Who pays for climate change? : Short Wave A coalition of wealthier countries have promised that they'll provide $100 billion each year to help developing countries tackle climate change. So far, most haven't delivered on their promises, and it's a huge point of contention in the talks in Glasgow right now.

Today on the show, NPR climate correspondent Lauren Sommer reports on how it looks when one country does get help, and how much more is needed for climate equity.

Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

Who pays for climate change?

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Hey, SHORT WAVErs. Now that kids between 5 and 11 can get a COVID vaccine, we're guessing you might have some questions. So are you a parent or a kid wondering about the vaccine - stuff like how to get it, is it safe, and does this change anything about masks at school? Well, we want to hear from you. What do you want to know about the COVID vaccine for kids? Send us your questions at shortwave@npr.org. That's shortwave@npr.org. All right, here's the show.

MADDIE SOFIA, BYLINE: You're listening to SHORT WAVE...


SOFIA: ...From NPR.

KWONG: It's a big week in science, y'all. There is a huge global climate summit going on now in Glasgow, Scotland. Picture thousands of activists putting pressure on diplomats from 190 countries, all trying to come to an agreement that will limit the damage caused by climate change, which is here already. In the U.S., we have bigger wildfires and a more intense hurricane season. But the impact of climate change - it's even more apparent in the developing world. And Lauren Sommer here - hey...


KWONG: ...Has been reporting on this particular part of the climate change story. So let's talk about it, Lauren, this mismatch in impact. How much more is the impact of climate change in the developing world?

SOMMER: Yeah, they're seeing some of the same impacts that the U.S. is - you know, stronger storms, more intense droughts and heat waves. But the big difference is that many developing countries aren't as prepared, and they don't have the resources to recover. It's really hard to leverage, you know, the hundreds of millions of dollars that the U.S. has deployed after a major hurricane, say, to fix things.

KWONG: I mean, disasters like that can really destabilize a country. If people have nowhere to live or they can't support themselves, they have to find somewhere else to go.

SOMMER: Yeah, that can happen after big disasters like hurricanes or floods. If your housing wasn't stable to begin with or you have no savings, you can't rebuild. But it's true for slower-moving disasters, too. You know, for many small island nations that are low elevation, they're looking at sea level rise, and it threatens their very existence. And the big point for them is that they did very little to cause climate change. Their greenhouse gas emissions are low. But they're bearing the brunt of it.

KWONG: We're talking about climate equity here. I mean, that's a big theme at this year's climate talks. So what are developing countries even looking for?

SOMMER: So 12 years ago, rich countries pledged $100 billion a year for countries with fewer resources, and that's to both slow emissions with things like renewable energy and to prevent more damage from being done by doing, say, flood protection. But here's the thing. Developed countries haven't delivered on that promise and provided the full amount of funding, and it's a huge point of contention in the talks in Glasgow right now.

KWONG: Today on the show, Lauren Sommer brings us a story from Kenya, and we're going to listen to it together. It's all about the help that Kenya's received to deal with climate change and how much more is needed for true climate equity. I'm Emily Kwong, and this is SHORT WAVE, the daily science podcast from NPR.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

SOMMER: At a small house outside of Nairobi, Kenya, there's a big moment happening that's also big for the climate. Winifred Mumbua Muisyo is getting electricity at her home for the first time.


SOMMER: An installer from the company d.light is putting a solar panel on her metal roof. Muisyo is a small-scale farmer who lives there with her three kids. And the solar system comes with more. With a new flock of chicks running around underfoot, they unpack lights, a phone charger and a small TV.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Citizen TV, (non-English language spoken).

SOMMER: Before this, Muisyo and her family used a kerosene lantern for light.

WINIFRED MUMBUA MUISYO: (Non-English language spoken).

SOMMER: "It was expensive to buy kerosene," she says, "and it was still too dark." She would hear sounds outside but not be able to see what was going on. Now she'll have an outdoor light and lights inside, too, for her kids to do schoolwork.

D.light has installed 1 million of these systems in Kenya, mostly in places where the electric grid doesn't reach. CEO Ned Tozun says that's important for climate change because the energy isn't coming from fossil fuels.

NED TOZUN: There are hundreds of millions of people in the world today that don't have any electricity access, and solar provides a way to get people immediate access to energy and do it in a way that is completely sustainable.

SOMMER: Some of d.light's investment comes from the Green Climate Fund, which gets its money from a coalition of wealthier countries. It's part of a promise that's central to the world's plan to tackle climate change - that by 2020, richer countries will provide $100 billion a year for developing countries to reduce their emissions through things like renewable energy and to prepare for more intense disasters.

SALEEMUL HUQ: 2020 has come and gone, and there's no sight of the 100 billion.

SOMMER: Saleemul Huq directs the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh. He says the funding was promised 12 years ago, when the inequity of climate change was becoming clear. Developing countries have done little to cause climate change. Their emissions are low. But they bear the brunt of the impacts.

HUQ: The case is very simple. It's a moral case. You caused the problem. We are suffering because of you causing the problem. It's your pollution.

SOMMER: But the most that wealthier countries have given was a total of $80 billion in 2019. And Huq says the majority of that is in the form of loans that developing countries have to pay back, which is a burden.

HUQ: For poor people to adapt to floods and cyclones and droughts, they can't repay that, so that doesn't work with loans. That has to come as grants.

SOMMER: Huq says the broken promise for 100 billion has created a huge rift between wealthier and poorer countries, one that's casting a big shadow over the international climate talks in Glasgow.


JOHN KERRY: I know the issue of finance has been much on everybody's minds.

SOMMER: At the summit, climate envoy John Kerry says the U.S. plans to quadruple its climate finance to $11 billion per year within a few years. Japan also announced a new pledge, potentially putting the world's goal within reach.


KERRY: That would put us over the 100 for next year, not waiting until '23.

SOMMER: But developing countries aren't convinced.


SONAM WANGDI: So far, the progress here is disappointing and, in a way, also frightening.

SOMMER: Sonam Wangdi of Bhutan chairs a coalition of the 46 poorest countries. He says developed nations aren't offering detailed plans for rolling out the funding. The U.S. funding still needs to be approved by Congress.


WANGDI: These figures cannot be verified. They're not that authentic. And we cannot wait any longer. We would like to request government to stop skirting responsibility.

SOMMER: Even reaching 100 billion may not be enough. A new U.N. report says developing nations need five to 10 times more than is being spent now to prepare for more extreme storms, flooding and droughts.

KWONG: Yeah. I mean, Lauren, listening to the people in this story, they're talking about preparing for the future, but climate change has already done a lot of damage in the developing world. So is there any talk about addressing the past, past damage?

SOMMER: Yeah, that's the other thing that's coming up in the negotiations. At the summit in Glasgow, developing countries are asking for another pot of funds for something called loss and damage. You can kind of think of it as compensation. I spoke to Raeed Ali, who is a climate activist from Fiji, and he's part of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition. I reached him at the climate summit, and he says he sees the need for loss and damage where he lives.

RAEED ALI: In Fiji, we are at the forefront of the climate crisis. So every single person knows about climate change because it's a daily reality for us. Six communities in Fiji have already had to relocate as a result of sea level rise, and then 43 more communities have been identified and (unintelligible) up for relocation.

SOMMER: So in that case, it's entire communities that are lost, essentially. They have to be moved and built elsewhere. And that's the kind of thing they could use loss and damage funding for.

KWONG: I got it. All right. But we heard earlier about how the world is already falling short of its pledge of $100 billion per year. I mean, Lauren, this would be additional funds, loss and damage. So are developing countries having any luck getting that so far?

SOMMER: Not much. It's moving slow. Scotland just announced that it would provide 1 million pounds for loss and damage, and that's the first and only money committed right now. The issue is that developed countries don't want to wander into liability territory. You know, like, if there's an extreme hurricane, they could be held liable for some of the destruction because climate change may have made the storm stronger. They've been very slow to embrace that idea, and Raeed says it's frustrating.

ALI: Providing finance for loss and damage is the very least that wealthy countries can and should do. But to do this, they will have to acknowledge that they are responsible for this, and I think that's something that they are not willing to do

SOMMER: Without some momentum on loss and damage, I think many developing countries will see these climate talks as a failure. And COP26 is winding down. There is a lot that will happen in these last few days of negotiations, and loss and damage is one of the big things that's still on the table.

KWONG: Yeah. Sounds like there's a few funding pieces that you're keeping an eagle eye on, Lauren. So thank you for doing that and for bringing this to SHORT WAVE.

SOMMER: Yeah, of course. Thanks.


KWONG: This episode was produced by Brit Hanson and edited by Sara Sarasohn. Margaret Cirino checked the facts. I'm Emily Kwong. Thanks for listening to SHORT WAVE from NPR.


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