Major announcements on climate finance and emissions reductions at COP26 will amount to greenwashing if countries don’t also sign up to clear monitoring measures, according to people involved in the negotiations.

On Wednesday, the UK, as the climate summit president, released draft texts that could form the basis of a final ‘cover decision’, or Glasgow agreement, at the end of this week.

Yet key issues – including transparency measures and commitments for the cost of loss and damage to countries – have still not been finalised, and meetings are likely to continue late into Friday night.

Outside the metal barriers that separate the public from COP26, a lonely voice called to the thousands of people rushing inside: “Challenge the greenwashing, that’s what you’re here for.”

Donations appeal

Advocates say trust in the swathe of pledges and announcements made at COP26 by wealthy countries is low. And with pledges for US$100 billion in climate finance unfulfilled since the Copenhagen summit in 2009, developing countries are wary of additional claims of support for adaptation and mitigation funding.

Mohamed Adow, director of the Nairobi-based climate think-tank Power Shift Africa, said: “12 years down the line, we’re still looking for the money.

“Finance remains a sticking point … It’s not just because it’s needed for ambition, but it’s also so critical to rebuilding trust between the parties, so that they can work together to close the emission gap.”

False claims

It comes as global science, civil society and corporate brands call for a working definition of climate disinformation to include content that falsely claims to support climate goals, while contributing to global warming.

“The threat to COP26 and climate action is not abstract, we have seen misinformation derail conferences before,” an open letter endorsed by more than 250 signatories says.

“It’s all very well and good to sign up to all these pledges, but unless there is accountability, it means nothing,”

Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens senator from the Australian state of South Australia

Sarah Hanson-Young, a Greens senator in the Australian state of South Australia, told SciDev.Net that mistrust was a result of power imbalances. “We see that in the Australian context most significantly with our relationship with Pacific nations and island states,” she said.

“It is just unthinkable what climate change, global warming, what impact that is already having on the Pacific,” she said. “We know they are going to be hit the worst, and yet Australia – just next door – is refusing to make some of the changes that we desperately need, such as getting out of fossil fuels and coal.”

Australia is a major global coal supplier and the country’s per capita emissions rank seventh highest in the world. Yet the government has shunned pledges to reduce emissions or fund mitigation.

The Climate Action Tracker, which on Tuesday said the world was heading towards at least 2.4 degrees of warming, has ranked Australia’s climate commitments “highly insufficient”.

Hanson-Young said that after meeting with Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, it was “quite clear that he is frustrated that the big, developed country of Australia is not taking the future safety, livelihoods and sustainability of his community seriously”.

Double dip

Most significant pledges made at COP26 will fall outside of any final official Glasgow agreement – such as a multi-country declaration to end deforestation by 2030. Delegates have warned that pledges for climate finance may be diverted from Official Development Assistance budgets, despite claims that these promises are for “new” funding.

Hanson-Young agrees that the international community must be alert to greenwashing to “stop the rot”.

“We need annual reporting on commitments, because it’s all very well and good to sign up to all these pledges, but unless there is accountability, it means nothing,” she said.

“Transparency measures are being thrashed out now, we don’t know where it will end by the end of the week,” said Hanson-Young. “[But] that accountability measure of reporting and being honest about where countries are up to is so important.”

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s global desk.

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