'A huge disconnect': Developing nations say climate change agreement draft is too weak

·Senior Climate Editor
·3 min read
Climate change. Get the latest.
Climate change. Get the latest.

GLASGOW, Scotland — Developing nations pleaded for more aggressive action to combat climate change on Friday, the last planned day of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26.

“There is a huge disconnect between where we are, where we will be, based on current projections, and where we need to be, based on what science is telling us,” said a representative of the government of Bangladesh, which currently holds the presidency of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a partnership of countries especially affected by climate changes, such as sea level rise. (Rising seas could cost Bangladesh 11 percent of its land by 2050.)

Bangladeshi children sit on garbage piled up by a river among buildings in varying states of construction.
Bangladeshi children sit on garbage piled up by the river Buriganga in Dhaka in 2018. (A.M. Ahad/AP Photo)

In a session presided over by COP26 president Alok Sharma, at-risk countries pleaded for increased ambition in the forthcoming agreement, the second draft of which came out Friday morning. In particular, they want bigger cuts in the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, more assistance for developing countries to build economies powered by clean energy, and more funding to adapt to climate change and compensation for the losses they are already incurring.

“The current draft does not live up to our expectations,” said Camila Zepeda, the lead negotiator from Mexico, who was speaking on behalf of the Environmental Integrity Group. The government of Mexico, however, like those of many large developing nations such as Brazil and India, has also been criticized by environmental activists from its own country for insufficient ambition in its emissions targets.

“We need to phase out all use of fossil fuels immediately, including coal, and we must end all subsidies to fossil fuels,” said a delegate from Belize. “We must have language that provides support to those vulnerable communities already experiencing loss and damage.”

In particular, developing nations are fretting over the fact that emissions will rise 16 percent by 2030 under the current commitments, rather than dropping 45 percent in this decade, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds is needed to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, which is the expert consensus on the maximum temperature increase that avoids triggering a cascade of catastrophic effects.

“Keep[ing] the focus on raising ambition of short-term commitments is absolutely critical,” said the Bangladeshi representative.

Sheikh Hasina speaks into microphones at a clear podium with a sign reading: 75 UNESCO 12 Nov. 2021.
Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaks during the 75th anniversary celebrations of UNESCO in Paris on Friday. (Julien De Rosa/AFP via Getty Images)

The urgency is especially strongly felt by small island nations that are already contending with enormous challenges from rising seas. Tuvalu’s Finance Minister Seve Paeniu, whom Yahoo News interviewed on Monday, expressed disappointment that the outcome of the negotiations hasn’t lived up to the soaring rhetoric of the heads of state who addressed the conference at its outset.

“In the first two days, we heard the passion and commitment of world leaders,” Paeniu said. “However ... in the negotiation rooms, we are not seeing that level of optimism being translated into the cover decisions before us.”

“We are at the forefront of climate change,” he added. “It is an existential threat now. We would like to propose stronger language, to raise the level of ambition.”

Outside, in a press conference, climate justice advocates from the Climate Action Network said the current agreement is not fair to developing countries.

“The current trajectory that we are on points to a very disadvantaged future,” said Mohamed Adow, director of the think tank Power Shift Africa. “We are already losing lives ... and there isn’t much support being provided to these countries to build their adaptive capacities.”

“It’s really unacceptable that poor countries are being asked to foot the bill for something that they did very little to create,” said Oxfam International executive director Gabriela Bucher. “The lives of everyone in the world depend on the decisions taken in the next few hours.”

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