Lack of funding in focus as Congo hosts pre-COP27 climate talks

By Sonia Rolley

KINSHASA (Reuters) -High-level speakers at climate talks in Kinshasa called out rich nations on Monday for failing to honour a $100 billion per year funding pledge to developing countries, warning that fair finance was needed to avert the worst of the climate crisis.

Dozens of ministers and senior delegates are in Democratic Republic of Congo this week for a final meeting before the COP27 climate summit in November, where more vulnerable countries hope to push for compensation for economic losses linked to climate catastrophes.

"The finance currently available is a pittance with respect to the magnitude of disasters vulnerable nations and people are facing and will face," U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said at the start of the three-day event.

Egypt, which is hosting COP27, is working on how to include this kind of compensation for so-called loss and damage on the formal agenda - a task complicated by industrialized nations' wariness of the liabilities they may face.

"Failure to act on loss and damage will lead to more loss of trust and more climate damage," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in New York on Monday. "The collective commitments of G20 governments are coming far too little and far too late."

He also called out international financial institutions: "Beyond pursuing their own drop-in-the-bucket initiatives, they must intensify their efforts to leverage the necessary massive increases of private finance as first-investors and risk-takers."

In Kinshasa, Mohammed and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry highlighted the failure to deliver on an existing $100 billion per-year pledge to developing countries, which has only ever been partially met and is due to expire in 2025.

Mohammed also criticised an over 50% shortfall in the $356 million pledged to a climate adaptation fund at COP26 last year.

The pre-summit is meant to be a forum for countries to shape the agenda for negotiations in Egypt and improve the chance of progress.

Welcoming delegates, Congo's Environment Minister Eve Bazaiba said she was concerned that countries' ongoing failure to fulfil commitments had become a matter of course.

Earlier Bazaiba told Reuters the focus of talks would be how the richest and most industrialised nations should take financial responsibility for their role in the climate crisis.

"The G20 is responsible for 80% of the pollution in the world," she said in an interview on Saturday. "The real debate of this pre-COP and COP27 is the responsibility of the polluting countries."

Around a dozen young activists protesting outside the venue called on Congolese authorities to cancel plans to drill for oil and gas in its share of the world's second-biggest rainforest and in peatlands that store billions of tonnes of carbon.

"We cannot sacrifice them at the altar of fossil fuel," said activist Bonaventure Bondo.

Congo, like other African nations, has insisted on its right to develop its economy by exploiting its vast natural resources, pledging to minimise the potentially devastating environmental impact by using modern drilling methods and tight regulation.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is due to meet Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi on Tuesday. The two countries have set up a working group to help protect Congo's rainforests and peatlands.

(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Andrea Ricci)