By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS (IDN) — At the Stockholm+50 international conference in Sweden in early June, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed deep disappointment over the failure of rich nations to provide financing to mitigate the devastating consequences of climate change, including droughts, floods, heat waves, pollution and biodiversity loss worldwide.
The shortfall in funding has also derailed the implementation of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including poverty and hunger eradication, by 2030.
“What I’ve been saying very clearly is that developed countries should have implemented that commitment to support the developing world with $100 billion per year since 2020.”
“And, unfortunately, that did not happen in 2020, that did not happen in 2021. Until now, it’s not yet clarified, it will happen in 2022,” he lamented.
But the proposed funding has also been undermined by the disastrous economic consequences worldwide of the three-year-old COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February.
The Stockholm+50 meeting, on June 2-3, took place 50 years after the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, which was held in the Swedish capital—and described as the world’s first international conference on the environment which subsequently resulted in the historic 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
The meeting reiterated that all 17 SDGs rely on a healthy planet. “We must all take responsibility to avert the catastrophe being wrought by the triple crises of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.
“Earth’s natural system cannot keep up with our demands. This not only hurts the Earth but us too. A healthy environment is essential for all people and for all 17 SDGs. It provides food, clean water, medicines, climate regulation and protection from extreme weather events.”
Hosted by Sweden, the meeting was supported by Kenya, home to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) which originated in Stockholm in 1972.
Keriako Tobiko, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, told delegates: “The variety of voices and bold messages that have emerged from these two days demonstrate a genuine wish to live up to the potential of this meeting and build a future for our children and grandchildren on this, our only planet.”
“We didn’t just come here to commemorate, but to build forward and better, based on the steps taken since 1972,” he declared.
Inger Andersen, Secretary-General of Stockholm+50 and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said: “We came to Stockholm 50 years after the UN Conference on the Human Environment knowing that something must change. Knowing that if we do not change, the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste will only accelerate.”
“Now we must take forward this energy, this commitment to action to shape our world,” she added.
Of the 17 SDGs, Goal 13 calls for Climate Action.
According to the UNDP, there is no country that is not experiencing the drastic effects of climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions are more than 50 per cent higher than in 1990. Global warming is causing long-lasting changes to our climate system, which threatens irreversible consequences if we do not act.
The annual average economic losses from climate-related disasters are in the hundreds of billions of dollars. This is not to mention the human impact of geophysical disasters, which are 91 per cent climate-related, and which between 1998 and 2017 killed 1.3 million people, and left 4.4 billion injured, said UNDP.
The goal aims to mobilize US$100 billion annually to address the needs of developing countries to both adapt to climate change and invest in low-carbon development.
Recounting the past Guterres said: “As the late great Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme said at the time—and I quote: “In the field of human-environment there is no individual future—neither for human beings nor for nations. Our future is common. We must share it together. We must shape it together.”
“I believe his insight has even greater relevance today across the spectrum of our many global challenges—from the climate emergency to the COVID-19 pandemic to the war in Ukraine,” Guterres declared.
The Secretary-General also appealed to leaders in all sectors to lead the world “out of this mess and called on G20 governments to dismantle coal infrastructure, with a full phase-out by 2030 in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries and 2040 for all others. He called on all financial actors to abandon fossil fuel finance and invest in renewable energy”.
The conference featured four plenary sessions in which some of the world’s political leaders called for bold environmental action to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Three leadership dialogues, hundreds of side events—including several youth-led sessions—and webinars, as well as a series of regional multi-stakeholder consultations in the run-up to the meeting, enabled thousands of people around the world to engage in discussions and put forward their views.
According to preliminary estimates, six thousand people registered to attend in person, including 10 heads of state or government and 110 ministers from 146 participating Member States.
The warning on the consequences of climate change also came from the President of the UN General Assembly Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives, an island nation threatened with extinction from sea level rise.
“Today, we confront many interlinked global crises—from geopolitical, to environmental—which have once again illustrated the deep correlation between human progress and prosperity, with a healthy environment,” he said.
“Our ability to resolve these crises, and to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is directly linked to our ability to address the planetary challenges we face.”
As an example, he pointed out, “the pandemic’s disruptions to the global economy and to supply chains affected our livelihoods, our food security, and our well-being. Yet, as the climate crisis continues, and grows exponentially in scale and severity, our ability to effectively address those consequences further diminishes.”
“Our food systems worldwide are struggling under the strain of climate-induced consequences and the destruction of ecosystems. Drought, soil erosion, desertification, the loss of biodiversity, including marine life, and the depletion of crucial natural resources, are only some of the issues we confront. We owe it to our own children and grandchildren, to do much better,” he declared.
Meanwhile, a new Oxfam study, released June 7, says the amount of money needed for UN humanitarian appeals involving extreme weather events like floods or drought is now eight times higher than 20 years ago—and donors are failing to keep up.
For every $2 needed for UN weather-related appeals, donor countries are only providing $1.
Average annual extreme weather-related humanitarian funding appeals for 2000-2002 were at least $1.6 billion and rose to an average $15.5 billion in 2019-2021, an 819 per cent increase.
Rich countries responsible for most of today’s climate change impacts have met only an estimated 54 per cent of these appeals since 2017, leaving a shortfall of up to $33 billion.
The countries with the most recurring appeals against extreme weather crises include Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.
The report, “Footing the Bill“, says that the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events due to climate change is putting more pressure on an already over-stretched and underfunded humanitarian system.
The costs of the destruction from these storms, droughts and floods are also increasing inequality; people in poorer communities and low-income countries are the worst hit yet they lack the systems and funding that wealthier countries have to cope with the effects.
The richest one per cent of people on Earth are emitting twice as much carbon pollution as the poorest half of humanity
The UN appeals focus on the most urgent humanitarian needs, but that barely scratches the surface of the real costs in loss and damage that climate change is now wreaking on countries’ economies, Oxfam said.
The economic cost of extreme weather events in 2021 alone was estimated to be $329 billion globally, the third-highest year on record. This is nearly double the total aid given by rich nations to the developing world that year.
The costs of loss and damage to low- and middle-income countries—for instance, the money needed to rebuild homes and hospitals or provide shelter, food and emergency cash transfers after a cyclone—could reach between $290 billion and $580 billion a year by 2030. This does not account for non-economic losses such as the loss of life, cultures and ways of living, and biodiversity.
UN appeals represent just a small part of the costs of climate disasters for people who are especially vulnerable, and they only reach a fraction of the people who are suffering.
Oxfam’s research shows that UN appeals cover only about 474 million of the estimated 3.9 billion people in low- and middle-income countries affected by extreme weather-related disasters since 2000, equivalent to one in eight people.
Oxfam Executive Director Gabriela Bucher said “human activity has created a world 1.1 degree C warmer than pre-industrial levels and we are now suffering the consequences. More alarming still, we will overshoot the 1.5 degrees C safety threshold on current projections”.
“The cost of climate destruction will keep rising and our failure now to cut emissions will have catastrophic consequences for humanity. We can’t ignore the huge economic and non-economic losses and damages that underlie this picture — the loss of life, homes, schools, jobs, culture, land, Indigenous and local knowledge, and biodiversity,” she declared.
“This is the climate chaos we have long been warning about. Many countries that are being hardest hit by climate change are already facing crises including conflict, food inflation, and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is leading to rapidly rising inequality, mass displacement, hunger and poverty,” warned Bucher. [IDN-InDepthNews — 07 June 2022]
Image: Conclusion of the international conference. Source: Stockholm+50
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This article was produced as a part of the joint media project between The Non-profit International Press Syndicate Group and Soka Gakkai International in Consultative Status with ECOSOC on 07 June 2022.
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