Least developed countries urge climate finance help at UN Security Council

Drought in Kenya's Ewaso Ngiro river basin. Photo by: Denis Onyodi / KRCS / CC BY-NC

Dozens of least developed countries have called for the United Nations Security Council to encourage governments to make climate finance targets a reality at the 2021 U.N. Climate Change Conference, or COP26.

Speaking at a virtual meeting of the Security Council on Tuesday, Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, representing the least developed countries group, said the bloc had to “insist that concrete solutions be found for enhancing climate adaptation and resilience for the most vulnerable countries.”

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Chakwera reiterated the LDC group’s call for high-income nations to fulfill their pledge to provide $100 billion per year in climate finance to vulnerable countries “in a predictable manner,” with at least half going to adaptation, including loss and damage — a politically contentious area. Half should also go to climate-vulnerable nations and small island states, he added.

“We want a binding commitment for these targets at COP26. We trust UNSC will promote this,” Chakwera said.

Politicians from donor countries and climate-vulnerable nations spoke at Tuesday’s meeting about how a hotter climate would likely cause increased resource competition, natural disasters, and the mass movement of people, fueling instability and insecurity. But there was scant mention of improving the climate finance flows desperately called for by lower-income and climate-vulnerable countries.

“Climate change is a geopolitical issue every bit as much as it is an environmental one,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the first leader from the United Kingdom in a generation to chair the Security Council.

But climate-vulnerable nations were critical of the commitments of higher-income nations on cutting carbon emissions and providing promised climate finance.

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The 2020 deadline for the $100 billion is believed to have already been missed, with the U.N. recently reporting “huge gaps” in climate financing. The money was promised to the least developed countries under the Paris Agreement to help them deal with the effects of climate change.

Chakwera described existing commitments from high-income countries to cut their carbon emissions as “woefully inadequate” and called for “more ambitious commitments” in time for COP26, which is set for early November.

Under the administration of former President Donald Trump, the United States blocked previous attempts by Security Council members such as Germany to link conflict with climate change. But John Kerry, special envoy for U.S. President Joe Biden, told the council that “climate impacts need to be included in every aspect of this body's decision-making and field reporting.”

“The Biden administration has totally changed the game around climate discussions in the Council, and the UK smartly took advantage of that,” Richard Gowan, U.N. director at the International Crisis Group, told Devex via email. He added that the United Kingdom’s aid budget cuts, which have caused much contention domestically, have “not been a huge talking point” around the Security Council, where the U.K. was viewed “as a pretty competent diplomatic player.”

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Only 6.1% of bilateral development finance was spent on adaptation in 2017, and much more is needed to help lower-income countries prepare for the impacts of a hotter planet.

Gowan continued: “This was more a symbolic than substantive meeting, but the symbolism mattered. ... Now other Council members — including Ireland, Norway, Kenya and Niger — may use their upcoming council presidencies over the next twelve months to get more concrete outcomes. I think that Russia will be skeptical, and China wary, but they may compromise.”

Niger and Kenya — both climate-vulnerable countries — called for U.N. measures on conflict and peace building to be sensitive to climate change. French President Emmanuel Macron used the occasion to call for a special envoy for climate and security, and he urged the Security Council to make climate a core aspect of its mandate.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said governments should increase their focus on preventing emission of greenhouse gases, act to protect people from harmful impacts of climate change, embrace a people-centred view of security, and improve multilateral relationships.

This focus area, supported by the U.N. Development Programme, explores how climate change and other planetary imbalances impact the rising trend of human inequality and vice versa. Visit the Focus on: People and the Planet page for more.

About the author

  • William Worley

    William Worley is the U.K. Correspondent for Devex, covering DFID and British aid. Previously, he reported on international affairs, policy, and development. He also worked as a reporter for the U.K. national press, including the Times, Guardian, Independent, and i Paper. His reportage has included work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, drought in Madagascar, the "migrant caravan" in Mexico, and Colombia’s peace process. He can be reached at william.worley@devex.com.