By Rachid Bouhia, Economist in UNCTAD’s Division for Globalization and Development Strategies
The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated alarming debt levels in developing countries. By the time COVID-19 emerged, public debt in developing countries had increased steadily since 2013, in a context of more recurrent external shocks and rising fragilities in their debt positions, including those related to climate change. By the end of 2019, their total public debt – external and domestic – stood at 59% of combined GDP, the second-highest level on record (Figure 1). On a more positive note, there had also been a notable increase in the diversity and quantity of climate-related financial instruments at the national and regional levels. Information on the nature and scale of these initiatives is today critical to our understanding of – and policy response to – debt statistics.
By Maurizio Bezzeccheri, Head of Latin America Region, Enel Group, Arianna Checchi, Manager, Relations with International Organizations, Public Affairs, Eni, and Marta Martinez, Head of Analysis, Climate Change and Alliances, Iberdrola
The path towards net zero by 2050 is narrow but brings huge benefits. Transformation of the global energy system – responsible for around three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide – holds the key to averting the worst effects of climate change. Emerging markets are set to be amongst the worst-affected by the climate disaster and thus have most to gain from collective climate ambition – provided they can harness the necessary investment from the private sector.
By Paul Akiwumi, Director of UNCTAD’s Division for Africa and Least Developed Countries
The 46 least developed countries (LDCs) are among the most vulnerable developing economies. Given the already high pressure for these countries to grow sustainably, reduce poverty and improve livelihoods for their people, they cannot afford to strand their assets. Stranded assets are those whose value has fallen so steeply they must be written off. The growing risk of stranded assets has implications on countries’ right to development or right to promote sustainable development, raising important questions of equity.
By Sachin Chaturvedi, Director General, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS)
The COVID-19 crisis has given us an opportunity to reset development priorities as wider efforts to build forward better, with a smaller carbon footprint, make headway across countries. But are 20th century measurement instruments fit for the challenge? Building forward better requires effective and efficient measures adapted to desired development outcomes. For instance, the COVID-19 crisis has sensitised society to the need for better health infrastructure, as well as a greener and healthier environment. It has also exposed major social exclusion and increased inequalities. The pandemic has been a wakeup call to urgently fulfil the commitments of Agenda 2030 and shift to a new development paradigm connecting the five Ps: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership.
By Dr Michael Lindfield, Senior Consultant and Dražen Kučan, Urban and Energy Efficiency Sector Lead (Green Climate Fund)
More than two thirds of the global population are expected to reside in cities by 2050. Urbanisation offers unprecedented risks and opportunities with respect to the global response to climate change. Cities and urban infrastructure are one of four global systems (others are energy, land and ecosystems and infrastructure) that are key to reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and limiting long-term global warming levels to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Cities represent at least 58% of direct global emissions – 18% of all global emissions came from just 100 cities in 2017 – and constitute at least 21% of the potential for direct global emission reduction.
By Grammenos Mastrojeni, Senior Deputy Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean
Oceans and seas (henceforth used interchangeably) absorb over 90% of the additional heat generated by the greenhouse effect and then gradually release it across the planet. Humans may not consider oceans as a priority because we are a land species, but ocean warming brings natural disasters to our mainland. With the highest ocean temperatures recorded in 65 years, measured from surface level to a depth of 1.24 miles/2 km, these disasters are on the rise. The fires that raged in Australia and in the Amazon in 2020, and the heavy rainfalls in Europe and China, are evidence of the increased frequency of weather-related disasters. According to the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, weather-related hazards are the main driver of disasters, with a major human and economic toll on developing countries that are often more exposed to hazards and less prepared to address them and their consequences.
By Dr Penny Byrne, Climate Research Analyst at Standard Bank & Simon Freemantle, Senior Political Economist at Standard Bank
The COP26 summit presents a vital opportunity for global leaders, particularly those representing developed economies, to place Africa’s unique and pressing needs and demands at the centre of a more equitable framework for future climate mitigation and adaptation. The reason for Africa’s centrality in these discussions is simple: though its contribution to climate change has been negligible (in all, Africa contributed just 4% of total emissions in 2019 despite being home to over 17% of the world’s population), the continent will be powerfully, indeed disproportionately, affected by its long-term consequences.
By Erik Solheim, President Green Belt and Road Institute and Former Minister of Environment and International Development of Norway
To face the great environmental – and in many respects existential – challenges of our time, we need to change the way we think. Green action is not a cost. Neither is it as difficult as we tend to believe. The green shift is a huge opportunity for win-win policies.
By Tina Birmpili, Deputy Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
Across Africa, the world’s longest wall is being built. Not a wall to keep immigrants out or oppressed people in. Rather, a wall to unlock the potential of millions of people in the Sahel.
This is the Great Green Wall – an African-led initiative that the entire international community should throw its weight behind. To unlock the finance that will allow the wall to deliver on all its goals, however, we need to change the narrative in a diverse and vibrant region that is often dismissed as a lost cause.