Money will likely be the central tension in the U.N.'s COP27 climate negotiations.

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Date: 2022
Publisher: National Public Radio, Inc. (NPR)
Document Type: Audio file; Broadcast transcript
Length: 842 words
Content Level: (Level 3)
Lexile Measure: 1060L

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AYESHA RASCOE: World leaders are gathering in Egypt for negotiations over how to deal with harmful changes in the Earth's climate. The annual meeting of the United Nations is happening against the backdrop of a world in turmoil - inflation, the threat of recession and a war in Ukraine. At the same time, countries have to deal with the very real threats from a warming planet, with the world's poorest countries facing some of the greatest risk. Michael Copley joins us from NPR's climate desk to tell us what's going on. Good morning.

MICHAEL COPLEY: Morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: So let's start with the baseline. Countries have a set limit of how much they'll let temperatures rise. But where are we right now in reality?

COPLEY: Yeah. So the goal is to keep average global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. That's about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, and we're comparing it to the mid-1800s, the period right before industrialization took off. You get past 1.5 degrees, and scientists think catastrophic impacts from climate change are a lot more likely to happen. And right now, we're on track to get a lot hotter than that. The U.N. says emissions that drive climate change have to be cut almost in half by the end of this decade to put us on track to hit that 1.5-degree target. World leaders so far have only promised to cut emissions by around 3%.

RASCOE: The U.N. says countries have to be a lot more aggressive in responding to climate change. I feel like they've been saying this for a very long time, but, like, is something really bold going to happen at this meeting this year?

COPLEY: I think people are really skeptical. You mentioned all the different challenges countries are facing right now. Those are all wild cards in these negotiations. And the reality is a lot of countries are falling behind on commitments they made years ago. That includes money that industrialized countries promised developing nations to help them deal with climate change. So this year's conference really seems to be focused on turning promises into action. And that money that was promised to poorer countries seems like it'll be at the heart of these talks.

RASCOE: And so these financial pledges - like, how much money are we talking about? And, like, what is it for?

COPLEY: Yeah. So about a decade ago, developed countries said they'd give poorer nations $100 billion a year in financing to help cut emissions and prepare for the impacts we're already seeing. The most they've pulled together so far is about $83 billion in 2020. You know, the fact is industrialized countries are responsible for most of the emissions that are making the world hotter. But developing nations are the ones suffering some of the worst impacts right now, like the flooding in Pakistan this summer. That's cost the country billions of dollars and killed more than a thousand people. These countries have fewer resources to deal with that kind of damage.

RASCOE: Is this about a sense of justice or fairness, or is it just logical that countries with more resources would put out more money?

COPLEY: I think there's a moral element, but experts say it's also in the interest of richer countries to give more funding to poorer countries. They say money's crucial to keep developing nations on board with efforts to cut emissions. And if global warming isn't kept in check, everybody's going to be living in a more dangerous world. Bella Tonkonogy is the director at the Climate Policy Initiative. They promote economic development while addressing climate change.

BELLA TONKONOGY: Developed countries need to have credibility and need to have trust established with developing countries. And this question of finance is one of, if not the most, critical components of establishing that trust.

COPLEY: John Kerry, the United States special envoy for climate, says industrialized countries will meet their $100 billion pledge next year, but experts say that's just a fraction of what poorer nations actually need. And Kerry has said efforts to boost U.S. funding for developing countries could be at risk, depending on the outcome of midterm elections this week.

RASCOE: Looking ahead a couple of weeks, like, what do people think a successful conference would look like this year?

COPLEY: It really does seem to be all about putting plans and promises into action, and that goes for governments as well as the private sector. Companies see a big opportunity to accelerate and also to profit from the fight against climate change. But a lot of that private investment is happening in developed countries, where there's less financial risk. So there's a big push right now to figure out how to attract more of that money to poorer countries.

RASCOE: That's NPR's Michael Copley. Thank you so much for joining us.

COPLEY: Thanks, Ayesha.

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