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Historic COP 27 agreement will see developing nations compensated for climate damages

GeneralHistoric COP 27 agreement will see developing nations compensated for climate damages

Photo: Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley

by Khaila Gentle

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Nov. 21, 2022

The 27th Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC (COP27) concluded on Sunday with countries agreeing to create a “Loss and Damage” fund for developing nations hit by climate disasters. The two-week conference was set to end on Friday, but clashes during negotiations led the final session of the summit to stretch well into the wee hours of Sunday.

Activists and climate justice groups have been lobbying for a fund to compensate for the impacts of climate change experienced by vulnerable nations, mostly in the Global South, for more than three decades now, and Sunday’s agreement has been hailed as a historic win by experts. It will see wealthy industrialized nations—nations that have been the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and the warming of the planet—providing compensation to those countries that are set to suffer, and in some cases are already suffering, from extreme changes in weather.

Last year, at COP26 in Glasgow, both the US and the European Union (EU) blocked the proposal to create the loss and damage fund, opting instead for further discussion. On Sunday, as the agreement was made to establish the fund, the head of the EU executive, Ursula von der Leyen, referred to it as a “small step towards climate justice” and added that countries will also need to do much more for the planet in the face of global warming.

“We have treated some of the symptoms but not cured the patient from its fever,” she said.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley was once again hailed as one of the standout voices at the climate change conference. For the past two weeks, she has acted especially as a prominent voice for the Global South. Earlier in the month, her scathing criticism of wealthy nations that have continued to fail developing countries was heard around the world.

“We were the ones whose blood, sweat, and tears financed the Industrial Revolution … Are we now to face double jeopardy by having to pay the cost as a result of those greenhouse gases from the Industrial Revolution? That is fundamentally unfair,” she had said.

Another representative from the Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of the Environment, Sir Molwyn Joseph, who is also the chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, said that after the pain of tireless negotiations comes some progress.

“We have literally exhausted all of our efforts here at COP27 to bring home the climate action commitments our vulnerable people desperately need. Our ministers and negotiators have endured sleepless nights and endless days in an intense series of negotiations, determined to secure the establishment of a loss and damage response fund, keep 1.5C alive, and advance ambition on critical mitigation and adaptation plans,” he said.

“When we came here, there was a great philosophical chasm on how we’d approach these issues, particularly on loss and damage. Thanks to the countries who took the leap, it’s a significant move forward,” said Prime Minister Mottley after the agreement was made.

According to reports by The Guardian, Pakistan’s climate minister, Sherry Rehman, along with her team of negotiators, also played a crucial role in securing the Loss and Damage agreement. Pakistan was one of many countries hit by extreme climate disasters this year, having faced massive and deadly flooding this past summer.

Despite the monumental victory, many officials, including the head of the EU executive, have pointed out that, unfortunately, COP27 did not deliver on a commitment by the world’s major fossil fuel users to lower their emissions.

“The real failure at Sharm el-Sheikh was that no significant progress has been made in commitments on fossil fuels, which is unsurprising given the hundreds of fossil fuel lobbyists who were active inside the negotiation. In terms of the commitment to eliminating fossil fuels from the global economy, COP27 represents a backward step,” said Adrian Ramsay, the co-leader of the UK’s Green Party.

The failure to phase out fossil fuels will, inevitably, lead to increases in losses and damages in the vulnerable Global South. And as such, many have seen the ending of this year’s climate change conference as a bittersweet one.

In his closing remarks, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres said that while a fund for loss and damage is essential, “it’s not an answer if the climate crisis washes a small island state off the map – or turns an entire African country to desert. The world still needs a giant leap on climate ambition.”

“The red line we must not cross is the line that takes our planet over the 1.5 degree temperature limit. To have any hope of keeping to 1.5, we need to massively invest in renewables and end our addiction to fossil fuels,” he added.

This year’s conference also featured a greater inclusion of young people and youth activists, with the first-ever pavilion for children and youth, as well as the first-ever youth-led Climate Forum. United Nations Climate Change Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell, made a promise to urge governments to incorporate solutions proposed by young people into policy decisions.

The Loss and Damage fund is expected to take at least one year to be fully mandated. During that time, a committee of representatives from 24 countries will work on a proposal detailing the specifics of the fund, including what countries should contribute and who will benefit from it. It remains to be seen though, whether wealthy nations will actually deliver on their commitment. The New York Times notes that ten years ago, the United States, the EU, and other nations from the Global North pledged to deliver $100 billion yearly to help vulnerable nations in their climate change mitigation initiatives. They fall short, however, by tens of billions of dollars every year.

The agreement to establish the Loss and Damage fund is included in the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, a ten-page document highlighting the decisions and commitments made during the climate change conference. That plan also notes that investments of at least US $4 trillion will be required for a global transition to a low-carbon economy.

The final agreement in the Implementation Plan recommits to the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius more than pre-industrial levels but it does not include any new targets for greenhouse gas emissions. It calls only for a reduction in the use of coal rather than all fossil fuels, which includes oil and gas.

Next year’s conference, COP28, is set to take place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE, a nation whose economy is heavily dependent on the extraction and export of oil, has already begun to promote its role as the future host of the UN conference.

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