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UN chief urges rich countries to redeem $100bn pledge to climate finance

UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has said that the world was running out of time to limit global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius, saying that it was a matter of life or death for climate vulnerable countries.

Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres

Speaking to the first Climate Vulnerable Finance Summit of 48 nations systemically exposed to climate related disasters, Guterres said it was a matter of life or death for climate vulnerable countries on the front line of the crisis of global temperature rise.

The secretary-general, in a video message from New York, on Thursday, July 8, 2021, said the vulnerable countries would need reassurance that financial and technical support would be forthcoming to achieve the feat.

“To rebuild trust, developed countries must clarify now, how they will effectively deliver $100 billion in climate finance annually to the developing world, as was promised over a decade ago,” he said.

The UN chief said that to get the “world back on its feet”, restore cooperation between governments, and recover from the pandemic in a climate resilient way, the most vulnerable countries had to be properly supported.

Guterres asked for a clear plan to reach established climate finance goals by 2025, something he promised to emphasise to the G20 finance ministers at their upcoming meeting this week.

He added that the development finance institutions play a big role in supporting countries in the short-term, and they would facilitate low carbon, climate-resilient recovery.

In addition, he said they would facilitate climate recovery or it would entrench them in high carbon, business-as-usual, fossil fuel-intensive investments and ”We cannot let this happen”.

The secretary-general reminded that the climate impacts seen today – currently at 1.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels – has given the world a glimpse of what lies ahead: prolonged droughts, extreme and intensified weather events and ‘horrific flooding’.

“Science has long warned that we need to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Beyond that, we risk calamity. Limiting global temperature rise is a matter of survival for climate vulnerable countries,” he emphasised.

The UN chief also highlighted that only 21 per cent of the climate finance goes towards adaptation and resilience, and that there should be a balanced allocation for both adaptation and mitigation.

Current adaptation costs for developing countries are put at $70 billion US dollars a year and this could rise to as much as $300 billion a year by 2030, he warned.

“I am calling for 50 per cent of climate finance globally from developed countries and multilateral development banks to be allocated to adaptation and resilience in developing countries.

“And we must make access to climate finance easier and faster.”

The UN chief also welcomed a new report, on Thursday, by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) which revealed that an estimated 23,000 lives per year could be saved – with potential benefits of at least $162 billion per year – through improving weather forecasts, early warning systems, and climate information, known as hydromet.

In a video message to mark the publication of the first Hydromet Gap Report, the secretary-general described these services as essential for building resilience in the face of climate change.

Guterres called once more for a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience in 2021, with significant increases in the volume and predictability of adaptation finance, noting that Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, where large gaps remained in basic weather data, would benefit the most.

“These affect the quality of forecasts everywhere, particularly in the critical weeks and days when anticipatory actions are most needed,” he said.

According to the WMO, investments in multi-hazard early warning systems create benefits worth at least ten times their costs and are vital to building resilience to extreme weather.

Currently, only 40 per cent of countries have effective warning systems in place, according to the report.

By Cecilia Ologunagba

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