We Can’t Hold Our Breath on Finance – Dr Ben North

Ben North Cop27 signMy experience at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh has been a whirlwind so far, often overwhelming at times in its scale and scope. The multitudes of people who traveled from every corner of the earth to share their stories of how their livelihoods are being impacted by climate change adds more gravity, reality, and clarity to the situation than ever before. On the bus ride back from the conference tonight, I sat next to a woman from the party delegation representing the pacific island nation of Vanuatu who told me of the stark impacts of climate change and associated sea level rise which have caused salt-water intrusion on their country’s water supplies, forced a school near the coastline to be abandoned, reduced agricultural productivity, and degraded coral reefs and fisheries. She told me that many other small pacific island nations are facing similar challenges that are expected to worsen.

These kinds of stories are ones I have heard repeatedly from voices around the world being shared here at COP27 in the three days we have been here so far. At the same time, seeing so many countries and citizens coming together in a united endeavor to address a common threat, even amidst global conflict and economic uncertainty, provides me with an upwelling of hope for the future. I also continue to see unprecedented policy and market signals that indicate more meaningful climate action is coming but albeit still not nearly fast enough. For example, I spoke today with a woman from the South African party delegation who told me that all of South Africa’s major banks are present here at COP27 which has never before occurred for the country at any previous COP. Also, Denmark, France, Sweden, United Kingdom, Finland, and the European Investment Bank, have all published policies to stop funding fossil fuels abroad by the end of 2022.

These are just two examples, of many I have encountered here, which provide points of indication that the world financial system is continuing to shift in a monumental way to direct the flow of investment towards the development of decarbonized economies. However, it appears many are still holding their breath here, as a major point of discussion in the COP27 negotiations is to create global finance facility for loss and damage from climate impacts on underdeveloped countries which continues to remain on the table.