Residents wait on the roof for flooding to subside after Super Typhoon Noru in San Miguel, Bulacan province, Philippines, on September 26. Photo: Reuters
The View
by Sunil Acharya and Kalina Tsang
The View
by Sunil Acharya and Kalina Tsang

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
Asia’s ongoing battle with weather extremes manifests climate injustice. For example, Super Typhoon Noru forced nearly 80,000 people to take refuge in emergency shelters. Many of them were among the 7.3 million people who were affected by Typhoon Rai, which battered the country in December 2021.
Meanwhile, a deadly flood in Pakistan killed more than 1,400 people and displaced 33 million more from their homes. From March to May this year, India and Pakistan saw one of the hottest springs in recorded history, affecting millions. This was followed by the most severe heatwave on record in China from July to August.

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.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the authoritative scientific body on climate – reconfirmed this coming future in its latest report. It warns that many of the climate impacts are already becoming irreversible and there will be steadily greater limits on what people can do to tackle the effects.

Tackling the climate crisis has never been more urgent. As climate impacts escalate, so does the cost for the communities to adapt.


Global warming dangerously close to being out of control: US climate report

Global warming dangerously close to being out of control: US climate report
It has been difficult for many developing countries to accurately state the finance required to build climate-resilient, green societies. A forthcoming Oxfam report estimates that the countries in South and Southeast Asia, for which data is available, will require an average of around US$1.3 trillion per year until 2030 to deal with climate impacts and decarbonise their economies.

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.

This is very disappointing. The international financial support to build climate-resilient and green societies is negligible, and it is clear developing countries in Asia are not able to adapt to current and future climate stressors alone.
People stand in the water of the Yangtze River on September 5. A heatwave has affected Asia’s longest river, the Yangtze River Basin, causing its water level to be recorded as the lowest since hydrological records began in 1865. Photo: ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

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.

Even in the midst of this suffering, the developed countries who are historically responsible for the climate crisis are running away from their obligation. Back in 2009, they committed to provide US$100 billion per year to developing countries by 2020 through 2025, which was reaffirmed in the Paris climate agreement in 2015.

Pakistan floods latest sign of blatant climate injustice for Global South

Compared to the scale of needs, this pledge is tiny. The Glasgow climate conference last year made it clear that developed countries have failed to deliver on it and are shifting the goalposts.
There is no time to lose hope. It is now time to come together to ease the pain of those suffering the most through solidarity and collaboration. One opportunity to do so comes next month in Egypt.

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