Since 1980, weather-related natural catastrophes have been responsible for around $5.2 trillion in losses
. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Some 100 world leaders and more than 20,000 scientists, diplomats and activists congregated in Glasgow for the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference known as COP26.
Results were mixed and in particular it will be difficult for both China and India to slash their dependence on coal for many years. Soaring energy prices also show that Europe and the US remain hooked on oil and gas. Moreover, the combined Covid-19 and energy crisis have placed enormous financial strains on the budgets of both developed and developing nations.
Research from the University of Melbourne shows that if the COP26 promises were followed through, global warming would be contained at 1.9 degrees Centigrade. That would put it at the higher end of the 1.5 to 2 degrees C band under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The big question is whether the developed nations will provide adequate green finance for struggling emerging nations
The good news for countries that have suffered from flooding, storms and droughts in recent years is that the US, the UK, Japan, Germany and other developed economies have at last agreed to give emerging nations $100 billion a year.
The financing will flow from 2023 onwards to counter climate change and help these nations make that all-important transition to using greener energy and fuel. In tandem, 450 institutions with a total of US$130 trillion under management are ready to finance global renewable energy and back other projects that cut carbon emissions, according to British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak.
“This is a historic wall of capital for the net-zero (carbon emissions) transition around the world,” he said at the summit in Glasgow earlier this week.
“To do that, investors need to have much clarity and confidence in the climate impact of their investments.”
He claimed that the entire global financial system would be “rewired towards net zero, with better and more consistent climate data, sovereign green bonds, mandatory sustainability disclosures, proper climate risk surveillance and stronger global reporting standards”.
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US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen noted that some estimates have put the global transition price tag at between $100 trillion and $150 trillion over the next 3 decades.
“Tackling the climate crisis is imperative and at the same time, the greatest economic opportunity of our time. We can, and will, create good-paying jobs and new industries as we tackle climate change,” she said.
Change is urgent as the human and financial costs of climate change are massive
Data from insurance company Munich Re illustrates the urgency. “Since 1980, weather-related natural catastrophes have been responsible for around $5.2 trillion in losses and have cost the lives of almost a million people,” the company said in a report.
Only a third of the losses were insured; and the figure excludes indirect costs, notably breakdown of supply chains, bankruptcies, loan defaults and power failures.
Five years after the Paris Climate Agreement, which had a target of keeping global temperature increases below 2 deg C, the year 2020 was the second warmest on record, said Munich Re.
The consequence was a hurricane season with a record 30 storms in the North Atlantic and scores of major wildfires.
Worldwide, the natural disasters incurred losses of $210 billion, raising the total after five years to a staggering $1.03 trillion.
Last year, while the Covid-19 pandemic raged, natural disasters alone caused some 8,200 deaths, extensive disruption, homelessness and growing refugee camps.
Asia, especially China, experienced serious cyclones and floods with losses of $67 billion, while the United States chalked up $95 billion.
“Even if the weather disasters cannot be directly linked to climate change, these extreme values fit with the expected consequences of a decades-long warming trend for the atmosphere and oceans,” said Ernst Rauch, the chief climate and geo-scientist at Munich Re.
“An increasing number of heatwaves and droughts are fuelling wildfires; severe tropical cyclones and thunderstorms are becoming more frequent,” he said.
© copyright Neil Behrmann.(https://neilbehrmann.net) This article was first published in The Business Times Singapore . For other Asian and global articles try https://subscribe.sph.com.sg/publications-bt/