/ 27 October 2023

Climate finance still a vital issue at COP28, Creecy says

Barbara Creecy Getty
Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy.

Developing nations have continually called for more support for the financing of their fight against climate change, yet the funding targets pledged by developed countries are still not being met, Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said.

The minister, who was addressing the national stakeholder consultations on Thursday before the UN climate meeting, said that, as with all Conference of the Parties, finance would remain a key issue at COP28, which starts on 30 November in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“There will be a renewed call for a scaled-up and predictable goal for climate finance at COP28,” Creecy said. “The deadline for agreeing upon this goal is 2024 and the success of this COP, and perhaps future climate talks, will depend on the outcome.” 

At COP27, South Africa’s delegation, together with the African continent, put forward a proposal to include the special needs and circumstances of the continent on the conference agenda, but this did not enjoy consensus, she said. This proposal will be made again at COP28. 

Acknowledging Africa’s unique circumstances will be an important step in upholding the principle of differentiated responsibility and would recognise the continent’s vulnerability to climate change and the need for support for mitigation and adaptation. 

“The African continent has historically only contributed 2% to the build-up of global emissions that are causing the current climate crisis and yet our continent is still being severely affected.” 

Important milestone

COP28 is an important milestone as it takes place exactly halfway between the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2016 and the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, Creecy said. The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change

“We know that 2030 is regarded by scientists in the climate change space as being a critical milestone and so it’s going to be an important opportunity for the global community to take stock of the progress we have made since the signing of the Paris Agreement,” she said.

This particular COP comes at a time when the world as a whole is starting to “grapple with the impact of climate change on daily life”, the minister said. 

“We have seen, very sadly, the enormous impact that climate change is starting to have on our own continent, the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa and the flooding that our country and many of our neighbouring countries have experienced over the last couple of years … And, what we know is that because our continent has not adequately built climate resilience, we’re already substantially moving into the arena of loss and damage.”

At COP27, the big victory for developing countries was the formation of the global loss and damage fund. But while the establishment of the fund is important, the “difficult task” of working out the details of the fund — how it will be financed, where the finance will come from and the form it would take — will be one of the key items on the agenda in Dubai, she said.

Global Stocktake

Significantly, Creecy said, the first Global Stocktake (GST) will be completed at COP28. “This is an opportunity for the world to look backwards and to assess what progress we have made in meeting the terms and conditions we adopted in Paris.”

It’s also an opportunity “for us to look forward and decide how we need to improve ambition going forward”, she said. “We already know we are not on track and we know that much more is needed to be done if we are to achieve the goals that science tells us are so necessary.”

Creecy said the discussions on the outcome of the GST had started and focused on key political messages, and more importantly, on multilateral and national measures that need to be put in place to “accelerate our journey towards a more sustainable and equitable world”.

The outcome of the GST will be the central outcome of COP28 and it “must increase collective action on mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage and the provision of support to developing countries to achieve this, commensurate with the challenges we face”.

As the co-facilitator of the consultations on the outcome of the political phase of the GST, together with Demark, South Africa is supporting the incoming Emirati COP presidency to help identify “areas of convergence and divergence” between parties in the run-up to and during COP28.

Clear targets

At the past three COPs, the South African delegation has joined delegations from other developing countries in calling for a clear adaptation work programme with clear targets for building the resilience of developing countries and clear financial mechanisms to achieve this. 

To date, there has not been substantial progress on this matter, Creecy said.

Maesela Kekana, South Africa’s chief negotiator on climate change, said adaptation is a key priority, not only for South Africa, but for the African continent.

“We are busy doing work under the Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheik work programme on the global goal for adaptation and we want to see tangible outcomes. 

“We do not have a target, believe it or not, for adaptation or adapting to these impacts of climate change. We do not have agreed indicators, so that will be the big work for us during the COP.” 

On doubling finance for adaptation, Kekana said: “Last year, the African continent proposed an agenda item to deal with that particular issue, but it did not fly, and we will try again this year.”

Mitigation is the first line of defence. “If you do not have enough mitigation, your adaptation costs are quite significant, and if you don’t have adequate adaptation measures, then you go into losses and damages, so the mitigation work programme for us is quite important and we do not want to see any backtracking there,” Kekana said.

“We want to see a push to accelerate the reduction of these greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from the developed countries. The Paris Agreement indicates that they should clearly take the lead on this.”

Broken promises

Developed countries need to fulfil their previous climate finance commitment of $100 billion a year as this is a “trust building exercise”, Kekana said. If they fail to deliver on this goal there will always be a trust deficit, he said.

“As you know, there have been pledges since 2009 of about $100 billion from developed countries to developing countries. That pledge has not yet been fulfilled, so it’s quite important we receive a presentation on that [at COP28] to see what’s really going on there.” 

The $100 billion commitment expires next year “so by 2025, we should have concluded the negotiations for a new goal”. 

“Our view is that the new goal has to be based on the needs of developing countries because the $100 billion goal just dropped from the sky and is completely inadequate to meet our needs,” he said.

It is urgent that international co-operation be enhanced, he added. “We all know that even if South Africa were to emit zero emissions today, we will still be impacted if everybody else is still not reducing their emissions, so international solidarity and co-operation is important.

“The issue of providing resources to middle-income countries such as South Africa to do their own actions is also important. The issue of providing resources for less developed countries, the small island developing states, to build resilience and adaptive capacity, is quite critical.”