- Vulnerable nations least responsible for geothermal emissions secured a Loss and Damage Fund at COP27.
- Loss and damage cover a wide range of climate impacts, from flood damage to the loss of crops from sea-level rise.
- Observers say losses and damage from Rick polluters are bound to increase as the planet warms.
Countries passed a hard-fought final deal early Sunday at the COP27 climate summit that establishes a fund to help poor countries hit by climate disasters – but does not step up efforts to tackle the emissions they cause.
After tense negotiations that lasted through the night, Egypt’s COP27 presidency released the final text for an agreement while convening a plenary session to get it through quickly.
Rapid approval to create a special loss and damage fund leaves many of the most contentious decisions about the fund until next year, including who should pay into it.
Negotiators raised no objection as COP27 President Sameh Shoukry rattled through the final agenda items.
And as dawn broke over the summit venue in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday, the deal was sealed.
Although there was no agreement on stricter emission reductions, “we stuck to the agreement because we want to stand by the weakest,” said Germany’s climate minister, Jennifer Morgan, clearly annoyed.
Delegates hailed the breakthrough in establishing the fund as climate justice for its goal of helping vulnerable countries weather storms, floods and other disasters fueled by historic carbon emissions from rich nations.
Asked by Reuters if the deal’s goal of stronger climate action had been jeopardized, Mexico’s chief climate negotiator Camila Zepeda summed up sentiment among weary negotiators.
“Probably. You win if you can.”
The two-week summit was seen as a test of global resolve to tackle climate change – even as a war in Europe, turmoil in energy markets and rampant consumer inflation divert international attention.
Dubbed the “African COP,” the summit in Egypt had pledged to highlight the plight of poor countries facing the most severe consequences of global warming, which is mainly being caused by wealthy industrialized nations.
In line with previous iterations, the approved deal did not include a reference to phasing out the use of “all fossil fuels” as requested by India and some other delegations.
Instead, she called on countries to take steps towards “the phasing out of unabated coal-fired power generation and the phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” as agreed at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.
“Too many parties are not ready today to make further progress in the fight against the climate crisis,” said EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans, describing the agreement as “not a step forward for people and the planet”.
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 the code for countries, including 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.”
What does the text contain?
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 largest 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.”
Mr Singh said other innovative sources of funding – such as levies on fossil fuel extraction or air 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 G7 economies and climate-vulnerable nations.
The World Bank has estimated that the floods in Pakistan alone have caused US$30 billion in damage and economic loss.
Depending on how much global CO2 pollution is reduced, losses and damage from climate change could cost developing countries between US$290 and US$580 billion per year by 2030 and US$1 trillion to US$1.8 trillion by 2050. reach dollars, according to a 2018 study.
Ms 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.”
How was the reaction?
The text also included a reference to “low-emission energy,” raising some concerns that this opened the door for the increased use of natural gas — a fossil fuel that results in both carbon dioxide and methane emissions.
“It doesn’t completely break with Glasgow, but it doesn’t inspire any ambition at all,” Norway’s climate minister Espen Barth Eide told reporters.
Small island nations facing climate-related sea-level rise had pushed for the loss-and-damage deal but lamented a lack of ambition to curb emissions.
“I recognize the progress we made at COP27 in establishing the fund,” Maldives Climate Minister Aminath Shauna told the plenary.
But “we failed at mitigation… We need to make sure we ramp up our ambition for peak emissions by 2025. We need to phase out fossil fuels.”
The Marshall Islands Climate Ambassador said she was “exhausted” but happy with the fund’s approval.
“So many people told us this week we wouldn’t get it. I’m so glad they were wrong,” Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner said via email.
Still: “I wish we had a fossil fuel phase-out. The current text is not enough.”