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From Kenya to Bangladesh, Haiti to Sudan, climate change is having profound effects on people around the world, causing humanitarian disasters and changing traditional ways of life forever. These changes are compounding other crises and eroding people’s capacity to deal with increasing instability and causing knock on effects including hunger, disease and displacement.
From our work with communities around the world, we know that we can prevent the impacts of climate change from having such devastating consequences. Concern staff from across the globe went to COP28 this year to amplify the voices of the communities worst affected by climate change. We asked that global leaders make progress on increasing levels of climate financing, as well as delivering on existing funding commitments, and ensuring funds reach the world’s poorest countries.
How did COP28 deliver?
In the first days of COP the World Meteorological Organisation released its latest report analysing the last decade of climate impacts. It showed how extreme events have had devastating impacts, particularly on food security, displacement and migration, hindering national development and progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.
Going into COP, we wanted to see clear commitments to adaptation - actions that protect against the impacts of climate change - recognising the urgency of the situation and the challenges that people around the world are facing. We wanted to see recognition of the adaptation finance gap – the gap between how much funding low income countries need to protect themselves from climate impacts and the amount of funding they are receiving – and a clear link to the new global goal on climate finance for 2025 onwards; the climate finance commitment from high-income countries that will succeed the 100bn promise made in 2009.
While we did see some of these things, including recognition of the growing adaptation finance gap, what was missing was the requirement that high-income countries adequately address it.
Loss and damage
The agreement on the opening day of COP of the Loss and Damage Fund – a fund to address the negative effects of climate change that occur despite mitigation and adaptation efforts, marks a significant moment, which only a few years ago would not have been thought possible. But, as with previous funds, how it is operated in practice and how much funding flows through it will be critical to how well it meets the needs of those people experiencing the impacts of climate change.
We need to see high income countries deliver new funding for Loss and Damage, rather than move money around or relabel old commitments.
Fossil fuel phase out
In the words of António Guterres, the UN Secretary General: “The science is clear: the 1.5°C warming limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning fossil fuels. Not reduce. Not abate. Phase out.”
COP28 needed to signal the end to fossil fuels to keep the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees within reach. Negotiations around this were a major sticking point in the final hours of the negotiations. In the end, the wording committed countries to ‘transitioning away’ from fossil fuels. This has been hailed as a victory by many, as being explicit about the need to phase out fossil fuels in the negotiations text for the first time, despite the powerful fossil fuel lobby is hard won progress. But what is missing is sufficient recognition that high-income countries should be moving first and faster, and the need to provide funding to help low-income countries transition.
Looking to the future
The big issue underlying all aspects of the negotiations is funding. Next year will be a “finance COP,” with a new climate finance goal to be agreed. A lot of progress needs to be made in the twelve months ahead of the next COP. High income countries need to come with ambitious new plans to raise the scale of funding needed. This must be more than an accounting exercise – we urgently need additional and grant-based funding. Without it, there can be no real progress in the negotiations. And, critically, it is people who have done least to cause the climate crisis who will pay the price.
Words to action
Although we heard positive words from UK Ministers at COP, in the last few months we’ve seen the watering down of climate finance commitments, weakening of policies designed to deliver net zero targets and the issuing of new oil and gas licences.
At Concern, we will continue to hold the government to account for its commitments, and make sure that delivery is done with integrity, not sleight of hand, in line with the principles of climate justice.
Here in Kenya we have seen the worst drought in 40 years. We saw up to 3 million animals dying in the affected areas - even camels. Close to a million children became malnourished. It was only due to a massive humanitarian effort that we didn’t see large numbers of people dying. The situation was worse in Somalia where the government estimates that there were 43,000 excess deaths due to drought in 2022 alone. Half of them were under five years old. “We know that these droughts are becoming more frequent and more intense due to climate change. We have to help people adapt to be able to cope with them. Kenya has a very fertile land with the capacity to provide food for humans and livestock. But we need to invest in and harness our water sources. I believe that if Kenya harnesses all this water that we get, it will be enough for households to continue to provide for themselves without children becoming malnourished or the need for large scale humanitarian aid. That’s why funding to help communities adapt to the challenges of the climate crisis is so vital.
In Haiti, climate change is disrupting the usual pattern of the seasons and causing increased droughts, hurricanes and floods. There used to be predictable growing and harvest seasons, but now farmers - who make up almost half the population - can’t farm and their livestock are dying. People are losing their livelihoods and without any support available, they’re moving to urban centres or migrating abroad. This means that food production is falling, leaving more people dependent on aid. “Global warming is increasing the intensity of hurricanes, and causing heavy rainfall and flooding. Low-lying urban areas like Cité Soleil were flooded within the first three days of the hurricane season this year. In a country like Haiti that doesn’t have strong infrastructure, this increased rainfall is causing water to be contaminated with sewage which is spreading disease. When it floods, people are walking barefoot, children are playing in the water, and they don’t know what they’re walking in. Last year, we had the reappearance of cholera. “Concern is working to help farmers protect their land from heavy rain and drought, and helping urban communities to prepare for flooding, but Haiti needs security and investment in infrastructure that builds on local knowledge.
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