Developed and prosperous countries finally agreeing to set up a fund to help developing countries battered by climate change is a significant milestone.
After three decades of successfully ignoring the demands of developing countries for the “Loss and Damage” payment to help them recover from damages caused by climate change, the calls were finally heeded by developed countries at this year’s COP27 climate change summit.
The Guardian calls this deal a historic victory for the world’s poorest countries.
Loss and damage refer to the most severe impacts of extreme weather on developing countries’ physical and social infrastructure and the financial assistance needed to rescue and rebuild them.
The summit was due to end on 18 November, but tense negotiations on what should be on the agreement’s final text went on into the wee hours of 20 November. The Economist notes that sleep deprivation and weariness forced the result more than any tremendous political breakthrough.
“Loss and damage” was first suggested in 1991 by Vanuatu, a low-lying island nation in the Pacific. The small island developing state floated the idea of an insurance scheme sponsored by the United Nations to help pay for loss and damage from sea level rise.
For 30 years, rich countries have refused the idea that suggests liability for climate change.
Instead, wealthy countries, which emitted the bulk of GHG emissions that caused climate change in the first place, have provided limited cash to help poor and vulnerable countries slash their emissions and build defences against extreme weather.
In this year’s COP27, the pressing issue that developing nations have been calling on for decades can no longer be ignored.
Pakistan’s catastrophic flooding this year, which caused more than $30 billion of damage and economic losses, exemplified why rich countries need to help out the most climate-vulnerable countries.
Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian foreign minister and president of the Cop27 UN climate summit in Egypt, said: “We rose to the occasion. We worked around the clock, day and night, but united in working for one gain, one higher purpose, and one common goal. In the end, we delivered. We listened to the calls of anguish and despair.”
Details of the promised UN fund will be agreed upon by November 2023, which means that although the summit has successfully created a money box for loss and damage, it’s unclear how much money the donor countries will give.
According to The Conversation, most analysts have quickly pointed out there’s still a lot yet to clarify regarding donors, recipients or rules of accessing this fund. It’s unclear where funds will come from or whether countries such as China will contribute, for example. These and other details are yet to be agreed upon.
Loss and damage, the third pillar of climate action
Developing countries and climate advocates celebrated the victory of the loss and damage payment deal. Sir Molwyn Joseph, minister of health, wellbeing and the environment of Antigua and Barbuda and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, said: “Today, the international community has restored global faith in this critical process that is dedicated to ensuring no one is left behind. The agreements made at Cop27 are a win for our entire world. We have shown those who have felt neglected that we hear you, we see you, and we are giving you the respect and care you deserve.
He added that we must work hard to hold firm to the 1.5°C warming limit, operationalise the loss and damage fund, and continue creating a safe, fair, and equitable world.
While the COP27 proved a historic moment for the Loss and damage front, many felt that the overall outcome of this year’s summit was insufficient to address the climate crisis, particularly on renewed commitments to climate mitigation and adaptation.
According to The Conversation, developments in the fight to retain the Paris Agreement and Glasgow last year were less promising. Temperature trajectories make it challenging to keep temperature rise to 1.5°C. Even China is questioning whether keeping the 1.5°C was worth retaining. There is also an absence of renewed commitment to phase out fossil fuels which oil-producing countries have fought against.
Hoped for rules for greenwashing and new restrictions on carbon markets were also missing in the final text of this year’s summit.
Loss and damage have emerged as the third pillar during COP27 of climate actions alongside climate mitigation and adaptation.
Sadly, the two other pillars – climate adaptation and mitigation have received little attention during COP27. The loss and damage issue has used all the energy to fight for renewed commitments to curb emissions and build resilience against climate change.
Catherine Brahic, the Environment editor of The Economist, notes the most effective way to address climate change is to act on three pillars. She said, “If countries are better adapted to climate change, and if those that struggle to pay are helped along their way, then there will be fewer claims for loss and damage down the road.”