Addressing Earth Day summit, Antonio Guterres calls on G7 leaders at June meeting to deliver on unmet promise of $100 billion a year to help poorer nations tackle climate change
By Megan Rowling
BARCELONA, April 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The U.N. chief called for rich countries to make good on their promises of climate finance for developing nations at the G7 meeting in June, warning at a Thursday summit hosted by the U.S. president that the world is "at the verge of the abyss".
Addressing the virtual summit on Earth Day, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said "dangerous greenhouse gases are at levels not seen in 3 million years".
He noted that global warming had already hit 1.2 degrees Celsius and is "racing toward the threshold of catastrophe".
Climate heating - which governments agreed in 2015 to try to hold to a ceiling of 1.5C - is already causing "ever rising sea-levels, scorching temperatures, devastating tropical cyclones and epic wildfires", Guterres added.
"We need a green planet - but the world is on red alert," he said. "We must make sure the next step is in the right direction. Leaders everywhere must take action."
To get all countries on board to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century, a "breakthrough" was needed on climate finance and efforts to help communities adapt to the fast-accelerating impacts of global warming, he said.
The low levels of climate finance flowing to poorer nations to help them develop cleanly and adapt to a hotter planet have long been a sticking point in U.N. climate negotiations.
Leaders of many emerging economies and poor nations - including India, China, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and Bangladesh - told the summit they were willing to move onto a low-carbon path and try to protect their people from climate disasters, but needed more international finance to do it.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her country, seen as highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, was already spending on average $5 billion a year - or about 2.5% of GDP - on measures to cope with threats from fiercer storms to floods.
Coal-heavy South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa said it was ramping up efforts to decrease its emissions from 2025 by adding huge renewable energy capacity - but African states would need more finance and technology to support their plans.
If the funds were given as loans, it would worsen the debt burden of developing countries, he warned.
In December, Guterres said wealthy governments were "lagging badly" on a longstanding pledge to channel $100 billion a year in funding from 2020 onwards to help developing nations from Africa to Asia and Latin America tackle climate change.
On Thursday, the U.N. chief said concrete proposals were needed before the COP26 U.N. climate summit in November to ease access to finance and provide technological support for the most vulnerable countries.
"Developed states must deliver on public climate finance, including the long-promised $100 billion for climate action in developing countries, at the G7 Summit in June," he added.
Donor governments and development banks should allocate half of their finance for climate resilience and adaptation, up from 20% now, he said.
Most climate finance currently goes to efforts to reduce emissions.
During the summit, Biden said the U.S. government intended to double, by 2024, its annual public climate finance for developing countries relative to the average in fiscal years 2013-2016, without specifying the base or the new amount.
That increase will include a tripling of funding for adaptation, according to a new U.S. climate finance plan issued on Thursday.
Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, an aide to Biden's climate envoy John Kerry, tweeted that total U.S. international public climate finance averaged about $2.8 billion a year in the 2013-2016 period, with about $500 million of it going towards adaptation.
Biden said climate finance was about more than providing clean technology for developing nations to build a clean-energy, job-rich economic path, but also improving regional stability, food security, and gender and racial equality.
He said the shared donor goal of $100 billion a year was "critical for achieving that".
"It's an investment that is going to pay significant dividends for all of us," he said.
Besides the new U.S. pledge of an unspecified amount - which Guterres said he was "encouraged by" - the event did not yield a big boost in global climate finance.
Joe Thwaites, of the Sustainable Finance Center at the World Resources Institute, said the new U.S. climate finance plan meant the country had made an "important start" on catching up after being largely absent for the last four years under climate change sceptic Donald Trump.
During that time, many other developed countries doubled their climate finance, and some committed to doubling again before 2025, making the Biden commitment "not particularly ambitious", with too little for adaptation, Thwaites said.
The United States "must do much more if it wants to become a leader on climate finance", he said in emailed comments.
"Provision of finance to vulnerable countries is a central pillar of the Paris Agreement, and such investments are key to building credibility and influence to unlock more ambitious climate action from other countries," he said.
(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)
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