COP26: UK pledges £290m to help poorer countries cope with climate change

COP26: UK pledges £290m to help poorer countries cope with climate change

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The UK is pledging £290m to help poorer countries cope with the impact of climate change, as the COP26 climate change summit enters its second week.

Government ministers from around the world are in Glasgow for more talks.

They will discuss how to support poorer countries and if reparations for damage from natural disasters should be paid.

Poorer nations have called for financial help, arguing they are already suffering and will be worst affected by climate change.

Developing countries have historically contributed a very small proportion of the damaging emissions driving climate change – while currently the wealthiest 1% of the global population account for more than double the combined emissions of the poorest 50%.

The majority of the money from the UK will go to help Asian and Pacific nations plan and invest in climate action, improve conservation and promote low-carbon development, the government said.

The UN summit will continue until Sunday, with much of the focus of the talks over how to limit global warming to the target of 1.5C.

Monday is the Adaptation, Loss and Damage Day – where negotiators will discuss how best to mitigate the impact of a warming planet, particularly for poorer countries.

Developing countries are asking for $100bn (around £73bn at current exchange rates) annually to help reduce emissions and adapt to climate change and reaching net-zero targets on emissions well before 2050.

A pledge for $100bn from wealthier nations was made as long ago as 2009, but the plans to have it in place by 2020 have not be realised and current targets aim to reach it by 2023 – an offer which has been described as “extremely disappointing”.

International trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the world “must act now” to prevent more people being pushed into poverty by climate change.

“We know that climate impacts disproportionately affect those already most vulnerable,” she said. “We are aiming for significant change that will ultimately contribute to sustainable development and a climate resilient future for all, with no one left behind.”

The government said its £290m in new funding to tackle the impact of climate change will be split between:

£274m to assist Asian and the Pacific nations to plan and invest in climate action, improve conservation and ensure low-carbon development£15m to a fund designed to support developing countries focus their response where they most need it£1 million to support delivery of faster and more effective global humanitarian action, including in response to climate-related disasters

But there is also the question of whether rich nations should pay reparations to vulnerable countries for damage already caused by climate change.

Wealthy nations have never acknowledged legal liability for the impact of their emissions – because the bill could run into trillions.

So far, Scotland is the only country promising to donate to compensation fund for countries whose economies have been damaged by climate change.

Last week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged £1m to the so-called loss and damage fund – the first donation.

On Sunday, a leading climate expert welcomed the decision as a massive breakthrough.

Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, said Scotland’s pledge is the first time any developed nation has tacitly admitted responsibility for contributing to global warming – and he believed it will not be the last.

The Glasgow COP isn’t really one conference – in effect it’s two processes in parallel.

One is a series of daily events organised by the British presidency of the COP. This innovation has already conjured welcome initiatives on forests, finance, methane and technology. This week it’ll unveil pledges on transport, cities and science. They’ll be significant if they’re carried through.

Meanwhile in parallel the tangled talks of the formal UN process labour on.

There are disagreements over the rules governing climate deals, whether rich countries will offer more cash to poorer countries already suffering from dangerous heating – and whether given the urgency of climate disruption, nations should raise their carbon-cutting ambitions in two years instead of five.

There’s also a question of reparations for nations harmed by emissions they didn’t cause. So far the only contribution to the fund is £1m from Scotland.

It’ll be a tough week.

The first week of the climate talks have led to a variety of pledges:

Experts and climate change campaigners have welcomed the commitments, but argued they need to be delivered on.

President of COP26, Alok Sharma, said the pledges made “must be delivered on and accounted for” by all nations.

He said: “Here in Glasgow we have a unique opportunity to reach a historic outcome and I am committed to bringing countries together to forge an agreement that means we see more action this decade, which helps to keep the 1.5C temperature limit within reach.”

Other attendees at COP26 on Monday include former US President Barack Obama, who is expected to speak about the progress made in the five years since the Paris Agreement took effect

He is expected to highlight the leadership of young people worldwide in tackling climate change and urge stronger action from governments, the private sector, charities and civil society.

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