There is no longer any doubt: developing countries are paying the price for human-induced climate change, despite being the least responsible for it. Some sources estimate that the Global North is responsible for 92% of excess historic global CO2 emissions. And yet, 55 of the most climate-vulnerable countries suffered economic losses totalling more than half a trillion US dollars in the first two decades of the 21st century.
This existential threat of climate change affects all IPU Member Parliaments. African Members of the IPU in particular are becoming increasingly imperilled by climate change, and are being compelled to take action concerning consequences for which they bear little to no responsibility.
Defining loss and damage
We cannot address the impact of climate change on developing countries without considering loss and damage (L&D). L&D refers to the adverse effects of climate change that cannot be (or have not been) avoided through mitigation or adaptation. These can be caused by sudden events such as storms or flooding, as well as slow-onset impacts including sea-level rise and desertification.
Climate finance to support adaptation and mitigation against global warming is a crucial lifeline for developing nations. In 2009, as a key outcome of COP15, US$ 100 billion was pledged to be spent by 2020 on assistance for developing countries in their efforts to tackle loss and damage. This goal was extended to 2025, but research from the World Resources Institute indicates that developed nations are not contributing their fair share to this goal. Moreover, the US$ 100 billion figure is paltry compared to the actual costs of climate change; studies suggest that L&D could cost developing countries as much as US$ 580 billion annually in 2030, rising to well over US$ 1 trillion annually by 2050.
Impacts and actions in Africa
The scale of the injustice of climate finance and the resulting threats to governance and self-determination are highly evident in Africa. The entire continent accounts for less than 4% of global emissions, a similar percentage to South America. And yet, the African Development Bank estimates that it is losing as much as 15% of its annual GDP due to the effects of climate change.
In the face of this challenge, African parliaments are taking the initiative to streamline their budgeting, contribute to sustainable development, and focus political willpower more efficiently. The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report identifies a number of adaptation measures specific to the needs of African countries, such as the integration of climate adaptation into social protection programmes, and the development of robust legislative frameworks that facilitate climate action.
More specifically, the IPU has been actively engaged in a partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide green COVID-19 recovery training courses that support climate action to three of our Member Parliaments in Africa: Benin, Seychelles and Zimbabwe. The training courses were developed in line with the recommendations of the IPU-UNEP policy note for parliamentarians on green approaches to COVID-19 recovery, but were also co-developed with each of the three parliaments to ensure the relevance of the training materials to each national context.
In Zimbabwe, parliamentarians and parliamentary staff attended virtual sessions focused on the development and strengthening of legislative approaches to climate finance and clean energy. Seychellois MPs attended a two-day virtual conference that identified actions to strengthen the island nation’s legislation on clean energy. In Benin, the IPU worked with parliamentarians and parliamentary staff to identify sustainable approaches to waste management, with a particular focus on options for supporting the implementation of international commitments on chemicals and waste management, including through national legislation.
Recognition of the impact of climate change on developing nations is of crucial importance to all Members of the IPU. At the 144th IPU Assembly in Indonesia, 110 national parliaments adopted the Nusa Dua Declaration, which recognizes the scale and severity of the climate crisis on developing nations, and calls for (among other things) greater action on finance for our African Members and other developing nations. Parliaments ultimately represent their people and, in Africa, it is ordinary people who are bearing the brunt of climate change.
The latest science on climate change and its impact on frontline countries will be one of the themes considered at the parliamentary meeting at COP27, jointly organized by the IPU and the Egyptian House of Representatives.