Gordon Brown: Countries treating $100bn climate target ‘like organising whip-round charity fundraiser’

Success of Cop26 depends on governments honouring 12-year-old pledge, former PM says

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 20 October 2021 16:05
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Gordon Brown has hit out at governments’ efforts to raise $100bn to tackle the climate crisis, likening it to being treated as “organising a whip-round at a charity fundraiser” – just weeks before a crucial summit.

In an article for The Independent, the former Labour prime minister argued the success of Cop26 depends on the world’s richest countries honouring the “yet unrealised” 12-year-old pledge to transfer the funds to low-income countries.

He added that governments must also ratchet up shorter-term carbon reduction targets for 2025 and 2030 – recognising the urgency of the situation – and urged companies to disclose their carbon footprint.

Mr Brown’s intervention comes just 11 days before world leaders meet in Glasgow for the UN climate summit, where Boris Johnson hopes to seal a deal to keep global warming below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Another of the government’s key targets is to urge developed counties to “make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year” – a goal that was first initiated at a climate summit in 2009.

Mr Brown, who was prime minister at the time, said: “We knew that, as Artic and Antarctic ice disappears, floods and fires increase, and threats to biodiversity multiply, the poorest people in the poorest countries will be hit hardest.”

But he added: “Instead of countries agreeing an equitable sharing of the burden, we have treated the business of raising $100bn like organising a whip-round at a charity fundraiser.

“In no year since 2009 has the fund every yielded more than $40bn of the promised $100bn. It is only when multilateral bank disbursements and private funding – mainly in loans for renewable projects – are added that the annual sum finally reached $80bn in 2019, still well below what was promised.”

The former prime minister warned that current commitments, including both the UK and US, “still falls far short of what they should be contributing”.

“Until developed countries outline a credible path to making good their promise, vulnerable countries will not trust any pledges made on future emissions reductions and they could decide to bring Cop26 down,” he said.

“So it is imperative that in the days between now and the start of Cop26 the $100bn a year is finally achieved.”

It comes after controversy surrounding the UK’s commitment, with billions pledged being taken from the overseas aid budget, which has already been dramatically scaled back by the Treasury.

On Tuesday, the UK government also published long-delayed documents setting out its strategy to reach the legally binding target of net zero by 2050, but faced criticism from climate campaigners arguing ministers should be going “further and faster”.

While proposals to replace polluting gas boilers, support the switch to electric cars and plant millions of trees were welcomed, critics warned the package was over-cautious, with one expert saying it was more in tune with limiting global warming to 2.5-3C, rather than the 1.5C maximum which is the goal of next month’s crucial Cop26 summit.

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