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Last updated: 16 Nov, 2021  

Patricia.9.thmb.jpg Modi shows will, way to tackle climate change: Commonwealth Secretary General

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Vishal Gulati | 16 Nov, 2021
The whole Commonwealth will work together, harder and smarter to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement, an international treaty on the climate crisis aiming to radically reduce carbon emissions.

And India is an intrinsic partner in this challenge. It is the largest member of the Commonwealth and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown that there is a will and there is a way.

"We will work together," Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, whose birthplace Caribbean island suffered tremendously when it was struck by a hurricane in 2017, told IANS in an exclusive interview.

She is in this Scottish city to convince world leaders gather for COP26 -- the 2021 edition of the UN Annual Climate Change Conference -- to renew and strengthen commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping warming to 1.5 degree Celsius within reach.

On mobilising finance for Commonwealth nations to cope with the impacts of climate change by building long-lasting resilience and livelihood adaptation, she told IANS the climate finance is one of the most critical elements leaders are discussing at this climate summit COP26 in Glasgow.

"Many countries have enormous ambitions to tackle the climate crisis, through plans to phase out fossil fuels and transition to clean energy, develop climate-resilient infrastructure and transform key sectors such as agriculture to be more sustainable.

"But financing is required to deliver any of these strategies successfully," the Secretary General was clear in saying.

"More than 10 years ago at COP15, it was agreed that developed countries should provide US$100 billion each year to help developing countries adapt to climate change and cut their own emissions.

"However, according to the latest figures from the OECD just under $80 billion of this has been raised in 2019, so we are clearly off-target and it is frankly not enough for the climate action needed to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees."

She candidly said the developed nations must deliver on their promises, not only to achieve results on the ground, but as a matter of trust.

The reality is the current processes to access some of these international climate funds are quite difficult and arduous for capacity-constrained small states.

This is why the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub was created in 2015 -- it places highly skilled advisers in government departments to build capacity and support them in developing robust, successful funding proposals.

To date, the hub has helped countries secure about $44 million in climate finance for six countries, with projects worth US$750 million in the pipeline, she said.

Do you think vulnerability should be the core basis for allocation of climate finance, the Secretary General replied: "Vulnerability should certainly be taken into account when deploying finance to developing nations. Some nations are more vulnerable than others to the impacts of climate change, due to structural aspects beyond their control such as geography or location. In fact, this is the lived reality of many small island nations.

"My own birthplace, Dominica, suffered tremendously when it was struck by Hurricane Maria in 2017, which destroyed the equivalent of 226 per cent of its annual GDP overnight."

Recognising the devastation, the Commonwealth Secretariat is developing a Universal Vulnerability Index (UVI) that assesses how vulnerable or resilient developing countries are to economic, socio-political and environmental shocks, such as climate change, which could influence how much international finance they can access.

According to the Secretary General, the climate change is the defining global challenge of "our times, now exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic".

It is both an existential threat and a threat multiplier, amplifying existing social, political and economic inequalities. No nation is left untouched by this phenomenon and all levels and sectors of society are affected, though some are more vulnerable.

The solution, she believes, is only by working together across nations and sectors to align actions, join forces, share ideas, pool resources and learn from each other, will be able to stop the crisis.

"It is the smallest and most vulnerable that will suffer the most from the consequences of inaction, even if they contributed the least to the problem," she said.

An optimistic Patricia Scotland believes key outcomes will emerge from the Glasgow summit that is primarily focused on climate finance for action by developing nations to build resilience to climate change and to reduce emissions to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius future alive and abandoning fossil fuels. She says the young people are the key to changing mindsets and building the momentum for change.

"I certainly hope so. I expect that the use of fossil fuels will eventually become outdated, as human civilisation advances to more efficient, economically viable, and less damaging ways of producing energy and power.

"As the cost of renewable energy technologies continues to fall, renewables are now the cheapest form of energy, rather than fossil fuels.

"The Commonwealth is certainly making it a priority to support member states through the Commonwealth Sustainable Energy Transition Agenda and the partnership with the International Solar Alliance."

The Commonwealth -- a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal sovereign states -- at COP26 will be launching a new toolkit for small island developing states, developed jointly with Sustainable Energy For All.

This toolkit supports the development of country-specific business cases with detailed cost-benefit analysis and investment strategies for facilitating investment in clean energy.

Its experts are also supporting emerging petroleum-producing countries to explore how to diversify and achieve a sustainable economy that is not dependent solely on petroleum.
 
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