UNGA78 Climate Ambition Summit: Leaders call for urgent climate solutions and actualisation of Loss and Damage Fund

  • 25 Sep 2023
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Naisiae Simiren

The theme for the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) attended by global leaders in New York is “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and the sustainability for all.” The 2030 Agenda provides for an action plan for people, the planet, and prosperity. The 2030 Agenda entails implementation and achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals which includes SDG 13 on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

President Ruto in his speech to UNGA noted that both sustainability and climate action should be pursued simultaneously. Further urging the world leaders present that it was imperative to understand that “sustainable development is robust climate action and climate action is development.”

The Climate Ambition Summit took place on 20th September with an opening plenary session showcasing leaders who are movers and doers in climate action. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his opening speech stated that climate action solutions were urgent.  Mr Guterres noted that solidarity in climate action was critical in limiting global warming to 1.5°C. He called upon the global north leaders to take action to prevent extreme and devastating climate changes which are witnessed mostly in global south countries who are least responsible for climate change. The secretary-general called upon the developed countries to reduce global emissions by moving away from fossil fuels and adopting renewable energy sources.

The action of shifting from the use of fossil fuels is not only necessary but urgent to ensure acceleration towards zero emissions. The world celebrates Zero Emissions Day on the 21st of September.  This year’s theme was “Giving our planet a day off a year”. Mr Guterres once again called for a Climate Solidarity Pact that will ensure the global north countries, who are major gas emissions contributors, take extra measures in reducing gas emissions and further support developing countries.

The UN Secretary-General emphasised on the need for developed countries to accelerate measures towards achieving zero emissions by 2040 and for developing countries by 2050 through the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Global north countries were also called upon to exit from the use of coal by 2030 and 2040 for global south countries and transition to renewable energy sources. Whereas Africa has abundant renewable natural resources, it is important for developed countries to actualize the Loss and Damage Fund implemented in the COP27 and meet their financial commitment of 100 billion dollars towards climate justice.

The devastating climate disasters experienced in developing countries also bring about fiscal challenges seeking to address these disasters. Developing countries end up borrowing from the global north countries in order to fund these disaster recoveries and because of a lack of proper financing structure, they end up with unsustainable debt burdens occasioned by inflations.

The World Bank representative told the members present at the Special Meeting on Loss and Damage Summit that it was important to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund. To achieve this, he mentioned several measures such as avoiding fragmentation of the Loss and Damage Fund and maintaining simplicity, ensuring inclusive Fund governance structure with the participation of those affected by the disasters. He emphasized targeting priority needs for the most vulnerable countries to prevent operational challenges. He further urged the need to have an effective fundraising campaign to ensure the collection of huge amounts that are not symbolic.

The African Development Bank representative noted that Africa despite contributing less to climate change bore the major impact of climate change with scientific data showing the high-temperature increase in Africa. AfDB highlighted the need for Africa to develop adaptation and resilient building measures which require financing. Africa requires approximately 40 billion dollars to meet loss and damage needs which AfDB plays a critical role in mobilizing climate finances.

AfDB called for a simple, accessible and appropriately funded Loss and Damage Fund to help Africa adapt to the irreversible climate changes and minimize losses from harsh climate events. AfDB noted that most African countries were reeling in unsustainable debt burdens which required immediate intervention and not further debts occasioned by funding disaster recoveries. To this end, President Ruto argued that a debt restructuring initiative was an immediate solution and proposed an extension of a 10-year grace period on sovereign debt tenor periods.

Further, President Ruto highlighted that innovation and capital are critical for Africa in dealing with its deficit climate finance. He encouraged members to take advantage of Africa’s green investment opportunities and incentives such as green manufacturing financing in e-mobility and green fertilizer among others.

The COP28 President representative noted that UAE will be keen on final deliverables towards the Loss and Damage Fund which was established in COP27. To achieve this, the representative noted that support from the international finance institutions was key to achieving strong outcomes for the Loss and Damage Fund.