The four key barriers to climate delivery – LaToya Ouna


As COP27 approaches, LaToya Ouna of Handisi Systems writes about four key barriers or ‘blockers’ that must be overcome to deliver climate action.

It has been 27 years since the first UN Climate Change Conference in Berlin. Since then, the world has not drastically changed pathways and continues to be on a middle-of-the-road track regarding the reduction of global emissions of anthropogenic gases.

That is a problem because the challenge does not allow for a sit-and-wait approach but calls for immediate radical action. Nations must be cognisant that any investments in infrastructure, healthcare or education made today will have a rollover effect on the future carbon intensity of its growth path for decades.

So this article looks at four climate blockers derailing the fulfilment of net-zero and Glasgow Climate pact promises.

Competing Interests
Economic factors inhibit some countries from immediately decarbonising their economies. Countries that depend on fossil fuel assets are at the forefront of resisting any transition to alternative energy sources. Any rapid growth would destabilise their economies, possibly causing unrest and conflict.

Similarly, funding that could have otherwise been channelled to climate initiatives was shifted to mitigate the effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic. The long-term effects of these diversions are unclear and will probably be felt for years.

Climate adaptation also frequently involves cross-cutting themes, thus involving multiple actors and institutions with different objectives, jurisdictional authority and levels of power and resources. There is often a lack of coordination, clear leadership or mandate, shared responsibilities, and an environment of (internal and external) competition for resources and policy control.[1].

Underfunding of climate action goals
Developing economies would also be short-term losers in a rapid climate policy transition. Compensating these countries with contributions from developed nations was envisaged in the Glasgow Climate Pact, which aimed to turn the 2020s into a decade of climate action and support.

The Pact reaffirmed the support to developing countries and vulnerable communities affected by climate change by funding resilient and climate-adaptable projects. Estimated adaptation costs in developing countries could reach $300bn annually by 2030. However, the UNCC reported that only 21% of climate finance provided by wealthier countries to assist developing nations goes towards adaptation and resilience.[2]

Lack of a supranational climate regulatory authority
Nations have been known to backtrack from global commitments due to self-interests and self-preservation. The United States, for example, withdrew from the Paris agreement in 2020 and, consequently, their funding of $3 billion.

While the USA’s subsequent administration re-joined the agreement, this act of leaving significantly reduced the funding of climate research and innovations that would cushion developing countries from the burden caused by the climate crisis.

The whole world would benefit from a unified solution to the crisis. But without a binding international agreement or a supranational authority that can impose global green policies and treaties, few countries are incentivised to engage in sufficient mitigation efforts—leaving everyone worse off.

Uncertainty and Misinformation
Every falsehood, distortion, and conspiracy theory about climate change is an obstacle to meaningful climate action and a collective effort to agree on a set of basic facts is required.[3].

The future of climate change information is also characterised by high uncertainty. Different models and scenarios employed by scientists contribute to the uncertainty. For parameters such as precipitation, in some cases, other models do not even agree on the direction of the change (i.e. whether rainfall will increase or decrease in a particular place due to climate change).

This uncertainty and misinformation is a significant barrier to medium- to long-term adaptation. It can delay or prevent decision-making. It may also cause some individual or institutional actors to choose ineffective adaptation options.[4].

[1] Future Climate for Africa Guide.
[2] United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change Report of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement on its third session, held in Glasgow from 31 October to 13 November 2021.
[3] Climate Misinformation on Social Media Is Undermining Climate Action.
[4] Future Climate for Africa Guide.

LaToya Ouna is a director with Handisi Systems and a member of the Future Leaders Advisory Council, and international group of young industry leaders run by FIDIC.