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LDC Group chair says ‘wind is blowing in the right direction’ at COP26

Amid new climate finance announcements, Sonam P Wangdi, chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, expressed cautious optimism that progress will be made on the issue at Glasgow
Sonam P Wangdi, chair of the Least Developed Countries bloc at the COP26 UN climate negotiations on 3 November 2021 (Image: Natalie Taylor / The Third Pole)
Sonam P Wangdi, chair of the Least Developed Countries bloc at the COP26 UN climate negotiations on 3 November 2021 (Image: Natalie Taylor / The Third Pole)

Sonam P Wangdi, chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, has expressed cautious optimism on the progress of negotiations following the World Leaders Summit, which took place during the first three days of the UN climate talks in Glasgow. However, he stated that overall progress to combat climate change has been “disappointing, and in a way also frightening. This is the 26th COP, emissions are still increasing, a commitment for USD 100 billion per year was made more than a decade ago and it has not been delivered.”

Countries defined by the UN as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) make up this group, which is now being chaired by Bhutan. Speaking at a press conference on 3 November, Wangdi, who is also secretary of Bhutan’s National Environment Commission, called for the biggest emitters to “stop skirting responsibility” and for ambitions to be ramped up in order to halve global emissions by 2030.

In response to the announcement of new net-zero targets, most notably by India, Wangdi said: “The pledges are one thing. We would like to see the evidence, which comes in the form of new updated NDCs… Until we have those it will be very difficult to verify or authenticate [the ambition of the announcements].”

He added that most of the statements at the World Leaders Summit were “for a 1.5C world”. “In terms of the policy direction, it is very clear the wind [at COP26] is blowing in the right direction.”

Gebru J Endalew, a delegate for Ethiopia and former chair of the LDC Group, added that it “seems logical” to have an annual mechanism for raising ambition on emissions reductions, given the current emissions gap between targets in the Paris Agreement and current levels of global warming.

In response to questions about whether continuing to uphold the 1.5 degree Celsius aim of the Paris Agreement is undermining consensus, Wangdi said: “The LDC Group is calling for what the science calls for – 1.5C. I believe that is the consensus.”

Funding for loss and damage ‘still difficult’

During the COP26 negotiations so far, Wangdi said “there has been some movement” on loss and damage resulting from the impacts of climate change. Wangdi pointed out that the LDC Group of 46 countries represents 1 billion people, who produce less than 1% of global emissions, yet suffer disproportionately from climate change.

Wangdi stated that the incoming presidency has taken responsibility on the issue. “We are actually quite optimistic, but so far we are not getting a sense of having any progress. It’s still hanging, it’s still difficult.”

On 2 November, the Scottish government became the first country to pledge £1 million in funding specifically for loss and damage. Wangdi said that this “paves the way” and that the LDC Group welcomed the announcement. “It’s going to be very clear that there should be separate funding for loss and damage and it should not be mixed with the other funds.”

Climate finance frustration

Wangdi also expressed frustration at the state of climate finance, and said this needs to be clearly defined, with better agreement on and assessment of the pledged USD 100 billion a year.

On 2 November, US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry claimed that Japan’s pledge of climate finance would meet the targeted USD 100 billion by next year. “I’m not very clear in terms of the 100 billion,” said Wangdi. “At this point in time we are not able to make a comment on that. There isn’t enough [climate finance].”

Responding to Mark Carney’s announcement of USD 130 trillion in private finance, Endalew said additional sources of climate finance are necessary, with public finance alone not enough to keep global warming within the 1.5C goal.

Our lives depend on decisions that are made here in Glasgow during COP26
Sonam P Wangdi, chair of the Least Developed Countries Group

At COP26 the goal for climate finance after 2025 will be discussed. “We expect some decisions here at Glasgow,” said Wangdi. He said the new goal could range from USD 100- 500 billion, but that “we do not know”.

More needs to be done to come up with numbers,” added Endalew.

Frustration was expressed at the fact that LDC Group countries struggle to access the climate finance that is available. It can take four to five years to access a loan, Wangdi said. “If you have a climate disaster… it doesn’t make sense, you are not able to help your people.” He said the LDC Group wants the process of accessing finance to be simplified, requirements harmonised, and for the funding to be available within six months to a year.

Fair and inclusive COP26

Prior to the conference, there had been concerns about challenges to LDC countries’ participation, with Wangdi stressing the need for COP26 to be “fully inclusive and fair”.

When asked if this has been achieved, Endalew said: “I think it’s too early,” but congratulated the presidency for equal treatment and a transparent approach so far. “Our voices are being heard and we’re participating.”

Wangdi called for cooperation and global solidarity, saying “our lives depend on decisions that are made here in Glasgow during COP26”.