budgets to ensure they achieve their climate finance commitments, not to walk them back.

Maimuna Kabatesi is the Global Program Manager of the Voices for Just Climate Action program

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