China must contribute to a new fund for poor countries hit by climate catastrophe on the basis of its high greenhouse gas emissions and large economy, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said.
“America and Europe will have to contribute the most, but China will also have to contribute more,” he told the Guardian.
At the UN’s Cop27 climate summit last week, wealthy governments finally agreed on a fund for poor countries suffering the impact of extreme weather, known as ‘loss and damage’. . But there is no agreement yet on how to fill that fund, and it is likely to be the subject of bitter fighting this year.
Brown wrote in Saturday’s Guardian that poor countries should be entitled to payments from the rich based on the latter’s historic greenhouse gas emissions, rather than relying on a “begging bowl”.
“A world facing an existential challenge should not have to rely on charity,” he writes. “An action plan that compels donors to contribute to climate finance based on their ability to pay and historical responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions should be the starting point for the next round of climate finance. Adequate funding for our global goals for the first time would be something we would really welcome. »
At COP27, the status of China – the world’s largest emitter and responsible for more cumulative emissions than any country except the United States – was highlighted, along with that of other countries. classified as developing under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Many of these countries now have high greenhouse gas emissions and GDP, but according to the still unchanged definitions from 1992, China and similar countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Russia are considered recipients rather than donors of any funds.
Brown told the Guardian there was also a need for change. “The distinction between developed and emerging countries is collapsing amid the need to both finance actions to reduce their ever-rising emissions and help low-income countries suffering because of them” , did he declare.
These payments must be made urgently, as poor countries face “significantly increasing” impacts of extreme weather, and must be achieved through a “burden-sharing formula” that would include former developing countries such as China as donors, according to Brown.
Without a clear agreement on where money from a loss and damage fund will come from, Brown warned, “praise [for the outcome of Cop27] will soon turn into allegations of treason. The president of next year’s Cop28 will have to answer for yet another fund without donors.
Poor countries also need urgent debt relief, Brown added. “[Rich countries and creditors] should cancel the unpayable debt of low-income countries in exchange for those countries’ climate action, and should accept that debt repayments can be modified in the event of climate disasters,” he wrote.
The World Bank must also undergo fundamental reform, to refocus its lending on the climate, he added. “Climate finance is urgently needed. It should be launched immediately by transforming the World Bank into a global public goods bank,” he wrote.
Brown’s work over the past decade on development for the poor world has won international acclaim, and this robust intervention in the climate finance debate will be controversial for many. At COP27, battles raged for two weeks over how rich nations should pay for rescuing and rebuilding poor areas, known as “loss and damage”.
It was only in the last hours that the United States, the EU and the United Kingdom, together with the governments of other developed countries, agreed to the creation of a fund for loss and damage, to the first time in 30 years of climate negotiations, but there is still no agreement. how the fund will be funded and by which countries.
At COP27, China made it clear to the Guardian that it already helps vulnerable countries on a voluntary basis and sees no need for change. “We strongly support the concerns of developing countries, especially the most vulnerable countries, to deal with loss and damage, because China is also a developing country and we have also suffered greatly from extreme weather events,” said Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate official. Guardian, speaking through a translator. “It is not China’s obligation to provide financial support under the UNFCCC.”
The amounts needed to address the climate crisis over the next decade will reach into the trillions. Research by climate economist Lord Stern and his colleague Vera Songwe from the London School of Economics, published at COP27, found that it would take around £2 billion a year by 2030 to shift the economies of developing countries (excluding China) at a low level. carbon, to help them adapt to the impacts of extreme weather conditions and to cover the damage they suffer.
Although these sums seem large, they are “not scary”, according to Stern, because much of the money will come from the countries themselves, and some from private sources, and the total is only about 5% more than would be invested in any case in a high-carbon economy over the same period.
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