WASHINGTON: There were high hopes in November when a global climate summit in Egypt adjourned with the creation of a fund to help poor countries cope with the ravages of global warming, the Washington Post reported.
But less than three months later, there are few signs that the United States and other wealthy nations will step up to bankroll the much-hyped fund. That’s why US climate negotiator John F Kerry said he had a succinct answer last month — at the Davos international economic conference — when he was asked about what he needed.
“Money, money, money, money,” Kerry recalls saying.
“It’s what we need,” the White House climate envoy added in a recent meeting at The Washington Post. “We need it for the developing world. We need it for the right choices to be made [and] to leapfrog the mistakes.”
Two months after the U.N. Climate Change Conference ended in Egypt, the hopes and promises of that COP27 summit are fading. Countries are struggling to raise large and steady streams of capital needed to shut down fossil fuel plants, switch to renewables, retrain workers, and establish a fund for losses and damages suffered by poor nations after climate-induced disasters and a century of wealthy countries’ carbon emissions.
During his visit to The Post, Kerry said that while large amounts of money have been committed to plans to close coal plants in South Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam, there were still “trillions sitting on the sidelines.”
Harnessing such investment is a consuming focus of those who still dream of a united global response to climate change. Kerry said he and Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who recently returned from South Africa, have held three or four meetings with the heads of multinational development banks — including the World Bank — urging them to undertake “major reform.” Kerry said these institutions were urged to focus more on climate change than on how they were rated for financial strength, and to use financing tools that would make private investors more comfortable with developing world risks. “We have repeatedly pointed out to them the urgency of moving rapidly in order to be able to address the crisis of climate,” Kerry said. “They’re concerned more about their ratings than about development.”
World Bank President David Malpass faced calls in September for his removal after he declined to say if he accepted the scientific consensus that man-made burning of fossil fuels was warming the planet. “I’m not a scientist,” Malpass, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said at a New York Times event. He later modified his remarks, and Kerry has not called for his ouster.
The World Bank said in an October fact sheet that it had increased its climate finance from $10.9 billion in fiscal 2016 to $31.7 billion in fiscal 2022. “This makes us the biggest multilateral funder of climate action in developing countries today,” the fact sheet said.
The bank said it had set a target for climate financing to come to 35 percent of its overall lending, resulting in loans of $25 billion annually on average over five years, a figure that many government officials and climate activists say is far too low. The World Bank spent nearly $15 billion on fossil fuel-related projects between 2016 and 2021, according to one study. That included a $200 million loan guarantee in 2021 for a gas-fired electricity plant in Uzbekistan. “The World Bank must immediately stop funding any fossil fuel project,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global policy at CAN International, a network of groups combating climate change.
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