Can climate diplomacy support a green recovery for the most vulnerable?

The most vulnerable countries to climate change, the least developed countries (LDCs) and small-island developing states (SIDA), are today more than ever affected by the adverse effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates with high confidence that ‘the poorest groups in society often lose out’ in accessing any climate aid, with women and girls disproportionately impacted. 

‘Climate change impacts are expected to intensify with additional warming.  It is also an established fact that they are interacting with multiple other societal and environmental challenges. These include a growing world population, unsustainable consumption, a rapidly increasing number of people living  in cities, significant inequality, continuing poverty, land degradation, biodiversity loss due to land-use change, ocean pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction as well as a global pandemic,’ is the gloomy assessment of the Panel in February 2022. 

IPCC also noted that LDCs and SIDS currently receive only 14 % and 2 %, respectively, of total climate finance. Vulnerable countries suffer from additional debt burden linked to their exposure to climate risks and that is ‘further exacerbated by the recession and debt distress accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic’. IPCC confirmed that investment for adaptation and green economic recovery in the most vulnerable countries could be accelerated by debt relief by public creditors, green recovery bonds, debt-for-climate swaps or SDG-aligned debt instruments. 

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Is climate diplomacy helping to fix this problem? As COP26 has shown, the role of climate diplomacy must be evaluated over the long run. Despite the expectations for COP26, the first meeting of climate diplomacy after the COVID-19 pandemic, the results were disappointing for the most vulnerable. 
COP26 demonstrated the limits and boundaries of climate diplomacy. On one hand the Paris Agreement rigidly mandated bodies did not help the cause of the poorest. On the other hand, the lack of political willingness to move away from conservative positions (both the new climate finance goal and the operationalisation of the loss and damage mechanism are still far from happening) have shown little progress on issues of relevance to LDCs and SIDS.

The European dream to lead the global fight against climate change started in 2001 when the US announced it would not to be bound by the Kyoto Protocol. The Paris Agreement (2015) was a significant achievement in contemporary multilateral environmental diplomacy with the EU acting as a bridge between major emitters and with the aim of shaping a coalition of the willing, in addition to ‘leading by example’. The Paris Agreement is a legally binding treaty and creates obligations for all parties. It also includes a robust monitoring, reporting and evaluation (MRV) system that, more than any other measure, will help the world reduce GHG emissions and better distribute climate finance and support. 
COP27 will be held in Africa (Sharm el Sheikh) and is again a crucial moment for climate diplomacy, a summit that should deliver on key aspects for most vulnerable countries. For example, these include increased climate finance, a commitment to double adaptation funding to USD 40 billion, clearer rules around carbon markets and increased attention to losses and damages.

What can GCCA+ do to support the role of LDCs and SIDS in climate diplomacy? We can help to enhance the quality of enabling environment so that these countries are more ready to attract and receive financial and technological support; enhance reporting skills, especially on the issue of finance needs; foster cooperation and knowledge exchange, in particular South-South; and support the consistency of key national strategic documents such as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), MRVs and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs).