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Notes from COP27: Climate-vulnerable nations want more than 'loss and damage' - they want prosperity

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

RePlanet’s campaign director Joel Scott-Halkes, reporting from the UN Climate Change Conference.

Vice President Faisal Naseem of the Maldives seeking the support and assistance of the international community to realize the goals outlined in the Climate Prosperity Plan (CPP).

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, November 8, 2022 – It’s day 2 at COP27 and the biggest question hanging over this historic meeting is already becoming fractious. Should the wealthy Global North pay up for the huge loss and damage their emissions are inflicting on the people of the Global South?

It’s a crucial question, but one that misses half the story. Developing nations need more than just reparations for damage. They need, and deserve, prosperity.

This was the message of the leaders of the Climate Vulnerable Forum of the world’s most climate-stricken nations this morning as they gathered for the launch of Sri Lanka’s bold new Climate Prosperity Plan (CPP).

A Climate Prosperity Plan, already adopted by Bangladesh and currently being developed by the Maldives and Ghana, is a road map to attracting massive amounts of foreign investment to boost economic growth and employment, while also bringing down greenhouse gas emissions.

For Sri Lanka this means going from 35% to 70% renewable energy by 2030, a plan that, alongside other measures, could provide a 34% boost to GDP by the same year.

The Climate Prosperity Plan is a radical change in the framing of COP's central dilemma over loss and damage

Flanked by the President of Ghana and the environment ministers of Bangladesh and the Maldives, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe described the plan as ‘a radical change in our economy.’ It’s also a radical change in the framing of this COP’s central dilemma over loss and damage.

Climate Prosperity Plans help remind global delegates here at COP27 that climate-vulnerable nations are makers of their own destiny and could be attractive sites for investment. They are not only supplicants for those much needed climate reparations.

Speaking at the event, President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo highlighted the role of finance: ‘The Climate Prosperity Plans are our strategy to prosper in a climate insecure world. The main hurdle that vulnerable developing countries face in climate action is finance. We lack the resources of our wealthy and major economy counterparts. Our fiscal space is under constant pressure from the impacts of climate change.’

The mainstay of a CPP is big spending on green energy and infrastructure. In Bangladesh, which has already launched their CPP, a huge 4 gigawatt offshore wind installation is a flagship project. Such projects, delivered at scale, could help a climate-vulnerable nation ‘leapfrog’ the period of intensely polluting development that wealthy nations went through over the last century.

This is economic-environmental decoupling on speed in a fierce race to be climate resilient, net zero and economically prosperous

Attending the launch event for RePlanet, I was struck by the level of integrated thinking going on. For wealthy Global North countries like my own, it’s still an embarrassingly uphill struggle to get our politicians to see environmental goals and human wellbeing goals as they are: totally interdependent.

It was also reassuring to see that in the minds of these Global South leaders there was no question of sacrificing one objective on the altar of the other. This is economic-environmental decoupling on speed in a fierce race to be climate resilient, net zero and economically prosperous before the climate crisis wrecks these nations' futures.

But whilst it’s easy to sit back and appreciate the ideological integrity of the vision, what I saw here most was an incredible pragmatism borne out of brutality of circumstance. Battered by the interweaving global injustices of historic colonialism and climate breakdown, climate-vulnerable nations have no choice but to tackle poverty and climate together. A formidable and formidably expensive task.

As Climate Vulnerable Forum delegates and partners spoke today a flickering slide show demonstrated the financing needed to achieve these plans. The short story is: it’s a lot. Hundreds of billions of international public and private finance is needed and that finance isn’t going to be attractive without strong commercially viable projects. And it isn’t going to be achieved without global financial svengalis like the IMF dramatically restructuring these nations' crippling debts.

So as COP delegates look ahead to day 3 and the glitz and glamour of attending world leaders starts to disperse, let's hope Global North power holders set their vision on seeing climate-vulnerable nations not just survive, but thrive, in the age of the climate crisis.

Joel Scott-Halkes is RePlanet’s campaign director and involved with setting up the newly launched RePlanet UK.

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