SHARM El-SHEIKH (Egypt)–Delegates reached an agreement in a late-night negotiation blitz to hold a formal discussion about compensation for irreparable climate damage. This is a first for the U.N. climate summit after decades of resistance from rich countries.
The highly contested issue revolves around getting wealthy countries, who have contributed most of global warming’s emissions, to pay money to the poorer countries that most often suffer the consequences of extreme storms and heat. The topic was placed on the agenda Sunday by negotiators who agreed to discuss it over the next two weeks during climate talks.
The increasing severity of climate-related impacts has raised the need for some form of reparations. But the developed world has long resisted such discussions, igniting fears that continued intransigence could derail the talks before they even began (Climatewire, Nov. 4).
” The fact that it was adopted as an agenda item shows progress and parties taking a mature and constructive attitude towards it,” Simon Stiell (executive secretary of U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. “What I would encourage – and what I would hope – is that the parties continue to find common areas to agree on .”
Finalizing the agenda is a routine procedural matter. After the June intersessional talks, compensation for unavoidable damage and loss – also known as loss or damage in U.N. parlance – emerged as a potential flashpoint. Developed countries became frustrated at the lack of attention to this issue and began pushing for it being part of the formal agenda.
This led to months of discussions between different negotiating groups as well as climate officials. To facilitate, Jennifer Morgan, Germany’s special envoy on climate action, and Maisa Rojas, Chile’s Environment Minister, were tapped.
Meanwhile, climate change’s increasingly dangerous impacts were evident in deadly heat waves in Europe, India, and Pakistan, as well as in massive flooding in Nigeria and Pakistan, and in record-breaking droughts in the Western United States.
The United States and Europe have shown a greater willingness in recent weeks to discuss loss and damage financing, but it was unclear whether they would find common ground on Saturday night with climate-vulnerable nations. Negotiators eventually agreed to an agenda item about “matters related to funding arrangements” for loss and damage. This included a focus on “addressing” this problem.
Sameh Shaukry, Egypt’s foreign Minister and the head this year’s climate negotiations, stated in a Sunday press conference, that the Egypt presidency was “delighted” to have adopted an agenda item on the “most important issue” of damage and loss. He said, “This opens the door to a more in-depth and transparent consultation and negotiation process.”
The most vulnerable island nations to climate impacts were less direct in their responses.
“This agenda item on loss and damage funding reflects the floor of what is acceptable; it is our bare minimum,” said Conrod Hunte, deputy chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, a 39-country negotiating bloc. “Our negotiations at COP 27 must be constructive and lead to a substantive outcome. Simply tweaking the existing financial systems will not make it work
The United States and the European Union believe that the current funding processes for vulnerable countries, such early warning systems, disaster risk financing, and humanitarian assistance, should be modified or reformed in order to provide money to repair or compensate loss and damage. The Alliance of Small Island States disagrees. It wants a separate money source that doesn’t involve any trade-offs or double counting.
The next two weeks of climate summit will decide the direction of the discussions on loss and damage. A footnote on the agenda states that the outcomes will be based upon “cooperation and facilitation” but does not include liability or compensation–a redline for the United States of America and Europe. It also specifies 2024 the deadline for making a decision.
” This is about building trust among parties,” Stiell stated. “The real test will come down to the quality and the outcome .”
of the discussions over the next two week.
Countries will likely push for clear indicators of progress or timelines. Developed countries will be expected show that they are serious about moving things forward. They might also discuss who and how to contribute money. Negotiators will not settle on the exact dollars and cents that countries will have to pay.
“It doesn’t matter how much money is in the piggy banks, it’s about whether there’s a piggy banking how the piggy banks are shaped,” said David Waskow (director of the World Resource Institute’s international climate program).
It’s not the only problem.
This year’s talks will need to overcome a host of tensions including stalled efforts at curbing emissions in the face an energy crisis, geopolitical wrangling among some of the largest emitters in the world, and rising inequities which have punctuated a need for wealthy countries meet their climate finance pledges.
Another proposed agenda item didn’t make it to the cut. This year’s summit doesn’t have a formal agenda item that focuses on a commitment by developed countries to double their financing for adaptation. This helps countries strengthen their defenses against climate impacts.
Waskow stated that adaptation will require far more investment than it has received to date. He said that if countries don’t adapt, the losses and damages will increase even more.
Hunte from the small island countries put it this way: “We want live in our homes on our sovereign islands with our traditions and our way of living,” he said. “We are not here to negotiate with each other, but we are here negotiating against climate .”
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from