By Atayi Babs
A new report has confirmed that fifty-five vulnerable countries have been made poorer by the debilitating effects of climate change.
In aggregate dollar terms, the report estimates that these vulnerable economies have lost approximately US$ 525 billion over the two decades due to climate change’s temperature and precipitation patterns.
Commissioned by the Vulnerable Twenty (V20), a group of Finance Ministers from the Climate Vulnerable Forum, the report establishes that Climate change has eliminated one-fifth of the wealth of the V20 countries with primary evidence.
It indicates that the V20 would have been 20% wealthier today if not for climate change and the losses it incurred for poor and vulnerable economies.
“The Economic losses cut GDP growth in the V20 by one per cent each year on average, which averaged 3.67% in 2019 across the vulnerable economies,” the report said.
A setback for two decades
From 2000 to 2019, the report estimated economic losses due to hydro-meteorological extreme events are higher than in the previous two decades, and the world’s most vulnerable economies are also not adapting fast enough to cope with the changing climate as it currently stands.
The report was presented today at an event which saw Ghana assuming leadership of the V20 at the ongoing Bonn climate talks holding in Germany.
This report, according to Kenneth Nana Yaw Ofori-Atta, Ghana’s Finance Minister, “should sound alarm bells for the world economy, since V20 are fast-growing engines of global economic growth, whereas the climate crisis has the potential to bring that phase to an end if the world fails to act.”
“The failure on the $100 billion of international climate finance delivery, particularly the failure to ensure a 50:50 balance for adaptation, has left us highly exposed,” Ofoi-Atta said.
Represented by Prof Seth Ofaso, Ofori-Atta called for “an international financing mechanism for climate change loss and damage as a matter of pragmatism and justice.”
The V20 and Climate Vulnerable Forum, he said, are calling on COP27 to establish this financing facility in solidarity with victims least responsible for, and least equipped to withstand, the increasingly extreme physical shocks driven by climate change.”
Prof Osafo told PAMACC that it is untenable that the world’s rich and responsible nations continue to refuse the poor, vulnerable and least responsible nations, support for the crushing costs that they bear because of inaction on the climate crisis.
“It should fall on COP27 to decisively act on the void of finance for loss and damage in a clear litmus test for whether those fueling the climate crisis can truly begin to take responsibility for the breath of damage that has been unleashed by it, Osafo added.”
The litmus test
The midyear Bonn climate talks began on a feverish note on Monday with widespread calls to consider a financing facility for loss and damage as an agenda item for the Sharm el-Sheik climate talks scheduled for November 2022 in Egypt.
The call became necessary, analysts say, following the failure to balance the insistence for the finance facility by poor nations and the veiled opposition from rich nations led by the USA and some European nations at last year’s Glasgow climate talks.
From G77 countries to the African Group of Negotiators (AGN), from Least Developed Countries (LDC) to green advocacy groups, the groundswell of support for the financing facility has been massive, proving to be a litmus test for the talks.
Green groups, however, are wary of a fair outcome for the Bonn talks as ominous signs of goalpost-shifting tactics and empty talk shops appear on the horizon despite assurances of an “open, transparent process for all and a great appetite to make progress” made by Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, the chair of the Bonn climate talks.
Charles Mwangi of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) urged negotiators in Bonn to be alive to the differentiated impacts of losses and damages to men, women, youth and the disabled and act following the established evidence.
“In the spirit of the urgency of the times we now live in, we call on parties to the UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) to consider the role and capacity of Civil Society Organizations in loss and damage response and fast track mechanisms for easing access to climate finance to CSOs,” Mwangi told PAMACC.
Keeping 1.5°C alive
Equally of concern to the V20 report is the need for more stringent mitigation action to keep the global mean temperature increase below 1.5°C.
Given that warming is set to progress to within 1.5ºC in the next decade regardless of further mitigation action, it is believed that economic losses would continue to increase except adaptation accelerates at a phenomenal rate both to prevent loss and damage at current levels, as well as to offset the growth in economic losses and damage that will be generated as temperatures continue to rise.
Nearly all V20 economies have already warmed to mean temperatures that are far beyond what would be optimal for generating economic growth, and thereby instead incur economic losses – additional warming will only carry V20 economies further from the optimum, greatly increasing the risks of losses in the future.
The V20 Group of Finance Ministers of the Climate Vulnerable Forum is a dedicated cooperation initiative of economies systemically vulnerable to climate change. The V20 works through dialogue and action to tackle global climate change.
About 25 countries in Africa and the middle-east are members of the V20. These include Benin, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, DR Congo and Malawi. Others are Eswatini, Palestine, Tunisia and Yemen while 19 Asia-pacific countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the island nations alongside 11 Latin America and the Caribbean countries of Haiti and Honduras make up the rest.