Niger Urges Rich Nations to Make ‘Climate Loss Fund’ Operational

The “loss and damage” fund agreed to last month at the COP27 climate conference aims for rich nations to help those that have borne the brunt of their global warming emissions. In Niger, climate change has fueled desertification and conflict as communities compete for dwindling resources.

It’s often said those least responsible for climate change will suffer the most because of it. This is especially true in Niger.

According to nonprofits such as Concern International, Niger, along with its neighbors in Africa’s Sahel region, is likely to see a 3-to-6-degree Celsius increase in temperatures by the end of the century, with devastating impacts for one of the poorest and most difficult-to-farm regions on earth.

Yet in 2021, Niger produced just 0.007% of global emissions.

The changing climate is also adding to a rise in militant groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State, according to the United Nations.

Jean-Noel Gentile is the U.N.’s World Food Program Niger Country Director.

“Climate change is contributing to the deterioration of natural resources, with the population then competing for the same resources, which are shrinking,” Gentile said. “So, there is a direct correlation between climate change and insecurity.”

To help countries like Niger, a “loss and damage” fund was agreed upon at the U.N.’s recent COP27 climate conference in Egypt. In theory, richer countries and bigger emitters of greenhouse gases will pay to assist the countries suffering from climate change the most.

Nonprofits say the cost of the damage caused by climate change could hit $1.8 trillion by 2050.

Niger’s environment minister, Garama Saratou Rabiou Inoussa, told VOA the fund needs to become operational quickly.

She says, there’s an urgency to make the funds operational. Not only making the funds operational, she says, but also the urgency to make the funds available through an easy funding mechanism that favors countries such as Niger.”

Haoua Coba Maigardaye lives in a village in Niger’s border region with Nigeria, an area that could benefit from the fund. A project run by the World Food Program has reorganized the village’s farming practices, allowing them to farm during the dry season, in addition to the rainy season.

She says, food production has increased and the older and younger generations of the village no longer have to go elsewhere to find work, since they can grow crops twice in a year. “It’s an improvement because there is now not only enough food to survive, but also enough to sell,” she adds.

In a neighboring village where there is no assistance, a farmer says they do not have enough to eat.

Environmentalists say that details, such as how the fund will work — and how the money will make it to villages like those in Zinder — need to be nailed down.

Steve Trent is with the Environmental Justice Foundation, a U.K.-based environmental nonprofit.

“The political pitfalls are that developed states just decide not to pay. It’s hard when you want to get governments to write that check,” said Trent. “It’s difficult to get them to do it, particularly in the economic climate that we face globally now.”

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change declined to give an interview on how the fund might work and how long it may take to become active.

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