Why this year’s UN climate conference is all about the money

The major topic: money

One of the biggest conversations at COP27 will be over one question: who should be footing the bill for climate change?

It’s been an unprecedented year for climate disasters. Flooding in Pakistan killed over 1,000 people, destroyed nearly 2 million homes, and caused an estimated $15 billion in damages. Drought in East Africa has wiped out crops, threatening people across the region with famine.

These disasters are hitting hardest for countries that have contributed very little to change climateso some argue that rich countries like the US, which has contributed about 20% of the world’s historical emissions, should pay for it. China emits far more today than any other nation, and is the second-largest historical emitter, with 11% of the global total.

“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

In a historic move, climate financing for “loss and damages” made it onto the official agenda for COP27. This is funding that would go to helping countries deal with climate disasters like floods and droughts that are becoming more common. The language took hours of negotiations to finalize, and it’s unclear what progress officials will make on actually coming to an agreement, especially because countries are already falling behind on previous climate finance obligations.

In 2009, a group of countries including the US committed to providing $100 billion dollars per year by 2020. The funding is supposed to help developing countries cut their emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change with protections against effects like drought and sea level rise.

The contributing group has fallen short, reaching just $83 billion in financing in 2020. And some countries like the US, Canada, and the UK aren’t contributing their “fair share,” according to a recent analysis by CarbonBrief that looks at countries’ financial contributions compared to their historical emissions contributions to climate change.

Missing the mark on current climate finance targets doesn’t bode well for those looking for more help, but we’ll be keeping track of conversations over the next two weeks to see what officials come up with. Hopefully, not just more blah blah blah .

What else I’m watching: reactions to US climate policy

COP27 comes with many in the climate world still celebrating passage of the Inflation Reduction Actwhich was signed into law in August and provides $370 billion in funding for climate and energy action in the US.

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