Joy over “historic” climate damage deal

Joy over “historic” climate damage deal


Vulnerable nations least responsible for the emissions of planet-warming have been struggling for three decades to get wealthy polluters to spend the money on climate damage.

Their last foray lasted barely two weeks.

The “loss and damage” caused by climate-related disasters was not even officially discussed at the beginning of the UN talks in Egypt.

But a concerted effort among developing countries to make it the dominant theme of the conference melted opposition from wealthy polluters who had long feared unlimited 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 tense negotiations took place overnight, with nations clashing over a range of issues to curb planet-warming emissions.

“When these talks started, loss and damage were not even on the agenda and now we are making history,” said Mohamed Adow, Managing Director of Power Shift Africa.

“It just goes to show that this UN process can produce results and that the world can recognize that the plight of the vulnerable must not be treated as political football.”

Loss and damage cover a wide spectrum of climate impacts, from bridges and houses washed away in flash floods, to the threatened disappearance of cultures and entire island nations, to creeping sea levels.

Observers say the failure of rich polluters to both curb emissions and fund their pledge to help countries build climate resilience means that losses and damage will inevitably increase as the planet warms.

Event attribution science now makes it possible to measure how much global warming increases the likelihood or intensity of a single hurricane, heatwave, drought, or heavy rain event.

This year, an onslaught of climate-related disasters – from catastrophic floods in Pakistan to severe drought threatening famine in Somalia – has hit countries already grappling with the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and rising food and energy costs to have.

“Everyone is also realizing now that things are way out of our control,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy at Climate Action Network International.

– Who pays? –

The agreement was a balancing act over seemingly irreconcilable differences.

On the one hand, the G77 and the Chinese bloc of 134 developing countries called for the immediate establishment of a fund at COP27, with operational details to be agreed later.

Wealthier nations like the United States and the European Union accepted that countries in the crosshairs of climate-related disasters need money, but preferred a “mosaic” of funding arrangements.

They also wanted the money to be focused on the most climate-vulnerable countries and for there to be a broader group of donors.

This is a code for countries like China and Saudi Arabia that have gotten richer since they were listed as developing countries in 1992.

After last-minute wrangling over wording, the final loss and damage document decided to set up a fund as part of a broad range of funding arrangements for developing countries “that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.”

Other key issues have been left unclear or placed under the purview of a new Transitional Committee that will be tasked with drafting a plan to implement decisions for the 2023 UN climate summit in Dubai.

A reference to expanding funding sources “is vague enough to pass through,” said Ines Benomar, a researcher at think tank E3G.

But she said debates over whether China – the world’s biggest emitter – should retain its “development” status, among other things, were likely to resurface next year.

“The discussion is being postponed, but more attention is being paid to it now,” she said.

For his part, China’s envoy Xie Zhenhua told reporters Saturday that the fund should be for all developing countries.

However, he added: “I hope that it can be made available to fragile countries first.”

– ‘Empty Bucket’ –

Singh said other innovative sources of funding — such as fossil fuel extraction levies or airline passengers — could bring in “hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Previous assurances for loss and damage are tiny compared to the extent of the damage.

These include $50 million from Austria, $13 million from Denmark and $8 million from Scotland.

About $200 million has also been pledged – mostly from Germany – to the Global Shield project launched by the G7 economies and climate-sensitive nations.

The World Bank estimates that the floods in Pakistan alone have caused $30 billion in damage and economic loss.

Depending on how much CO2 pollution is cut worldwide, losses and damage from climate change could cost developing countries $290-580 billion annually by 2030 and reach $1-1.8 trillion by 2050, according to a study from 2018.

Adow said a loss and damage fund is only the first step.

“What we have is an empty bucket,” he said.

“Now we need to fill it so that support can flow to the most affected people who are suffering from the climate crisis right now.”

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