The issues of climate justice and solidarity building took center stage, as world leaders resolved to reach an effective agreement. In a show of good faith, the United States, Canada, and nine EU nations announced a joint pledge of US$248 million to the Least Developed Countries Fund. The speeches and new pledges left many feeling optimistic about the negotiations ahead, with many touting Paris as the new beginning. But, the numbers do not add up with the promising rhetoric used.
As Bianca Jagger, a human rights advocate noted, it is “troublesome when we make and we add the numbers and know that we are condemning the world,” adding that “we need to declare a state of emergency for the climate.” For the most vulnerable countries, the future is doubly troubling, as any increase above 1.5 degrees could spell disaster for their nations.
The 49 LDCs are five times more likely to die from climate-related disasters compared to the global average despite contributing less than one percent of historic greenhouse gas emissions. Due to this, the new pledge to the LDC Fund was welcomed by many as a symbolic gesture in recognition of the most vulnerable nations.
However, $250 million is just a drop in the bucket in comparison to the commitment made to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020. We can not lose focus of the bigger scheme of things, and the reality is that there is still at least a $40 billion gap in achieving our 2020 goal. The commitment to the LDC Fund is a 15 year promise that is long overdue and that is still inadequate. $250 million is not enough to appease the LDCs because $250 million is not enough to assure their futures.
During his opening statement, President Obama stated, “I've come here personally, as the leader of the world's largest economy and the second-largest emitter, to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.” But back in the United States, Republicans undermined any hope offered by Obama, questioning not only the urgency but also the existence of climate change.
We can no longer afford to be impressed with empty promises and meager pledges. This is the 21st conference of the parties, the 21st time we meet in an effort to address climate change. This is not the time for a new beginning, this is the time for an end to inaction.