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COP26 Final Hours: Don’t forget people caught up in crisis

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New York, NY, November 13, 2021 — With the final hours of negotiations at COP26 underway, the IRC is urging world leaders to prevent catastrophic levels of emissions and to support the poorest countries to adapt to the immediate consequences of climate change, already playing out in places where the IRC works.

The draft text from COP26 which was released yesterday lays out important, but insufficient, steps to meet this double challenge. Despite new and updated emissions pledges, the world is on track for 2.4 degrees C average temperature rise, far beyond the goal of remaining below 1.5 degrees C.

Climate finance and vital support for adaptation remains a critical sticking point for the ongoing negotiations. It is a terrible symbol of neglect that the original pledge for developing countries of $100 billion in climate finance by 2020 will not be met until the end of 2022. Climate finance for adaptation to least-developed countries currently stands at $15 billion per year, out of the $80 billion in climate finance currently mobilized. This is a fraction of what is needed for people living with the climate crisis now. The IRC welcomes new pledges for climate adaptation made at COP26, including President Biden’s $3 billion in adaptation finance annually until 2024 and the EU’s pledge of $100 million to the COP26 adaptation fund, which raised over $350 million in total at COP26. The UN however estimates that $300 billion will be needed by 2030 for climate adaptation alone.

The IRC is warning that the massive financial void will leave vulnerable, specially fragile and conflict-affected countries, with little support. These are places where climate change is already an extreme and everyday reality:

  • Drought across 80% of Afghanistan is driving acute hunger and food insecurity;
  • In Ethiopia, already one of the sites of the devastating 2012 famine in the Horn of Africa and an unprecedented locust outbreak last year, 11 million people are already facing crisis levels of food insecurity as conflict rages in the Tigray region.
  • Last year, we witnessed over 1.4 million people displaced in Northern Central America due to the deadly combination of ongoing conflict and multiple natural disasters.

The impact is already being felt as rising temperatures, drought and extreme weather conditions contribute to food shortages and spiralling hunger. Women and girls are suffering the most from climate change. The UK’s COP26 Presidency signalled a commitment to women and girls by launching new, dedicated funding to advance gender equality in climate action, however its scale and geographical reach is too limited to meet the global challenge; commitments to support women and girls disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis must not end here.

David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said:

“COP26 needs to remember the poorest and most vulnerable in its final hours. This was billed as a critical moment for the international community to come together and make much-needed progress in tackling the climate crisis before it's too late. But for IRC’s clients around the world already facing emergency climate conditions, time has already run out. In these critical final hours of negotiations, global leaders must keep the devastating implications for the lives of the most vulnerable people at the forefront of their minds - and ensure they are made part of the final agreement.

"It is crucial that both tests set at this year’s conference are met: to prevent the catastrophic breach of 1.5 degrees C rise in temperature, and step up to help the most at-risk communities adapt to the climate change already underway.

"The US-China agreement for further cooperation is significant, a sign that the shared dangers of the climate crisis cannot be ignored. But the impact of the existential threat posed by climate change is spread unevenly - and thus far, vulnerable populations are being all but assured that they will continue to bear the brunt. With climate finance and adaptation funding woefully insufficient, large swathes of the global population will be left defenseless against a problem they did not cause.

"The climate crisis speaks to a gross mismanagement of the global commons and a collective failure by countries to live up to their responsibilities. The great injustice is that these failures will be felt most deeply by people already mired in humanitarian catastrophe, and who contributed the least. The world, especially the world’s most vulnerable, cannot afford for these negotiations to fail.”

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Hope Arcuri
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Kim Nelson
Kim.Nelson@rescue-uk.org
IRC Global Communications
+1 646 761 0307
communications@rescue.org