G7 Summit: Rich Countries and Their Climate Promises

Watch a recording or read a transcript of our press briefing with two climate diplomacy veterans ahead of the G7 meeting of world leaders that will focus on the climate crisis.

On Friday, June 11, 2021, the Group of 7 nations began its annual summit, and climate justice was explicitly on the agenda. This is unprecedented, and though other top-line issues were discussed during the summit—global vaccine distribution and a proposed worldwide minimum corporate tax rate—the climate emergency must be central to journalists’ coverage

Panelists

Saleemul Huq, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka and a professor at the Independent University Bangladesh; he helped train diplomats from the Global South who inserted the 1.5 C goal in the Paris Agreement.

Rachel Kyte, dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston; she was the World Bank Group’s special envoy to the Paris Agreement negotiations and later a special representative of the UN Secretary General.

Both guests provided critical insights into the urgent need for climate leadership, the politics that hinder funding to the global south, and the lack of trust by poor countries, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Hello, and welcome to this press briefing Covering Climate Now. I’m Mark Hertsgaard. I’m the Executive Director at Covering Climate Now, and the environment correspondent for The Nation magazine. Our subject today, climate justice at the G7 Summit. For those of you who don’t know Covering Climate Now is a global consortium of over 400 news outlets with a combined audience of roughly 2 billion people. We’re organized by journalists, for journalists, were co-founded two years ago by The Nation and The Columbia Journalism Review, in association with The Guardian. We help journalists everywhere to improve their coverage of what we consider the defining story of our time. It costs nothing for a newsroom to join Covering Climate Now. There’s no editorial line to follow, except respect for science. You can find all kinds of information, a list of our partners. You can sign up for our weekly newsletter our website, coveringclimatenow.org, and you can also apply to join there. We’d welcome any bonafide news organization to be part of this.
Mark Hertsgaard:

Now, this Friday in Britain, the leaders of the seven richest per-capita nations on earth will meet in person at the annual Group of Seven Nations Summit. And climate justice is explicitly on the agenda. As someone who has covered these G7 Summits for decades, I can affirm, this has never happened before the climate justice has been on the agenda there. So we have organized this press briefing so that you can cover it as well as possible.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Here’s the basic background. The world’s rich countries pledged, as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, among other things, that they would provide $100 billion a year in climate aid to help developed countries both quit fossil fuels and protect themselves from the heat waves, droughts, and other impacts of rising global temperatures.

Mark Hertsgaard:

This $100 billion was promised in recognition of what is a truism of climate change, that it is caused primarily by the rich, and yet it is felt primarily by the poor, at least at this stage. However, rich countries have not kept their Paris Agreement promises, and most news coverage to date has focused on the emissions side of that, which is indeed a serious problem. But rich countries have also failed on the climate-aid side, and that is just as dangerous.

Mark Hertsgaard:

First of all, there’s the unavoidable question of justice. Poor countries did next to nothing to cause the climate crisis. And yet they are the ones who are getting punished first and worst. Meanwhile, rich countries got rich, literally, by burning all these fossil fuels that are now overheating the planet.

Mark Hertsgaard:

But aside from justice, there is also a very self-interested reason why rich countries should be paying attention here, and also, why all of us as journalists need to be covering the story. Because if we’re going to keep temperatures to 1.5 C, we have got to have all economies on earth rapidly transition to a clean energy sources. It’s not enough just for the rich countries to do this. This was underlined in the recent International Energy Agency Report on these questions. Literally, the clean energy transition will be impossible for developing countries without aid from the outside.

Mark Hertsgaard:

And that is exactly the point that the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, will be stressing at his presentations at the G7 Summit this weekend. And Covering Climate Now has actually done an interview with Secretary General Guterres, that we will begin airing Thursday night on NBC here in the United States, and then Friday morning in The Guardian and in El País. and in all Covering Climate Now news outlets, you are welcome to pick up those stories. So also along with Guterres, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, will also be pressing at the G7 Summit for rich countries to do more.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Now, one last note here, rich countries do say they are already honoring their climate aid obligations. You may have seen a recent Reuters story that reported that rich countries provided $79 billion in climate aid in the year 2018, the last year for which we have data. But an independent analysis shows that that is a wildly exaggerated and indeed misleading number, the 79 billion. It relies on the same kind of, frankly, dodgy accounting methods that rich countries have been using on these questions of aid for many, many years now. Oxfam, the global anti-poverty NGO, did a rigorous analysis of that $79 billion figure. And they found that most of it was not aid, properly defined, at all. 80% of that money was loans to developing countries that of course will have to be paid back. And some of that $79 billion was designed for projects that only the most generous mind could consider climate friendly.

Mark Hertsgaard:

My own favorite, if you look through the data, is that Japan invested in a new coal plant in Bangladesh, of all countries. Right? One of the most threatened by climate change on earth. Japan funded a new coal-fired power plant there and called it climate aid, because why? Wait for it. Because that new coal plant was more efficient than an older model.

Mark Hertsgaard:

So that’s the kind of misleading accounting that is behind that $79 billion per year, which remember, is supposed to be $100 billion dollars. Oxfam found that in fact, really, it’s about $20 billion a year that rich countries were giving in 2018. So this is what’s going to be on … This is what puts climate justice on the agenda there in Britain this weekend at the G7 Summit.

Mark Hertsgaard:

So before we get into further substance, couple of process notes here. I’ll introduce today’s panelists and I’ll pose some questions to them during the first half hour, and then in the second half hour, we’ll get to your questions. We got a lot of really smart questions in the RSVP process. But as you’re listening, if you feel like posting more, of course the chat box is right there for you. And to just be clear, this briefing is on the record. You may quote from anything that is said here. And if you do want to be in touch later with either of the two panelists for a further interview, please let us know and Covering Climate Now will be happy to facilitate that.

Mark Hertsgaard:

And now I am so thrilled really to present two really distinguished experts who are addressing us today. And the first, I just have to confess, is a long time source of mine. And he is Dr. Saleemul Huq. Saleemul Huq, he is the Director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka in Bangladesh. He is one of the most experienced scholars and activists in the global South on climate change. He was instrumental, in fact, in getting the 1.5 C degree goal included in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Also joining us is Dr. Rachel Kyte. She is the Dean of the Fletcher school at Tufts University in Boston. She was the World Bank group’s special Envoy to the Paris Agreement negotiations. And later she also served as a Special Representative for the UN Secretary General. So please give both of them a warm virtual welcome. And I especially extend my thanks to Saleem, who is joining us very late at night there in Bangladesh. So thank you so much Saleem for being with us.

Mark Hertsgaard:

And let me start with you, Saleem, if I could. I’d like to give the assembled journalists here a little background on how is it that this discussion around aid, the $100 billion, why that is part of the Paris Agreement, what has happened so far to get it there, and what we should be watching for at the G7 Summit this weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Go ahead, Saleem.

Saleemul Huq:

Great. Thank you very much, Mark, for inviting me to join this discussion. So the $100 billion is a iconic number. In fact, the COP26 President, Mr. Alok Sharma was in Dhaka a week ago, and he called it a totemic figure. I think that’s a nice phrase. And it’s about trust. The promise was made in 2015 at the Paris Agreement, and it was made for five years later in 2020. The rich countries said, “In 2020 onwards, we will provide $100 billion a year to support developing countries, tackle climate change, both reducing greenhouse gas emissions through mitigation, as well as for adaptation for the more vulnerable countries.”

Saleemul Huq:

And the year 2020 has come and gone. And as you just described, they not only didn’t reach the $100 billion figure, they claimed to have reached a $80 billion figure, but even that is extremely questionable. So in the current circumstances of the climatic impacts of climate change, even $100 billion is not a very big amount. It’s actually quite trivial compared to the size of the problem, which is going to need trillions of dollars. But it’s a very important totemic figure in terms of trusting the word of these leaders. It’s the same seven countries who made that promise, and they’re meeting again on Friday and they’re going to make the promise again, which they reneged on, they made and didn’t deliver. So if they’re going to have any credibility or trust, they’re going to have to deliver what they were supposed to have delivered for 2020. And then there’s another $100 billion due in 2021. So to me, the issue is credibility of the world’s leaders, the seven biggest countries who have made these promises, whether we believe anything they say at all.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Dean Rachel Kyte, could you address this same question? You were the World Bank representative to the talks in Paris in 2015. And do you feel that this is such a totemic number, and that if the rich countries don’t come across with it, it essentially undercuts all of their other claims on climate leadership? I know that that’s what a UN Secretary General Guterres is going to be bringing that message to Britain this weekend. What’s your take on that? You’ve been looking at these talks from the standpoint of the World bank before. So how does it look from that side?

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Well, I think it is totemic and it’s become more totemic over time. The longer that the countries have not been able to demonstrate how they’re going to get to the 100 billion, so every year that this has gone on, every year that distrust that Saleemul talks about has given has been given an opportunity to grow. The 100 billion actually predates Paris, and Paris confirmed it as a goal. The number was not scientifically arrived at. It was politically arrived at. It could have been 90 billion or 140 billion, but it was a payment from developed to developing, to show solidarity in the struggle to adapt to climate change and to mitigate it.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

And so the fact that the money … So there was no a priori agreement on what counted towards the 100 billion. And there have been many, many hours spent by many, many people over the course of a decade or more in working out what counts, what doesn’t count, what’s that 100 billion, and then how you validate it and verify it, and who independently assesses whether that 100 billion is there or not. Right? And still today we’re arguing about it.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

So at the end, at the bottom of all of this is the responsibility of the developed countries to just take it off the table and be able to … So I think it’s very difficult to move on and have the kind of conversation that we need to be having now, which is about an entirely different scale of investment and the things that need to happen to make investment flow more freely, the things that have to happen to allow developing countries to be able to borrow a reasonable interest rate, to have access to capital markets, to be able to get the access to the public money that they should have in order to be able to do the things that they need to do.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

That conversation is urgent, and we can’t get to that conversation if we can’t deal with this 100 billion promise that has never been kept. And we can’t signal how it’s going to be kept, and we can’t take it off the table before we get to the climate talks in Glasgow if we can’t deal with it at the G7. So this has now become an extraordinarily complicated issue for the UK, because the UK has to bring the seven together. Really, they should be able to just say, “This is how we’re going to get to 100 billion. It is now met. This is now the commitment for an increased amount going towards the 2025. And we are going to get all the other countries to participate in that.” This is complicated for the UK, made even more complicated because the UK has cut its own public aid in an extremely controversial move within the UK and within even the conservative party.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

So this is beginning to look like diplomatic ineptitudes amongst the rich countries, because 100 billion, really in the scale of things, is not an extraordinary amounts of money. It is not beyond our capability to meet that promise, keep it, and then extend it. But this has so far eluded the politics. And I think therefore, developing countries look askance at the leadership that’s coming from the developed world at a time when they’re trying to cope with the pandemic and then try to work out how to manage their own transitions towards greener growth and deal with a debt crisis for some countries, and certainly a liquidity crisis for many more. So this doesn’t feel like solidarity.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Let me go back to Saleem on this and …

Mark Hertsgaard:

Let me go back to Saleem on this and basically poach a question that’s already come in over the RSVPs. Pardon me, I’m just going to be very blunt about this. Given what Dean Kyte has just said about the lack of solidarity, and which you said, Saleem, about the trust, are we … If the G7 leaders cannot make a straightforward statement this weekend that says, “Yes, here’s the 100 billion for last year, here’s the 100 billion for this year. Now let’s move on and really talk turkey about emissions and so forth.” If they can’t do that, does that mean that we are heading for a failure in Glasgow in November?

Saleemul Huq:

Absolutely yes, short answer. The longer answer is that Glasgow is not the place where the money gets delivered. Glasgow is where the environment ministers are going to go. Mr. Alok Sharma is the president. He doesn’t control money. The money is the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister. The Chancellor of the Exchequer met day before yesterday, and the Prime Minister is meeting on Friday in June. They have to deliver it in this month, in this meeting, if it’s going to be real. The other point I’ve taken the liberty of sharing a link to a weekly column I write in the Bangladeshi English language newspaper, The Daily Star. Today’s column, I have written about this, where I say that effectively, we don’t have a global government. We have the United nations with 200 countries meeting, talking, discussing things, but that’s not government. The nearest thing to global government we have are the seven biggest leaders, the biggest economies, and then the G20, which is going to meet a month or so later in Italy, of 20 biggest economies.

Saleemul Huq:

These are the big economies. If they decide to do something collectively, then that something gets done, with other people joining them. Unfortunately, what these leaders have demonstrated so far is they see themselves as the leaders of their own countries, and protecting their own budgets and their own citizens. This is starkly evident in the COVID-19 situation, where they’re vaccinating their own populations and they don’t care about the rest of the world. They think they’re going to be safe, but they’re not going to be safe.

Saleemul Huq:

So they have to rise to the challenge of being truly global leaders, and they need to be thinking about their own children and grandchildren, and about the world they’re going to leave behind, which they haven’t been able to do so far. To me, the greatest person that we need to be thinking of and listening to is the 16 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden, who is putting this point to her parents and her elders, are you going to be able to deal with this global problem or not? So far, they’ve failed the challenge. I’m still hoping that they might be able to rise to it in the next few days.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Rachel Kyte, can you speak a little bit to what options do the developing countries have to pressure the developed countries on this point, beyond the point, the issue that Saleem just raised an incredible parallel, really with COVID? That, hey, if you don’t vaccinate everybody, eventually you’re not going to be safe either. It’s a very similar thing with the greenhouse gas emissions. If you don’t help the emerging economies go green, you also in London and Paris and Washington and Tokyo are going to go down. But is that kind of game of chicken, is that really the only way that developing countries can exert some leverage here?

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Well, I think at that diplomatic level, yes, the G7 and certainly the UK has hosts don’t want egg on their face in November. They want to have successful climate talks. They want to be able to talk about a global Britain that is able to broker global deals. So if the developing countries don’t want to play nice, then they can certainly hold COP26 to … not to ransom, but I mean, they can certainly hold things up. They can certainly exert pressure there. But I think the more important thing is that at this particular moment in time, most developing countries are experiencing some kind of liquidity distress as a result of the economic decline, as a result of the pandemic. Many of them are also in debt distress. Each one of them is to file with the United Nations an upgraded ambition for managing their energy transitions, and their transport transitions, and their transitions of food safety, and security as a result of a nationally determined contribution.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Their contributions are how we get to 1.5. We only have one planet, so everybody’s got to be in the same journey. These countries need extraordinary amount of help to be able to leapfrog many of the systems that we’ve relied upon in the developed world, which are seeped in the fossil fuels, right? So there’s this opportunity for a leapfrog, the prices of renewable energy, the technology that we know how to distribute easily, etc. But what they need is access to capital markets, trade rules that aren’t going to discriminate against them and make it more difficult for them to get access to technology that is already deployable now. They need to be able to develop their own domestic capital markets, their own investment priorities. They need to have access to aid and technical assistance bilaterally, but also they need a multilateral development bank system that is pushing all in one direction.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

They need generous support from the International Monetary Fund in terms that work for them there. They need all of that. The G7, what we need from the G7 this weekend is a signal on the 100 billion, but also a package which means that they will distribute surplus vaccines right now on planes immediately, provide the resources to these countries to be able to build their vaccination programs, and then signal where this at scale investment is going to come from for energy and transport and helping these countries to grow green. Signals around where the funding that has been agreed, additional funding for the IMF, where that will flow to, and then flow to developing countries from. So this is the issue of the allocation of the special drawing rights issuance that has been agreed. They need to signal that they’re going to hurry up with that.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

They’re going to … They need to signal what else they’re going to do to relieve countries of their debt, so that countries can manage their way through one threat in plain sight, which is already here, which is the pandemic, and the one that’s already here and will come, and it will be even worse, which is climate change. So you have to see the 100 billion and you have to see COP26 and this G7 in the context of an extraordinary moment where we need to be doubling down on international cooperation solidarity, as the Secretary General calls for. Not looking over your shoulder and having an incremental, maybe we can do a bit here, maybe we can do there.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Now we’re starting to see with four days to go, the Prime Minister of the UK talking about a Marshall Plan, a green Marshall Plan. Well, yes, and I hope they can pull that rabbit out of the hat, and then I hope they deliver on it. That it’s not just a communique, but that there’s actually a flow of funds and support behind it. But they’ve left it extremely late in the day, but it’s … that’s the scale. If they can indicate that they’re serious and that that is their intent, then I think there’s a chance for COP26 to still deliver something.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Let me ask both of you in my next question to just bear in mind here, that for the journalists who are covering this, who were on this call, of course, there’s a lot of other aspects to the G7 summit. Here in the United States, for example, there’s been coverage about how it looks like there’s going to be a minimum international corporate tax. There is also here … The headlines are dominated by the fact that, not by that Joe Biden is going to the G7, but that he is eventually, later in this trip, going to be talking to Vladimir Putin in Russia. There is, of course, as Dean Kyte just mentioned, the pandemic. So if you’re a journalist watching the G7 summit, how do you as a journalist elevate in your own coverage and convince your editors, frankly, and the producers back in your newsroom, that this climate justice question is just as important as these other aspects of the G7 summit? First Saleem and then Rachel, please.

Saleemul Huq:

It’s a great question, Mark. I think you have to distinguish between journalists in which part of the world are you talking about. The journalists that you are primarily talking about, and I presume most of them on this call are from the North, generally the United States, Canada, Europe, the UK. That’s a very different world than the world I’m in here in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Journalists in Dhaka, Bangladesh, get it. I don’t have to explain this to them. They look out the window and they can see climate change happening. I don’t have to convince anybody in Bangladesh. That’s true for people in Africa. It’s true for people in Latin America, and the journalists there get it. They are actually telling their people these stories. So this is not new in the South, it’s new for you in the North.

Saleemul Huq:

I hope that you, with your new climate … covering climate network can convince editors that this is important. That they need to cover it. I’ll just give you one very nice example, in my view. The British television channel Sky News now has a daily climate news item. Excellent. They’ve asked me to speak after the G7 communique comes out. They’re going to interview me on Friday after that. So let’s keep pushing them. Let’s show them this is a big story. It’s not going to go away. It’s going to get a bigger and bigger as we go along, and editors and journalists all need to be able to understand it. It’s like politics. It’s like war. It’s like the economy. These are big stories that have to be covered in some way. There are hooks that come up every now and again, like COP27 … COP26 and then at the G7 meeting that you can put the story around, but the story never goes away. The story is always there.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Thanks. Rachel Kyte, could you comment, please?

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Yeah. So I think the hook is provided by the pandemic. We have learned that you can’t protect yourself unless you protect everyone. We’ve learned that in our communities in the developed world, I’m living just outside Boston, but we’ve learned that in real time. Still, we struggle to manage the pandemic with policies that really reflect that, that piece of learning. Well, that same learning is at the heart of the climate crisis. We cannot protect ourselves if emissions are still coming up from anywhere in the world. This truly is a race where everybody has to cover, has to complete the race. Everybody has to follow the … get over the finish line.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

So here we are dealing with the G7 leaders being asked to indicate that the developed world will actually share its vaccine surplus and share it now, so that countries can actually improve their performance against the virus, and that the whole world starts to move through. Otherwise, we’re just going to have variants and mutants coming back and coming back, and we’re just never going to escape. This is a microcosm of the same dynamic of climate change, which is that unless we can get … wean the entire world of coal, until we can move everybody into systems where they can get affordable, reliable, clean energy, there’s no way that we are going to do okay.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

The public school system in Boston and the surrounding area closed down lunchtime on Monday because of a heat wave. This is happening right here, right now, that we don’t have to talk about the heat island effect of a Dhaka or Kampala. I mean, it’s happening here, and our public infrastructure is woefully unable to cope with it. The people who go to … the kids in the public schools that suffer the most are the low income kids in public schools whose parents can’t cope with this disruption to their schedule. So here we are actually, not very … more that unites us than divides us, and certainly income does not protect you. I think that’s the way for journalists to understand that there are threats in plain sight, pandemics and climate change. If we don’t learn to cooperate in managing one, we’re going to have a hard time cooperating to manage the other.

Mark Hertsgaard:

There you are folks, the parallels between COVID-19 and the climate emergency. You either save one, you save one to save all, or none of us are going to be saved is a very blunt shorthand version of that. I’m going to … We’re about halfway through the hour. I’m going to ask one more general question, and then we’re going to go to the questions from my colleagues on the call. This is about adaptation. One of the other themes about this 100 billion dollars that is supposed to be flowing from rich countries to poor countries every year on a climate aid, is that it is not only supposed to help developing countries quit fossil fuels quickly enough for all of us to survive the climate crisis. But it is also supposed to help those developing countries deal with the impacts of the climate emergency, which, of course, are already here and are already locked in to worsen in the years to come.

Mark Hertsgaard:

This is something that Secretary General Gutierrez told us in his interview with Covering Climate Now that he will be pressing very hard at the G7 summit. Saleem, you are one of … I’m just going to be transparent here. You were one of the main sources for my book about climate change adaptation 10 years ago, Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth. You were one of the very first people in the climate space to be really talking about how adaptation is just as important as mitigation, especially from the standpoint of the global South. Can you say a few words about how that fits into this 100 billion dollars, and where you see how that money should be spent in terms of what’s the ratio between adaptation and climate change mitigation that is proper in your view.

Saleemul Huq:

Great. Thank you very much, Mark. So there are two aspects of the 100 billion that are extremely important, in my view. The first one we’ve talked about is the total amount and delivering it as promised. The second aspect, which is the split between how much of it goes for mitigation and how much of it goes for adaptation, and in particular, which countries in the global South are receiving those money, that fund, as it happens, the proportion of whatever amounts have actually been delivered has been 80-20, 80% going to support mitigation …

Saleemul Huq:

… has been 80/20. 80% going to support mitigation actions mainly in the bigger developing countries like India, China, Brazil, South Africa. Only 20% of that has gone to the most vulnerable countries like my country, Bangladesh, to adapt to the impacts of climate change, which are now real and we are now suffering from.

Saleemul Huq:

So, the demand from the vulnerable developing countries has been from the beginning, and continues to be, that whatever the $100 billion amount is delivered or whatever is delivered, half of it should be for adaptation in the most vulnerable countries. The other half can be for mitigation. We’re not against giving money for reducing emissions. But we do feel that providing funding to the most vulnerable is a very extremely important part of that.

Saleemul Huq:

The other distinction to be made, which you mentioned in your introduction, is that loans versus grants. You can give loans for mitigation because renewable energy projects generate revenues that allows loans to be repaid. Adaptation doesn’t repay you. Poor people getting money to survive storms and floods aren’t generating an income to pay back a loan. Giving loans for adaptation is just simply not fit for purpose. They have to be as grants. I guess that’s one of the reasons why it’s only 20% of the total amount that the developed countries have given so far. But that needs to be increased.

Saleemul Huq:

The demand is 50/50. I mentioned earlier that Mr. [inaudible 00:33:40] President was in Dhaka recently. In fact, a few weeks before him, the US Climate Envoy, John Kerry was in Dhaka as well; had meetings with the Prime Minister here. They heard from the Prime Minister, both of them, this demand of 50/50, and they seemed to have heard it. So, they are talking about it now as something that they hadn’t done before. Hopefully it will actually be delivered.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Rachel Kyte, could you address … this is a very sort of specific substantive question that’s come in over the chat. What is the difference, the question asks, between the Green Fund, which was initially agreed at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 … what is the difference between that, if any, and the $100 billion that we’re talking about in this call? Are those the same buckets of money, different? Could you explain that for us please?

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

The $100 billion is to come from advanced economies, rich countries, to developing countries. The channels by which it moves from rich to developing are not prescribed. It can go in different ways. But it’s supposed to be additional. It’s not supposed to be taking money from an overseas aid account and then just moving it over and counting it towards the $100 billion. It’s supposed to be over and above the commitments that were already made my rich countries to developing countries.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

So, it could be deployed through the Green Climate Fund. It could be deployed in additional funding through a multinational development bank. It could be through the climate investment funds which are managed by the multinational development banks. But it has to be additional. It’s not necessarily that the Green Climate Fund is part of the $100 billion. It’s whether that $100 billion is over and above everything that’s already been committed. That’s where some of the problems come is in what counts. When it comes to adaptation funding, for example.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

If you think about how do you adapt, well, it’s helping people who may need to relocate or the costs of an extreme weather event. It’s helping acquire crops which can be short crops and can withstand different kinds of temperatures and different weather patterns. If you have to build a road, making a road that isn’t going to melt and become destroyed at the kinds of persistent heat that you’re starting to see in more and more countries. It might be laying out city design differently and moving to green roofs and white roofs.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Adaptation can mean many, many different things depending on your context. One of the things is if you’re going to build a new road, for example, do you count the entire road … and you’re going to build that road to be a resilient road to extreme heat. Does the entire cost of that road count as adaptation funding? You were going to build the road anyways, so it’s just the amount of funding that makes the road resilient to that kind of heat. So, changing the materials or maybe changing the layout, or changing the design of the road.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

These things have been argued over for a long time. I have certainly argued, A, when I was in a position in the international system and certainly in my research and my work now, that it’s the additionality that really counts towards the $100 billion. You can’t just sort of repurpose things and count that towards the $100 billion. The Green Climate Fund, everybody’s waiting to see the United States not only just come back into the Green Climate Fund, but then increase it’s funding to the Green Climate Fund. That’s when domestic politics and what congress will and will not support starts to become important.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Let me jump in there and put Saleemul in the unusual spot of commenting on an American president. Look, Joe Biden is facing pressures from all sides. But above all, he has a congress where he cannot be sure of getting his proposals through, especially in the senate where the republicans have pledged literally to block him no matter what.

Mark Hertsgaard:

So, as you look at this summit meeting in London and you say, “Well, we’d like to see communique, we’d like to see something solid that shows that they’re really going to come up with the money this time.” If you’re Joe Biden though, you can’t really promise that, can you? Because you need the congress to agree to any increase in funding. Again, for reporters who are covering the White House angle on this story, Saleemul, how do you as someone who is understandably demanding that money on behalf of the Global South, what should realistically be expected of Joe Biden and similar G7 leaders this weekend?

Saleemul Huq:

Well, let me start by saying that you would be amazed by how well those of us who are not Americans, particularly in the Global South, know about your politics. We know about your Senate, we know about your House of Representatives, we know about Joe Manchin and his ability to hold up, in details that many Americans don’t know either, all right? So, we are very, very well aware of the politics of the United States of America.

Saleemul Huq:

On the other hand, remember that the United States of America, the President of the United States of America, four years ago left the Paris Agreement and caused us to go backwards on the issue of climate change. We are much worse off now, four years after Mr. Trump. Now, it’s very good that Mr. Biden is back in the White House and that he has rejoined the Paris Agreement, but there’s a lot of catching up to do by the United States of America. It was the President of the United States of America who took the US out and caused a lot of damage to the rest of us. Never forget that.

Saleemul Huq:

You know, Mr. Biden is a nice guy. We like him. We will support him. But he doesn’t get a free pass because it’s your country, the United States, that caused the damage. So, you have to take that into account and you don’t get a free pass because you have some senators in the senate, you can’t get bills passed through. That’s your problem, not our problem. But it will be your problem if you fail to deliver for the rest of the world. I can tell you that. It’ll come back to bite you.

Mark Hertsgaard:

I’m going to interject here one point to my fellow journalists that Saleemul Huq just alluded to, which is that in almost all the news coverage these days, you will see, “Who is the number one climate polluter?” They’ll say it’s China-

Saleemul Huq:

China.

Mark Hertsgaard:

… but please, please, my fellow journalists, that is only true on an annual basis. The atmosphere does not really care about annual. The atmosphere cares about the cumulative emissions up there. Who is number one in cumulative emissions? The United States of America. So, when we talk about these kinds of issues of the $100 billion and who has to do how much on mitigation and so forth, do not fall into that trap of saying China is the biggest polluter and US is second. It’s actually the reverse and that puts a different framework on all of these discussions.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Let me ask another question here from our RSVPs, which is, I think, quite an interesting one. This is a reporter with the Arizona Republic newspaper, Debra Krol, she’s the indigenous affairs reporter there. She asks, “I’ve been reporting on indigenous peoples and their role in adaptation and my question is are governments paying attention and including indigenous practitioners in their strategies for adaptation? And if not, why not?” Saleemul, I’m going to ask you to answer this first please.

Saleemul Huq:

Sure. This is a question very close to my heart. For those who know me, I work on adaptation, but I work very specifically on adaptation from the perspective of the most vulnerable communities and the most vulnerable countries. When I say vulnerable communities, they happen to be also in developed countries. So, if you look at the most vulnerable, say in the United States, indigenous communities will come out very high, so will immigrant communities, so will people living in the slums. You saw this also with the impacts of the COVID-19, the most vulnerable were minorities in these countries.

Saleemul Huq:

The most vulnerable communities in every country have to have a say in decision making. One of the reasons why they tend to be vulnerable, is they don’t have says. Even in the most democratic country, by and large, the democratic leaders listen to rich people, don’t necessarily listen to poor and vulnerable people. So, one of the challenges that we have working in adaptation, particularly my corner of adaptation, is how do we enhance the voices of these most vulnerable communities, in your case, the indigenous communities, and enable them to influence decision making within their own governance structures, in their own states in the US, or in their own federal government or their own countries.

Saleemul Huq:

A lot of what I do in Bangladesh is helping the most vulnerable in our context, getting the leaders of my country to listen to these voices and to put in place measures to adapt which are compatible with what the local people want and feel and have knowledge of, in fact, then recognizing that knowledge. I would say most governments don’t do very well on this. But we are trying to get them to do better.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Yeah, if I could just-

Mark Hertsgaard:

[crosstalk 00:43:34]. Sorry, [crosstalk 00:43:35]-

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Yeah. Well, I was just going to … go ahead, sorry.

Mark Hertsgaard:

… [crosstalk 00:43:38] one question and then, [crosstalk 00:43:40]-

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Yeah.

Mark Hertsgaard:

… and then onto that.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Sure.

Mark Hertsgaard:

[crosstalk 00:43:41] can also pick up on the question of China, because one of the other RSVP questions is, “What about these big emerging economies like China, like Brazil, like India, like South Africa?” They’re big emitters. There’s serious money in those economies. This is devil’s advocate question. Why should tax payers in the global North because paying money so that Beijing can get off the hook financially?

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Okay. So, just let me just finish off with my thought based on what Saleemul was saying. Then, I’ll come to this. I worked for a number of years on increasing energy access and the only way to increase energy access, the cheapest and most technically efficient way to do it, is really to allow that to be renewable. If you think about the people who don’t have access to reliable, affordable clean energy today, and obviously it’s larger parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. There’s communities across South Asia and small [inaudible 00:44:45] states. Then, it’s in the reservations of North America and Canada, and it’s in remote populations within the United States. Then, of course, from affordability, it’s people living on low incomes in cities in the United States as well.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

So, having indigenous peoples be able to be very explicit about their energy needs, and then being able to meet those energy needs, it’s a global phenomenon. This idea that adaptation is all … well, that communities’ voices is a developing country issue, it’s not, it’s about who gets to define what energy needs are here as well. So, I think this is very important. One thing, for the journalists, the ones who are really closely watching the negotiations is that we’re in the process of a virtual or remote negotiation at the moment. The intent of the British government is to host an in-person talk, but we don’t know example how that can be organized given the pandemic.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

One of the things that I think is alarming to many observers is how do you make sure that indigenous communities, voices, get heard in delegations and alongside delegations in these negotiations. I think there’s quite some alarm at the moment that the system is not very adept at allowing those voices to be heard. And their voices are so important.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

So, there’s two responses to … first of all, the growing economies of this world, China and India in particular, because of their size and the momentum of growth, are extremely important parts of this puzzle. There is no way that we reach the 1.5 degree world or net zero by mid-century without a revolution in the way in which China and India manage their economies as well. Those revolutions are underway. Are they going fast enough? Is this a sort of settled law issue in Beijing and Delhi? No, not at all. Brazil has also sort of lost it’s way a little under a populous and climate denying President.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Then, we have countries like Russia, for example, who still believe that … you know, if they were going to roll the dice, that climate change works for them in the short term, right? So, there is an extraordinary need for every country to be moving very quickly in the same direction. China has made those commitments. India, we expect to clarify its commitment. The question is, then, how quickly are they doing it and what more do we need from them?

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

China still has not sworn off the financing of coal overseas. China’s own investments overseas needs to be much more in clean technology and clean energy. Obviously, as Saleemul is sitting in Bangladesh, which is on the Belt and Road, the Chinese engagement with the rest of the world, that needs to be a green Belt and Road. Then, domestically, China needs to stop building coal-fired power. All of the indications are that that process is underway, despite perhaps concerns to the contrary because the financing of those. The plants may be on the books, but whether they get financed and whether they actually get built, I think is a question mark in some cases.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

We’re expecting the Chinese to clarify between now and November-

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

So, we’re expecting the Chinese to clarify between now and November exactly when they’re going to peak coal, when they will start XT financing. They’ve started to send signals, the People’s Bank of China has made clear that it doesn’t expect to see financing of coal going forward. So that if you watch the Chinese system, you can see this tussle going on and the tussle is about how quickly they can manage their transition. It is the Chinese version of what is going on in Washington.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

But I think the devil’s advocate piece of the question is like, “Why should we, as taxpayers sitting in the West be trying to grow green or trying to mitigate climate change or helping other countries if these other countries are just going to increase their emissions?” First of all, I don’t think it works that way. These other countries are committed to their own goals, but the bottom line is we only have one planet. And this is not the hunger games. This is a genuine race to a decarbonized society that works better for everyone, which is why I think the Biden Administration focuses on jobs.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

There are going to be good quality, blue collar and white collar jobs and transportation systems that run without fossil fuels in them. There are going to be good quality jobs in retrofitting all of the buildings that we have and the cities that we have and the towns that we have so that they can run without fossil fuels. There are going to be good quality jobs and an energy system, which is modern and renewable, and in the new green hydrogen economy. These are the things. And there are going to be jobs in building resilience, in changing the way that we farm, in managing soils, paying farmers to protect soils, paying communities to protect their woods and their forests.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

This is a shift in the economy, and that’s where the jobs are going to be for the next 20 to 30 years. And there’s going to be more jobs, better jobs, and the evidence seems to be better paid jobs than those remaining jobs in the fossil fuel industries and their supply chains. And wouldn’t you want to be positioned for that competition and be part of that race and win that race. And I think that’s my experience is that that’s where the conversation is at the city and state level, but also with some Republican lawmakers who, I think the top of the party is very clear where they feel at the moment, they’re not cooperating. They don’t want to give Joe Biden any wins.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

If that were to change, I think there’s a large swathe of Republicans who know full well that the jobs that need to come to their electoral districts are going to come from these new, cleaner technologies, which means that we have to educate young Americans for those jobs, which is one of the things that concerns me. So it’s one boat. You don’t survive in your end of the boat if the other end of the boat is going underwater, right? The boat has to flow and both ends have to float. And that’s the game that we’re in.

Mark Hertsgaard:

That’s a good-

Saleemul Huq:

Can I comment on that? Mark, can I comment on that?

Mark Hertsgaard:

Yes. Please do, Saleem.

Saleemul Huq:

So just a quick feedback on the attitudes of countries like China and India, it was their own position to say, “Well, you, the rich countries got rich and you are the ones that need to reduce your emissions, but we still need to develop and we need to be allowed to use the fossil fuels, particularly the ones that we have underneath our own soil.” That used to be a very common position. It isn’t anymore.

Saleemul Huq:

In China and in India right now, there are very strong debates on what’s the best way for us as a country? And there’s very strong tendencies and arguments and debates, which are very healthy on, “We should just go renewable big time and let us be the leaders in this emerging world of renewable energy and forget about the fossils, even if they are cheap for us. They’re dirty, they have local pollution, they cause smog in cities like Delhi and in Beijing that we don’t want to have.” And these are very, very good and genuine debates going on in these countries. And as Rachel says, I think over time, that argument will win the day and these countries will shift for themselves. Not because they’re doing it for the globe, they’re doing it for themselves. And that’s a very, very good shift in the narrative and the discussion taking place here.

Mark Hertsgaard:

That’s a very important perspective, especially for reporters and other journalists here in the global North to understand. If you still think that China is the main problem on this and that they’re locked in, please reconsider. Listen to what Saleemul Huq just said about that. And here’s a couple of news pics going forward on this. Also the point that Rachel Kyte made about the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, one of the big things to watch here at the G7 summit, and then a month later, when the finance ministers from the G20 countries gathered, is will there still be financing from Japan, from China, from the other big financial centers of coal-fired power plants in developing countries. Japan is moving towards stopping that South Korea has pledged that they will no longer finance these plans. A big question mark will be what will China do on that? So be watching that and you’ll be able to, in a month’s time, look at what happens at the G20 summit.

Mark Hertsgaard:

We’re in our last five minutes here, so I’m going to put both of our guests a little bit on the spot, but first with a question about the G7 leaders. But one other quick, one first that sort of leads into this comes from our colleague, Carolyn Bueller at the World Broadcast, which comes out of WGBH in Boston, they’re one of our partners in Covering Climate Now. Carolyn says, “Saleem, you’ve been on the inside of climate negotiations a long time. What specifically do you see happening at COP26 in November? That is if no commitment is made at the G7 summit on the $100 billion a year. What will that mean for COP26?”

Saleemul Huq:

Oh, well, I personally think that that’s a make or break issue, but I am optimistic. They will actually promise. They’re very good at promising things, they’re not so good at delivering them. So a promise will come that they will do their best and it’ll happen. But let me also raise another issue for COP26, which is a bit of a landmine and it’s a more nuanced issue than the traditional mitigation adaptation argument, and that’s something called loss and damage, which is the impacts of climate change attribute to human induced climate change that are now happening and something that the vulnerable countries are going to raise and the developed countries do not want to talk about. Very politically sensitive. They refuse to acknowledge loss and damage or want to do something about it. And that’s going to be a make or break for COP26 in my view, much bigger than the money question. The money question, they will solve with a promise, they may not deliver the promise because they haven’t done in the past, but they will give us a promise.

Mark Hertsgaard:

And loss and damage my fellow journalists, just to be clear, that is above and beyond adaptation. If your community has gone under the water, there is no adaptation to that. That is a case of loss and the argument of loss and damages that no, you must then therefore pay for those damages, pay for that loss, pay for that. And that is the concept of loss and damage. So that’s another concept to be bearing in mind as you cover these stories going forward. So I’m going to ask each of you in closing here, if you were one of the journalists on this call and you happened to be able to shout a question at Boris Johnson or Joe Biden or whoever the world leader is at the G7 summit, what would you ask to put them on the spot to get a clear answer about the success of the summit?

Mark Hertsgaard:

We’re going to start with Rachel Kyte and then Saleemul Huq. And as I say, we’re on the last few minutes, so think carefully, and here’s your chance to be a ventriloquist for our journalists. Rachel?

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Well, my answer is going to be somewhat surprising, I think, but I don’t see how you engage in a global negotiation on climate change if the North will not share its vaccines. And so the question I would shout out on the beach in Cornwall will be, “How many vaccines will you put on planes in the next seven days?” Because I think you can’t strip out success on climate negotiations from what’s going on for people around the world.

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

And then, if you were journalists, I would tell you to follow the transparency story. There’s going to be a promise made on finance, and then will it actually be kept? But actually, transparency is a really big issue all the way through the climate discussions, because it’s about, can we trust it? When you say that you are cutting your emissions, how do we know? Is it transparent? Can we verify that? When you say you’re going to offset your emissions by a forest somewhere else in the world, can we be transparent about that? Can we know that? Can we validate it, verify it? So follow the transparency story. Thank you.

Mark Hertsgaard:

And just to push you slightly on that, Rachel, how would a journalist, as you say, follow that transparency story? How can they determine whether these words are in fact to be turned into action?

Dr. Rachel Kyte:

Well, so I think the question is what will countries commit to in terms of transparency when they submit their plans? Who will they allow to verify that the information that they’re giving is okay? Is that strong enough to be able to do it? Are the same people who are validating the same people who are providing the technical advice, the same people that are for that? I mean, if you were setting this thing up as a blank sheet of paper, would you do it this way? I think it’s a sniff test. I think journalists are very good at that.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Sniff test. Yeah. We pride ourselves on that. Saleem, you’re going to take us home here. If you would give your advice on what journalists should be asking this weekend.

Saleemul Huq:

Well, my advice is ask Boris Johnson and the leaders if you have a chance, what are they going to do about loss and damage from climate change? It’s a reality now. They can’t bury their head in the sand and say it’s not happening.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Loss and damage. What will you be doing about loss and damage and how many vaccines are you going to be putting on the planes in the next seven days to prove the kind of global solidarity, not just on the pandemic, but also on climate change that we’re going to need to be able to confront both of these emergencies.

Mark Hertsgaard:

We’re going to leave it there for this press briefing from Covering Climate Now. I want to thank very much both of our panelists, Saleemul Huq from Bangladesh at the International Center for Climate Change and Development, and also Rachel Kyte, she is the Dean at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. All of you journalists on this call, if you would like to pursue further interviews with either Saleem or Rachel, please send us an email at editorsatcoveringclimatenow.org. Editors@coveringclimatenow.org and we will put you in touch.

Mark Hertsgaard:

Of course, we have all of the recording for this webinar. Will be on our website going forward. Also, please look for, if you are Covering Climate Now partner, we have the interview with Secretary General Guterres. That is available to all of you in the partnership to begin running tomorrow night, Thursday night, it will appear on NBC news, nightly news, and then stories in the Guardian Newspaper and El Pais Newspaper beginning Friday morning. Those are available to you for free to co-publish or to co-broadcast. We want to get this message out as much as possible that climate justice, for the first time, is on the agenda at the G7 summit in Cornwall this weekend.

Mark Hertsgaard:

So thank you again for all of you who’ve been part of this. Thank you to my colleagues at Covering Climate Now, and a special thanks again to my long time source in Bangladesh, Saleem, who stayed up extremely late to be with us today and to Dean Rachel Kyte at Tufts University for sharing their expertise. Thank you all so much. I’m Mark Hertsgaard, the Executive Director of Covering Climate Now, and we will see you next time.

Saleemul Huq:

Thank you. Thank you.