Climate conference and G7 raise stakes for COP29, amid mounting frustration

Decisive action and renewed cooperation are critical to successful progress on international efforts to mitigate climate change, writes Zerin Osho.

June’s G7 summit in Puglia, Italy, comprising the world’s seven biggest economies, did little to break this impasse, or to decisively move away from oil and gas investments. Most pledges that emerged merely reiterated agreements made at prior, lower-level meetings. Image: , CC BY-SA 3.0, via Flickr.

Last month’s SB 60 climate talks in Bonn, Germany, have proven to be another missed opportunity in the fight for our planet’s future.

The 60th session of the subsidiary bodies to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was marred by disappointing patterns: robust climate finance mechanisms were absent and unanimous commitments proved challenging to secure. The reluctance to fully embrace the necessary steps for a just transition was clear.

As we inch closer to November’s COP29 in Baku, Azerbaijan, this lack of progress and commitments from key nations threatens its success and therefore the global effort to keep the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target within reach.

The consequences of this inaction are not theoretical. They are already manifesting in the tragic loss of life following extreme heat in India and Africa. These deaths are a stark reminder of the human cost of climate inaction.

Crushing pressure of public debt

Trillions of dollars are required to meet the escalating climate change adaptation and mitigation needs of low and middle-income countries, but high-income countries offered no concrete solutions at SB 60.

Liquidity and insolvency issues remain a significant obstacle to swift climate action from emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs). According to an April 2024 report by the Debt Relief for Green and Inclusive Recovery Project, 47 EMDEs will exceed the International Monetary Fund’s external debt solvency thresholds in the next five years, as they try and raise capital to achieve the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and the Paris Agreement goals.

The lack of progress on finance has translated into a lack of progress across the board, because finance is essential to unlock action. The indecisiveness of the biggest economies, which have a crucial role in mobilising climate finance, is behind this.

June’s G7 summit in Puglia, Italy, comprising the world’s seven biggest economies, did little to break this impasse, or to decisively move away from oil and gas investments. Most pledges that emerged merely reiterated agreements made at prior, lower-level meetings. At a time when the world needs bold leadership, it reflected a broader failure to seize the moment.

The G7 did commit to accelerating the transition from fossil fuels during this decade however, aiming for net zero by 2050 and a 75 per cent cut in methane emissions from fossil fuels by 2030. But this commitment was undermined by leaving the door open for continued public investments in gas, betraying a reluctance to fully embrace the necessary shift from fossil fuels.

Political leadership and immediate action

Political leadership is crucial. The COP “troika” (the host nations of the previous, upcoming and following COPs; currently the UAE, Azerbaijan and Brazil) must raise the political stakes to secure the delivery of trillions rather than billions for the new climate finance goal. The troika must also ensure all countries submit substantially stronger nationally determined contributions.

The upcoming G20 summit in Brazil in November, scheduled to overlap with COP29 for two days, will be another critical moment when high-income countries must step up and honour their responsibility to provide climate finance. Given that Brazil is hosting the summit, is an important developing country, and will be the host of COP30, more focus on these issues is likely.

While the debate and funds remain stalled at the international level, there is still much that can be done at the national level. In the absence of significant progress, the agreed transition from fossil fuels must be pursued through new NDCs.

These should aim to implement COP28’s outcomes, such as transitioning away from fossil fuels, reducing methane emissions, creating more sustainable food systems, protecting forests and striving to keep the 1.5°C target alive. However, without concrete financial commitments or a willingness to act on existing agreements, achieving an ambitious new finance goal at COP29 and genuinely advancing NDCs to meet the 1.5°C target is uncertain.

Inclusiveness and multilateralism needed

A critical aspect of these negotiations is the inclusion of voices from those most impacted by climate change. COP29 must ensure that human rights and fundamental freedoms are upheld, particularly as Azerbaijan has a troubling record on human rights – and a heavy reliance on fossil fuels.

This is the third consecutive COP to be hosted in a country that significantly represses civil society (following Egypt and the UAE), raising concerns about the protection of civic space during the negotiations.

To effectively combat climate change, multilateralism – international cooperation for the common good – must succeed. Fora like the G7, the G20 and COPs have historically played a crucial role in building consensus on global challenges such as climate change, the economy and pandemics.

For example, initiatives to reduce methane emissions and tax multinational corporations began in the G7, before expanding to the G20 and eventually influencing larger multilateral groups. This collaborative spirit is urgently needed again.

At the upcoming G20 summit and COP29, we require concrete commitments and innovative solutions that other nations can adopt. This means mobilising climate finance, pushing for stringent methane-reduction policies and fostering a global transition to sustainable energy. Only through decisive action and renewed international cooperation can we address the urgent challenges of climate change and build a resilient, sustainable future.

This article was originally published on Dialogue Earth under a Creative Commons licence.

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