YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – A UK-based Christian charity has welcomed the creation of a new fund to assist poor countries in dealing with the consequences of climate change as part of the UN’s COP-28 summit, but warned that the dollar amounts involved so far fall considerably short of the real need.
“The pledges being made are in millions, when the scale of need is in the billions,” said Jessica Bwali, a Zambian official of the Christian charity Tearfund, which provides development and relief aid in more than 50 if the world’s poorest countries.
“The new Loss & Damage Fund needs to deliver new and additional finance at scale to the communities that need it. This is about fairness and responsibility,” Bwali told Crux.
The new “loss and damage” fund was agreed to on the first day of the Cop28 summit, in response to charges that while developed nations are most responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change, poor nations tend to be the ones who face the most dramatic consequences.
So far, the $700 million pledged by wealthy nations covers less than 0.2 percent of what experts claim will be required every year, with estimates for the annual cost of damage resulting from drought, storms and other natural disasters connected to climate change ranging from $100 billion to $580 billion.
The following are excerpts of Crux’s conversation with Bwali.
Crux: On day one of the COP28, a Loss & Damage Fund was launched, something that some polluting countries opposed during COP 27. How did you receive this apparent breakthrough?
Bwali: The establishment of a loss and damage fund was a promising start to the UN climate talks in Dubai, and a positive achievement in the first few days. Many people’s lives and livelihoods are already being destroyed by the climate crisis. Wealthy nations with a history of high emissions have a responsibility to support countries suffering the worst impacts to rebuild. The new Loss & Damage Fund needs to deliver new and additional finance at scale to the communities that need it. This is about fairness and responsibility.
Faith leaders have warned that the fund could be a false victory without further action. Based on past commitments, is there a reason why the faith leaders should be cautious?
Faith leaders are right to express caution, as even though the loss and damage fund has been agreed upon, the pledges being made are in millions when the scale of need is in the billions. The world has changed over the past few decades, with more frequent storms, tropical cyclones, floods, droughts, earthquakes, wildfires and pandemics. Sadly, the vulnerable, including those living in poverty, experience the brunt of the impact of these events. Church and faith-based organizations globally are championing the cause of the vulnerable and stepping in to respond to the impact of the climate crisis.
What concrete steps do you think need to be taken to ensure that this represents a key response to the climate crisis?
It’s really important now to be clear on whether or not the pledges being made are new money or whether funds are being repurposed, and we’ll be holding governments to account on their responsibilities on this.
African youth have called on developed countries to “more than double” adaptation finance, meaning funding to help communities reduce climate-related risks, such as stronger housing and more drought-tolerant crops. In your opinion, how much money needs to be committed to adaptation, and why should Africa’s priority be adaptation and not mitigation?
Communities that did the least to cause the crisis have the fewest resources to respond to it. The most climate-vulnerable nations are being forced to divert money away from crucial public services, such as healthcare and schooling, to protect themselves against climate impacts. Wealthy nations have a responsibility to help communities adapt to a crisis they didn’t cause. It’s time to foot the bill, starting with delivering the promised doubling of finance for adaptation. Inaction is running up the tab.
You come from Zambia, where floods and droughts periodically cause devastation. Give us an idea of what the situation is now, and what is the sense of loss these climate variations have caused?
In Zambia we use hydroelectric power, but we still suffer massive power cuts because of droughts. The Kariba dam, for example, relies on a flow of water and when there is no water, the power supply dips. Many people suffer abject poverty because of this. Reliable renewable energy requires investment. African countries need to spend money they don’t have to adapt to a crisis they did not create – and it’s likely to come at the cost of crucial public services like healthcare. That is an injustice.
What would a successful COP look like for you?
A fair and funded phase out of all fossil fuels to secure a future that powers progress, not poverty.