Climate change report will show $100bn target both hit and missed ahead of COP26

The Dave Johnson coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the morning sun in Glenrock, Wyoming. Credit: AP

There will be a precarious start to next week's climate change conference in Glasgow, because rich countries may be accused of spinning and gaslighting in their attempt to live up to a promise to provide $100bn a year to poor countries to help protect them from global warming. One of the ambitions of the COP26 conference, which starts in nine days, is for the developed high-income world to at last meet its promise to contribute $100bn a year to developing nations, to help them ward off and adapt to global warming. Tomorrow an official document is expected to be published that some will see as proving the target has been flunked again, while others will cite it as demonstrating - for the first time - that the target is on course to be achieved, at last.

This report by German and Canadian ministers, commissioned by the UK as president of COP26, will say the target may be hit in 2022 or more likely in 2023, but that it hasn't been met in 2020 or 2021. So purists - such as many developing nations but also some in Washington - would say the target has been missed once more. That said, the Canadian/German report will also say that more than $500bn will be donated in the five years to 2025, based on national promises, and in that sense rich countries will meet the target on an annual average over the full five year term.

Wind turbines stand in the sky at dawn in a wind farm in Collarmele, near L'Aquila, Italy. Credit: AP

Governments differ on whether this kind of multilateral financial target can be seen as having been achieved as an annual average, rather than on a discrete year by year basis. Either way, the rich developed countries can't swank about doing their bit for poorer parts of the world, since this target was first set in 2009 and has never yet been achieved on either an average annual basis or on a single-year basis. It is not clear how the fudged putative success - of enough funding commitments having been identified to give confidence the target may be met over the full five years to 2025 - will affect critical negotiations at COP26 to persuade both rich and poor nations to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The COP26 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP26? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP26:

  • US President Joe Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, climate adviser and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 10 other US cabinet officials.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In the days leading up to COP26, Mr Morrison committed Australia to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge are also attending. The Queen has withdrawn from visiting after being advised by her doctors to rest - she will address the conference virtually instead.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are among the leaders that have decided not to travel to Glasgow.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - Countries are being encouraged to set ambitious 2030 emissions targets. They are also encouraged to accelerate the phase-out of coal, clamp down on deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

2. Protect natural habitats and communities from climate change disasters

3. Finances for a greener future - In 2009, developed countries were asked to keep to their promises to contribute at least $100 billion (£72.5 billion) per year by 2020 to protect the planet. In 2015, it was agreed that the goal would be extended to 2025.

However, new analysis shows the goal is unlikely to have been met last year and is on track to fall short in 2021 and 2022.

4. Getting all countries and organisations to work together to tackle the climate crisis

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Many poorer countries say that because rich countries became rich by exploiting fossil fuels, those rich nations have a moral obligation to subsidise climate-change mitigation and adaptation by developing countries much more than they have been doing. Another reason why developing countries may well be "grumpy" - in the words of one official - is that the report, written by Jochen Flasbarth of Germany and Jonathan Wilkinson of Canada will contain little detail on individual countries' contributions to the $100bn, so there will be a fear that the cash is not as guaranteed as they would hope and want.