As countries and the private sector make climate pledges, this island nation fears for its future

As developed countries negotiate more ambitious climate pledges, and private-sector groups worth $130 trillion US promise to make efforts go green, the president of Seychelles is urging more aggressive action to save his island nation.

Seychelles president says developed countries must step up to help

Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan speaks during the opening ceremony of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow on Nov. 1. He says his country remains in 'grave danger' because of climate change. (Yves Herman/The Associated Press)

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The president of Seychelles says his country remains in "grave danger" because of climate change and that developed countries must step up, as states continue to negotiate potentially more ambitious climate commitments at COP26 and the private sector pledges its own dollars to the global effort.

Wavel Ramkalawan says much of his country, which comprises more than 100 small islands in the Indian Ocean, could be erased by rising sea levels and erosion.

"We are being destroyed. But the sad thing is, it's not really the Seychelles that will be destroyed. It's the planet, it's the one planet that we have," Ramkalawan said in an interview on Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

He told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton that the failure of developed nations to reach a goal this year of committing $100 billion US to help the developing world fight climate change is a "disappointment."

Developed countries talked about providing billions of dollars when it comes to helping the climate, but trillions were already spent on priorities such as the military, Ramkalawan said.

WATCH | Seychelles president urges developed world to do more on climate: 

Industrialized nations must stop polluting without reserve: president of Seychelles

2 months ago
Duration 8:32
The president of Seychelles, Wavel Ramkalawan, joins CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton to talk about the impact climate change is having on his country. He says the risk of losing small island nations, like his own, 'completely is real.' 8:32

Countries are still negotiating this week in Glasgow at the the Conference of Parties (COP), which meets every year. It's the global decision-making body set up to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted in the early 1990s, and subsequent climate agreements.

Ramkalawan did have some nice words for Canada, which on Saturday announced a portion of its climate financing pledge would be geared toward reducing biodiversity loss.

  • Have questions about COP26 or climate science, policy or politics? Email us at ask@cbc.ca. Your input helps inform our coverage.

"Canada gives the impression that they are committed, that they want to help, that the environment is important. So if this is the direction that Canada is taking under Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau, then I would say to him he's my friend. Let's work together."

Private sector will play key role: Carney

Along with the push for a strong commitment from developed countries on finance pledges, a parallel push has been in place to organize private money.

Mark Carney, former head of the Bank of Canada and Bank of England and current UN special envoy on climate action and finance, helped lead that effort, which this week culminated in a pledge by a coalition of groups worth a collective $130 trillion US in assets to hit a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Carney has said private finance will play a major role in the fight for a sustainable future.

"Only mainstream finance can fund the estimated $100 trillion of investment needed over the course of the next three decades," he said Wednesday.

Carney told Barton on Sunday it made sense to leverage commitments made by countries to push for more aggressive action in the private sector.

WATCH | Mark Carney outlines new private-sector climate commitments: 

450 banks and funds join net-zero alliance, but still free to invest in fossil fuel projects

2 months ago
Duration 10:10
Mark Carney, the UN special envoy on climate action and finance, outlines his plan to CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton to find $100 trillion US in capital from the global financial community to help transform the world's economy from fossil fuels to clean, green energy. 10:10

"Once you have a net-zero objective in a country, it is a reasonable question to ask a bank or a business: What's your plan?"

The money pledged by private organizations is already invested in assets, so emissions will need to be cut in existing assets or the money shifted toward green initiatives.

That fact has led to a great deal of skepticism surrounding the private-sector pledge, which some view as vague and lacking accountability mechanisms. The agreement largely leaves it up to the entities themselves to set rules and create reporting and review structures.

"Is it actually a net impact that benefits the fight against a climate crisis? Or is this just a symbolic gesture that doesn't actually make any concrete difference in the fight?" NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asked after the announcement was made this week.

Carney said accountability "comes from everyone" — from media to NGOs to shareholders. And he emphasized that with this commitment, the world has at least pledged the assets needed to "get the world from where we are today, which is a bad place, to where we want to get to tomorrow."

Critics have also argued that the private-sector pledge doesn't go far enough in forcing companies to divest from fossil fuel projects. Carney countered Sunday that the deal still represented significant progress.

"The transition has to happen rapidly. But it is a transition. It's not a switch that can be magically flipped."

During COP26, Trudeau announced that Canada would end foreign fossil fuel investment by the end of next year, separate from a campaign pledge to end domestic fossil fuel subsidies by 2023.

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.

With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press, Rosemary Barton and Tyler Buist

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