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COP26 will fail unless rich countries pay up to help poorer nations cope with climate change

Rich countries must use the upcoming G7 summit in Cornwall to announce fresh climate finance pledges or risk the COP26 climate summit failing, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned.  

Speaking to world leaders today at a climate summit hosted by Germany, Mr Guterres said the success of the upcoming climate conference in Glasgow “rests on achieving a breakthrough on adaptation and finance”.  

The UN conference is widely seen as the most important climate summit since 2015, and a crucial moment for the world to get on track for ‘net zero’ emissions.  

But climate finance risks becoming a major stumbling block. In 2009 developed countries jointly promised to mobilise $100bn a year of financing by 2020, to help poorer nations transition to clean energy and cope with climate effects such as droughts, floods and rising sea levels.  

But wealthy countries have fallen far short of that goal. In 2018, the latest data available, rich nations provided $78.9bn of climate finance, in the form of grants, loans and private sector funding.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is keen to convince as many nations as possible to commit to net zero emissions by mid-century. But some poorer nations say they can’t do more without additional help from rich countries.  

Guterres said leaders should use the G7 summit next month to make fresh funding pledges, to smooth the way to a successful COP later in the year.  

“Developed countries must honour their long-standing promise to provide $100bn annually for climate action in developing countries,” he said. “The upcoming G7 Summit is a pivotal moment. I call on the leaders of the G7 to take the lead, with other developed countries following, to make substantial climate finance pledges for the coming five years.” 

Prime Minister Johnson also suggested climate finance will be a key topic of discussion for the G7 meeting, promising to “bend the ear” of fellow leaders on the issue. “I hope to secure a substantial pile of cash”, he said.  

As the host of Thursday’s meeting, Germany’s Angela Merkel confirmed plans to bring forward the nation’s net zero goal to 2045, but drew criticism for not promising more in climate finance.  

“Chancellor Merkel and her equivalents in the G7 are leaving vulnerable and middle-income countries in the lurch – on green recovery, on adaptation to climate change and on equitable access to vaccines that would allow them to go back better, commented Jennifer Tollmann, of climate think tank E3G

“Germany still has the opportunity to bridge this solidarity and climate finance gap, and together with the UK G7 Presidency bring other G7 partners along. To do so is mission critical for COP26 and trust in the broader multilateral system.” 

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