There has been “some progress” in setting the terms for a global “loss and damage” fund to support climate vulnerable countries following meetings on the fringes of this week’s UN general assembly and climate action summit in New York, Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan has said.
Mr Ryan, who is leading EU efforts to nail down elements of the fund agreed last year, said there was a discernible change in attitude by states, and greater understanding that extreme weather events made worse by climate change “can no longer be ignored”.
In addition, there was acceptance of the risk of public anger “if they don’t show a commensurate response” in the context of a UN “global stocktake”, indicating not enough is being done to address the climate crisis.
Mr Ryan said the world needed new sources of climate finance, not just loss and damage to enable vulnerable countries to respond to, and recover from, climate impacts.
A lot more was required to cut carbon emissions and build resilience for the inevitable impacts of climate disruption. This could not be sourced from exchequer funds alone, he said.
In meetings with European ministers, he said he was seeking support for “a robust Cop28 position from the EU in favour of solving the climate financing problem for developing countries”.
There was some momentum on the development of broader, more innovative and more ambitious mechanisms to increase access to renewable energy, while phasing down fossil fuels in developing countries – particularly Africa.
At Cop27 in Egypt, Mr Ryan was appointed EU lead negotiator on loss and damage – a role he is set to fill again at Cop28 in Dubai during December. As a result, Ireland now shares a seat on the UN Transition Committee on Loss and Damage which has responsibility for “operationalising new funding arrangements and bringing the fund for consideration and adoption at Cop28″, the annual climate negotiations hosted by the UN.
Central to discussions in bilateral meetings were efforts to help ensure a move towards greater renewable energy accessibility and investment in areas of the world where millions of people are still living without secure power or are reliant on fossil fuels, he said. “Africa, for example has 40 per cent of the world’s solar radiation but has the same number of PV panels installed as the Netherlands.”
At the recent African climate summit in Nairobi, countries were recognising the development potential from renewables, Mr Ryan said. This could not only address the climate issue but also help achieve the UN sustainable development goals, while stabilising migration and reducing conflict. “It’s right in every way ... stabilising Africa is very much in Europe’s interest,” he said.
Mr Ryan said the summit was “an important opportunity for the world to kick-start action on ambitious new commitments, transforming words into action, keeping the Paris Agreement alive by moving away from fossil fuels to clean energy, rapid cuts to emissions and commitment to science-based action”.
“It’s critical we make a leap now; a real global jump to a cleaner future,” he said.
The EU is seeking a tripling of renewable power and a doubling of energy efficiency by 2030. “But that won’t be enough. We also need a phasing down and out of fossils fuels,” Mr Ryan said.
“Only 1 per cent of windfall profits achieved by fossil fuel companies over the past year has gone into the cleaner alternative ... that has to change,” he said at a briefing.
The prime minister of Barbados Mia Mottley told the summit the current structure of the loss and damage fund was inadequate. “We are in the final stages of the actions needed to preserve this planet and regrettably I don’t think everyone is getting it,” she said.
Ms Mottley said: “It’s painful to continue to see that you are asking us to increase borrowing to build resilient infrastructure for something we didn’t do, and at the same time you want to also ensure you have a loss and damage fund that doesn’t have the adequate means for grant funding to help countries rebuild. It’s unconscionable and almost a crime against humanity.”