Developing world crying out for climate justice as green finance promises go unfulfilled
- Unless major carbon emitters drastically reduce their pollution and pay for the poor to prepare for coming disasters, suffering will be an everyday reality
- International financial support to build climate-resilient and green societies is negligible, leaving developing countries to fend for themselves
Many more people across the developing world are living through similar stories. Most often, people from marginalised or lower-income backgrounds experience the worst effects of the climate crisis, but those people who are harmed did the least to cause this crisis.
All this is happening with a roughly 1.2 degrees Celsius rise in global temperature above pre-industrial levels. Unless the major carbon-emitting countries, corporations and individuals step up to drastically reduce their carbon pollution in this decade and pay for the poor to prepare for coming disasters, stories of human suffering fuelled by extreme rain or scorching heat and the resulting floods, cyclones, droughts, heatwaves and wildfires will be our everyday reality.
Tackling the climate crisis has never been more urgent. As climate impacts escalate, so does the cost for the communities to adapt.
However, between 2013 and 2020, only about US$113 billion in climate finance has been committed to these countries, equating to an average of about US$14 billion per year. Adding salt to the wounds of the vulnerable countries, more than half of this amount is in the form of loans, which must be paid back to some degree. Only a third of the total available funding is for adaptation, which is instrumental for tackling climate impacts.
Because the providers of finance fail to embrace locally led climate finance, communities on the front line of climate change do not have sufficient say in how the climate finance affecting them is governed. Attempts to assess the mobilised finance with the potential to be locally led reveals that only about 0.5 per cent of the total finance to South and Southeast Asian countries can be termed as such.
In the absence of adequate financial support, developing countries are reverting to taking on debt to deal with climate impacts. They risk falling into debt distress as a result. Having been forced to invest on their own in reconstruction and rebuilding after climate disasters hit, developing countries are forced to cut spending in vital public services including health, education and social protection.
As a result, more people are being pushed back into poverty. Already, 50 per cent of Asia’s population lives below the US$5.50 poverty line.
Governments and the providers of climate finance must urgently ensure that vulnerable communities receive scaled-up, grant-based financing that reaches the local level to prepare for climate risks. They should clearly outline the pathways to meet their commitments, including doubling of climate adaptation finance by 2025.
The finance provided must respond to the real needs of most vulnerable regions and countries in developing Asia. Moreover, the upcoming discussions around a new climate finance goal after 2025 should be based on the real needs of the communities experiencing the climate crisis.
Sunil Acharya is the regional policy and campaigns coordinator at Oxfam in Asia
Kalina Tsang is the director general at Oxfam Hong Kong