Alejandra Padín-Dujon writes on how Least Developed Countries are calling for climate adaptation and funding to tackle poverty in the wake of the latest synthesis report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“Without stronger mitigation and adaptation, the world is relegating the Least Developed Countries to poverty… Adequate and accessible funding for adaptation is critical to ensure our communities can build resilience and future-proof their development.”
— Response to IPCC Sixth Assessment Synthesis Report, LDCs, 20 March 2023
Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its synthesis report. This document summarised publications that the IPCC had released in its “sixth assessment cycle,” including work on climate science, impacts and adaptation, lowering emissions, the 1.5ºC warming goal, land use, and ocean science. Among their headline statements, IPCC experts specified that “mitigation and adaptation actions have more synergies than trade-offs with Sustainable Development Goals.”
The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) were among the many groups to issue a response. Their press release emphasised green, “future-proof” development as a necessary strategy to avert poverty—a message steeped as much in the political climate of global green industrial policy as in the context of global warming. This messaging represents a shift in rhetoric away from the LDCs’ traditionally conservative stance on “greening” their economic development (but liberal stance toward redistribution of climate finance) toward a message of synergy—not competition—between green development and anti-poverty policy.
The shift in rhetoric
As recently as September 2022, only two months before the global COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, the leaders of 24 African countries released a communiqué asserting the “need to avoid approaches that threaten abrupt disinvestments from fossil fuels, as this will… threaten Africa’s development.”
At the time, fuel prices were spiking globally due to the war in Ukraine, and African countries from Egypt to Mozambique inked or renewed deals with sheepish European counterparts to step up production of liquefied natural gas (LNG)—a lower-carbon fossil fuel alternative to oil that was disincentivised by European banks until recently. In March 2023, Bloomberg reported that Mozambique’s ability to service crushing debt depended on the resumption of a £16 billion LNG project, exemplifying the pressures that exist on LDCs to resist decarbonisation.
In the following months, however, rhetoric by the LDCs (which include 33 African countries) has undergone a shift. At COP27’s Opening Plenary, the LDCs (led by Senegal) reiterated the importance for the New Collective Quantified Goal on climate finance to “reflect the real need of developing countries to leapfrog to low-carbon climate resilient development pathways” [emphasis added]. The LDCs’ comments linking green growth to anti-poverty upon the release of the new and definitive IPCC report show a continuation of this trend: the LDCs ask for a positive way forward, not (only) compensation.
The stakes, while hazy, are intriguing: the host of COP28, the United Arab Emirates, recently sparked outrage by appointing the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Sultan al-Jaber, as COP President, casting doubt on the sincerity of the country’s climate efforts. As recently as 2021, the COP President-Designate affirmed that while renewables are increasingly important, fossil fuels remain the reality, so “we must progress with pragmatism.”
Al-Jaber’s appointment comes concurrently with the US Inflation Reduction Act’s green investment, emissions reduction, and energy security policies; the UK government’s ‘Powering Up Britain’ energy and climate announcements; and the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism tariff.
It is certainly possible, then, that the LDCs’ public stances are meant to create a non-aligned movement between the green industrialists and the oil tycoons—perhaps to attract green technology while delaying strategic alignment with fossil fuel interests to attract further promises of finance.
The Global North is pledging to decarbonise quickly, and countries that do not or cannot will be penalised and left behind. This makes for extremely shaky economic ground for the world’s least developed countries. As the LDCs rightly point out, the immediacy of the climate crisis is matched by an inextricable crisis of poverty and hindrances to economic development. The Northern shift toward decarbonisation must be matched by equitable distributions of international climate finance—facilitating progressive, simultaneous commitments to climate and anti-poverty worldwide.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect those of the International Development LSE blog or the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Image: Flooding in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, Mozambique, 2019. Credit: Climate Centre on Flickr.