Listen to poor countries or face COP26 failure
Published on 5 November 2021
COP26 is doomed to failure unless the richest countries on the planet stop ignoring those from the developing world, a University of Dundee energy expert has said.
The stark warning came from Professor Peter Cameron, Director of Dundee’s Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law Policy (CEPMLP). Professor Cameron warned that failure to deal with the climate emergency will reverse decades of progress in poverty alleviation, lead to increasing conflicts, and create tens of millions of climate refugees as the earth becomes more uninhabitable.
Professor Cameron was speaking as CEPMLP published a series of five research papers to coincide with the climate summit in Glasgow. Each of these addresses a vital dimension of the global green energy transition by exploring the aspirations, needs and opinions of African, Caribbean, and Asian, countries.
So far, the focus of COP26 has been on the world’s major economies but Professor Cameron warned that a decarbonised economy is impossible without meaningful engagement with the least developed countries (LDCs). That means sharing technology, developing a new green-focused aid infrastructure, and addressing the imbalanced global economy.
“If we want nations to follow a particular development path then we have to incentivise it,” he said. “Poverty reduction has to be an integral part of the transition away from fossil fuels. These LDCs have done very little to cause the problem but face the consequences caused by others and are being told not to apply the same growth model that has served the richest countries so well.
“We have spent time working with our partners in these countries to hear their concerns, not just about the consequences of climate change, but also the consequences of moving away from an economy powered by fossil fuels.
“The poorer nations have, as always, been marginalised in the public discourse, but the debate around what the developed world must do massively impacts on LDCs, not least because of the imbalanced way the global economy is structured.
“Of course, we need the big polluters to decarbonise but the indirect effect of all these rich countries getting to net zero will brutally hit producer nations with a far smaller carbon footprint. In fact, the outsourcing of manufacturing means that a large chunk of many countries’ emissions is directly attributable to the consumer economies of the developed world.
“If the markets they sell to stop buying then that has a huge impact in countries with extremely high levels of poverty who have, understandably, seen the West’s insatiable appetite for energy as their salvation.
“Our research has shown that many of the countries that produce oil and gas or want to do so, are not using it for their own consumption. Several have developed diverse energy mixes but the oil and gas that they produce is exported to China, Europe, and elsewhere. The various studies that we carried out indicated a willingness or these countries to move towards renewables.
“These smaller countries have no clout at COP, so we have been trying to help them design recommendations for an equitable transition. We need to share technology to enable countries to produce renewable energy at scale and also commit to a system of aid funding that will help them to adjust without undoing decades of poverty relief successes.”
The call for increased and reformed aid comes at a time when the UK government has cut its international development budget below the UN target of 0.7% of GDP. This is just one area in which Professor Cameron believes the developed world is failing to show leadership.
“Politicians are prioritising electoral strategies over the difficult decisions that need to be made if the worst outcomes of global warming are to be averted,” he continued. “These short-term considerations will have grave long-term consequences for everyone.
“The countries that are most at risk from climate change are also the ones that are booming in terms of population. The more economically unstable, engulfed in conflict or outright inhabitable they become, the more their people will be forced to seek a better life elsewhere. Potentially that will dwarf the refugee crises we have seen in recent years.
“We need to stop ignoring the developing world on climate and energy. COP26 should be the opportunity to bring them fully into the conversation and treat them with respect. Unless the major players include the developing world then we will see conflict rather than resolution.”
The CEPMLP research papers look at the following aspects of the transition:
- “Moving Beyond Oil and Gas: What can we learn from States in the Commonwealth?”
- “Navigating the Energy Transition in Africa; The Fate of Nascent Petroleum Economies in an Accelerating Global Transition”
- “Renewable Energy for Resilient Health Systems in Nigeria”
- “Responding to Climate Change and Energy Security in Africa: the case of Liquified Natural Gas”
- “Increasing Uptake of Liquefied Petroleum Gas in Uganda: Lessons from Morocco”
In carrying out this research, CEPLMP is contributing to policy formulation around Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the commitments each country makes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. The papers can be found at https://energyhubplus.org/cop27/.
This work was generously supported by external grants received from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the Global Challenges Research Fund, the Scottish Funding Council, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).
Senior Public Affairs Officer
+44 (0)1382 384768G.Hill@dundee.ac.uk