As the United Nations General Assembly kicked off in New York City on Monday, activists unveiled a new version of their digital “Climate Clock” to spotlight the extent to which rich countries are reneging on their vow to invest $100 billion a year in a global green energy fund designed to assist developing nations.
“We are in a climate emergency, and without drastic corrective action on track for climate catastrophe.”
The message was displayed in New York City’s Union Square along with a climate-action timeline updated to reflect the alarming findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report, which U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called a “code red for humanity.” The new clock estimates that the international community has roughly seven years and 300 days to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avert the worst of the climate emergency.
“The new IPCC report sent a clear, unequivocal message: we are in a climate emergency, and without drastic corrective action on track for climate catastrophe,” Laura Berry, Climate Clock research and advocacy director, said in a statement.
Organizers of the Climate Clock display in New York—which first went live last September—noted that the United States in particular is under fire from campaigners for failing to live up to its obligations.
“Africa needs countries like the U.S.—that are the greatest contributors to the problem—to also contribute the most to helping solve it,” said Climate Clock global ambassador Jerome Ringo. “The United States is only 5% of the world’s population but is responsible for 25% of the world’s carbon emissions. We must contribute our fair share to the Green Climate Fund.”
According to the Climate Clock’s new “Lifeline” message, rich nations still owe nearly $90.5 billion in annual financing for the Green Climate Fund, a U.N.-backed initiative established in 2010 with the goal of helping low-income nations develop robust and sustainable renewable energy systems.
“Africa, like other developing regions who suffer disproportionate climate impacts from CO2 historically released by industrialized nations, deserves a lifeline,” said Ringo.
The updated Climate Clock debuted as world leaders prepared to hold informal climate talks at the U.N. General Assembly, which is taking place just over a month before the key COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
“Countries can swiftly mobilize trillions of dollars to respond to an emergency—it is clearly a question of political will.”
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested it’s unlikely that wealthy nations will nail down pledges to reach the $100 billion-a-year Green Energy Fund investment target in upcoming negotiations, despite lofty rhetoric from rich countries stressing the need to treat the climate crisis as an existential emergency.
“I think getting it all this week is going to be a stretch. But I think getting it all by COP, six out of 10. It’s going to be tough,” said Johnson. “But people need to understand this is crucial for the world. Some countries are really stepping up to the plate. Others, some G20 countries, need to do much more.”
An analysis released Monday by the humanitarian group Oxfam International estimates that “wealthy nations are expected to fall up to $75 billion short of fulfilling their longstanding pledge to mobilize $100 billion each year from 2020 to 2025 to help the most vulnerable countries adapt to the dangerous effects of climate change and reduce their emissions.”
Nafkote Dabi, Oxfam International’s global climate policy lead, said in a statement that “the pandemic has shown that countries can swiftly mobilize trillions of dollars to respond to an emergency—it is clearly a question of political will.”
“Let’s be clear, we are in a climate emergency,” said Dabi. “It is wreaking havoc across the globe and requires the same decisiveness and urgency. Millions of people from Senegal to Guatemala have already lost their homes, livelihoods and loved ones because of turbo-charged storms and chronic droughts, caused by a climate crisis they did little to cause. Wealthy nations must live up to their promise made twelve years ago and put their money where their mouths are. We need to see real funding increases now.”