- This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
- Top nature and climate stories: COP28: Debt relief needed to help developing world adapt to climate change; COP28 delegates adopt new climate disaster fund; Brazil to launch fund to protect tropical forests.
1. COP28: Debt relief needed to help developing world adapt to climate change, says DFI
Deep debt cancellations are needed to free up investment in climate crisis adaptation, according to campaign group Development Finance International (DFI).
The world's poorest nations currently pay 12 times as much to their creditors as they spend mitigating the impact of the climate crisis, DFI says.
A DFI study of the spending patterns of 42 countries highlighted that debt service repayments account for almost a third of their 2023 budget on average, while just 2.5% is spent on efforts to combat climate change.
“If the international community is serious about confronting the climate crisis, they need to get serious about comprehensive debt relief for a wide range of countries," DFI Executive Director Matthew Martin told UK newspaper The Guardian.
“If we bring countries’ debt service down to 15% of their revenues, as under the heavily indebted poor country initiative, we will have enough money to confront the climate crisis head-on."
High debt repayments might even be adding to the climate crisis, as countries are forced to increase exports to generate the foreign exchange needed to service their debts, The Guardian says.
Efforts to reduce debt are currently conducted on a case-by-case basis using the G20 Common Framework mechanism, with just a few countries receiving debt relief so far.
2. COP28: Delegates adopt new climate disaster fund
The first day of the COP28 climate talks saw delegates adopt a new fund to help vulnerable nations tackle the costs of responding to disasters driven by the climate crisis.
Event hosts the United Arab Emirates pledged $100 million to the fund, which has been informally known as the "loss and damage fund" for the past two years. Other sizeable initial donations will come from Britain ($51 million), the US ($17.5 million) and Japan ($10 million).
The EU has also pledged $245.39 million, which includes a $100 million contribution from Germany. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte committed a further €15 million ($16.3 million).
The agreement on the new fund marks the culmination of months of negotiations. COP28 President Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber called the decision a "positive signal of momentum to the world and to our work here in Dubai".
The fund aims to help low-income countries on the frontlines of the climate crisis finance their response to violent storms, heatwaves, drought, floods, wildfires and other extreme weather events.
Global damage costs from natural disasters have soared since the 1980s, with low-income nations bearing the brunt of the economic losses.
While the new fund's adoption and initial donations represent early wins for the climate talks, uncertainty remains about how it will be financed in future.
3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week
Top global development banks and climate funds launched a global task force the first Monday of the summit, reports Reuters. This fund will help to scale up the number and size of 'debt-for-nature' swaps. Such 'swaps', where debt is reduced in exchange for protecting ecosystems, have seen an uptick in interest.
The UAE and a number of key charitable groups (such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) offered $777 million in financing to tackle neglected tropical diseases, says Reuters. Such climate related health disorders will be exacerbated by a warming world and called one of the greatest health threats of the 21st century by COP28's president Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber.
Tackling climate change will mean decoupling the growth in food production from harms to the environment, said World Economic Forum president Borge Brende in Dubai Friday, reported The National. He spoke at the launch of the First Movers Coalition for Food, where major food companies have joined a WEF initiative where businesses leverage their purchasing power to tackle hard-to-abate sectors.
UN Women released its report "Feminist Climate Justice: A Framework for Action". According to this report, climate change will push nearly 160 women and girls into poverty by 2050.
Brazil wants to launch a global financing framework at COP28 aimed at protecting tropical forests. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will propose the fund to compensate residents and landowners for helping to preserve the Amazon and other forested areas.
Less snow and more rain will fall as climate change warms the planet, according to climate scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Despite potential near-term increases in snowfall, more snow will turn to rain in the long term, reinforcing global warming and disrupting food and water supplies for billions of people, the researchers say.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres told world leaders at COP28 that "we cannot save a burning planet with a fire hose of fossil fuels". His speech addresses a key debating point at the talks of whether to phase down or phase out fossil fuel use.
Many new climate models underestimate how much global warming leads to extreme rain, according to a study from Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The research predicts an increase in disastrous flooding events without urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?
Moving to clean energy is key to combating climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated.
Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago. Plus, improvements in the energy intensity of the global economy (the amount of energy used per unit of economic activity) are slowing. In 2018 energy intensity improved by 1.2%, the slowest rate since 2010.
Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.
Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.
To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials Platform is working on initiatives including Clean Power and Electrification, Systemic Efficiency, and the Global Battery Alliance to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.
Additionally, the Mission Possible Platform (MPP) is working to assemble public and private partners to further the industry transition to set heavy industry and mobility sectors on the pathway towards net-zero emissions. MPP is an initiative created by the World Economic Forum and the Energy Transitions Commission.
Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.
Climate change is shrinking pine forests in Hungary, according to National Land Centre data. About 10,000 hectares disappeared between 2019 and 2022, leaving some Christmas tree suppliers concerned about their livelihoods.
The reclusive North American wolverine has been declared a threatened species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Only around 300 wolverines are thought to remain in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington state, although higher numbers are found in Alaska and Canada.
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4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda
What pivotal issues will dominate the COP28 climate talks? Tripling renewable energy capacity, doubling energy efficiency savings and deciding the future of fossil fuels could all be high on the agenda.
Mangrove forests sequester carbon, reduce flood risks and protect water quality. Here are four steps we must take to preserve and restore the planet's mangrove forests.
A World Economic Forum report called Navigating Article 6: Opportunities for the Middle East and North Africa looks at how public and private collaboration can help action Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Article 6 provides a framework for an international carbon market to help the Middle East and North Africa channel capital into cost-effective carbon reduction projects.