the main points
- Vulnerable countries least responsible for greenhouse emissions got a loss and damage fund at COP27.
- Losses and damage cover a wide range of climate impacts, from flood damage to loss of cultures from sea level rise.
- Observers say the losses and damage to rick pollutants are inevitably increasing as the planet warms.
Weak nations least responsible for greenhouse emissions have been fighting for three decades for wealthy polluters to pay for climate damage.
Their final attempt took barely two weeks.
The “losses and damages” caused by climate-related disasters were not officially discussed when the UN talks began in Egypt.
But a concerted effort among developing nations to make it the defining issue of the conference melted resistance from wealthy polluters who had long feared open liability, and gained unstoppable momentum as the talks progressed.
In the end, the decision to set up a loss and damage fund was the first item confirmed Sunday morning after a fraught negotiation overnight as nations clashed over a range of issues over curbing greenhouse emissions.
“At the beginning of these talks, losses and damages were not on the agenda, and now we are making history,” said Mohamed Addo, Executive Director of Power Shift Africa.
“It just shows that this UN process can deliver results, and that the world can recognize the plight of the vulnerable should not be treated as a political football.”
Loss and damage cover a wide range of climate impacts, from bridges and homes washed away by flash floods, to the threatened disappearance of entire cultures and island nations to the creeping rise of sea levels.
Observers say the failure of wealthy polluters to reduce emissions and deliver on their promise of financing to help countries boost climate resilience means losses and damages are inevitably increasing as the planet warms.
“Things are out of our control.”
The science of event attribution now makes it possible to measure how much global warming increases the likelihood or intensity of an individual hurricane, heat wave, drought or heavy rainfall.
This year, climate-induced disasters – from catastrophic floods in Pakistan to severe famine and threatening drought in Somalia – have ravaged countries already reeling from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising food and energy costs.
“Everyone now realizes that things have gotten beyond our control,” said Harjit Singh, Head of Global Political Strategy at the International Climate Action Network.
The agreement was a high balancing act over seemingly insurmountable differences.
On the one hand, the Group of 77 and China of 134 developing countries called for an immediate fund at COP27, with operational details to be agreed upon at a later date.
Wealthier nations such as the United States and the European Union accepted that countries in the crosshairs of climate-induced disasters needed money but preferred a “mosaic” of financing arrangements.
They also wanted to focus money on countries most vulnerable to climate and have a broader pool of donors.
This is the symbol for countries, including China and Saudi Arabia, that have become richer since they were listed as developing countries in 1992.
After last-minute wrangling over wording, the final loss and damage document decided to create a fund as part of a broader package of financing arrangements for developing countries “particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.”
Other major points of contention have been left vague or placed in the purview of a new transition committee that will be tasked with developing a plan to make decisions a reality for the 2023 UN climate summit in Dubai.
Inas Benomar, a researcher at the E3G think tank, said the reference to expanding funding sources was “vague enough to be passed on”.
But she said debates about whether China – the world’s largest emitter – among others, should maintain its status as a “developing” are likely to come to the fore next year.
“The discussion has been postponed, but there is now more interest in it,” she said.
For his part, China’s envoy Xie Zhenhua told reporters on Saturday that the fund should be for all developing countries.
But, he added, “I hope it will be made available to fragile states first.”
Singh said other innovative sources of financing – such as fees for fossil fuel extraction or air passengers – could raise “hundreds of billions of dollars”.
The loss and damage pledges to date are minimal compared to the extent of the damage.
They include $50 million from Austria, $13 million from Denmark and $8 million from Scotland.
Nearly $200 million – mostly from Germany – has also been pledged for the “Global Shield” project, launched by G7 economies and countries vulnerable to climate change.
The World Bank estimated that the Pakistan floods alone caused $30 billion in damage and economic losses.
Depending on how deeply the world cuts carbon pollution, losses and damages from climate change could cost developing countries from $290 to $580 billion per year by 2030, reaching $1 trillion to $1.8 trillion in 2050, according to research 2018.
Ms. Adow said the Loss and Damages Fund was just the first step.
“What we have is an empty bucket,” he said.
“Now we need to fill it in so that support can flow to the people most affected and suffering right now by the climate crisis.”