After decades of slow progress on climate action, political leaders dragging their feet on finance or wondering if climate change is even real, this year’s extreme weather has been a stark reminder that the world has reached certain of the tipping points climatologists have warned us against.
The death of more than 1,700 people in the floods in Pakistan as well as the 4,000 victims caused by droughts and floods on the African continent are just some of the disastrous events that will shape the conversation on climate finance, and in particular climate reparations, at the upcoming COP27 climate summit in Egypt.
If countries had worked harder to mitigate their carbon emissions and improve their coping strategies, some of these casualties might have been avoided, says Saleemul Huq, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development, based in Bangladesh.
“But unfortunately we haven’t done enough,” he says. “When people lose their lives, their livelihoods and their homes, then adaptation is no longer possible.”
According to research by NGO Oxfamthe need for financial assistance after climate-related disasters has increased eightfold compared to 20 years ago, and the financing gap continues to grow.
Oxfam calculates a gap of up to $33 billion over the past five years, a number dwarfed by the cost of “loss and damageafter recent disasters such as the 2021 floods in Europe, which caused damage worth $45 billion, or Hurricane Maria in 2017, which wiped out the equivalent of 226% of gross domestic product ( GDP) of Dominica.
Researchers in Spain estimated that by 2040, the cost of loss and damage to developing countries alone could reach $1 trillion. Who foots the bill is a question that the wealthy economies responsible for the bulk of past emissions and current global warming have steadfastly avoided for years.
But things can change at the COP27 summit November 6-18.
In September, representatives from 30 negotiating groups within the United Nations climate change framework held a meeting focused on the issue of loss and damage, the diplomatic term used to refer to irreparable environmental damage caused by extreme climate impacts.
Delegates succeeded in including loss and damage financing on the provisional agenda for this year’s COP, to discuss aspects such as the timing, scope and placement of financing, as well as potential sources and eligibility criteria for receiving support.
Last year the climate talks held in the UK failed to provide a financial facility for loss and damage, something a group of 134 developing countries (known as the G77) plus China now intends to fight under the leadership of Pakistan.
The question of financing climate reparations was not even relevant the agenda of COP26, explains Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy for the NGO Climate Action Network (CAN) International. Historically, loss and damage has been treated as a form of adaptation, although the Paris Agreement flags it as a separate issue.
“Countries were so uncomfortable with [the idea of monetary compensation] that even just put [loss and damage] on the website was not acceptable to them and were using the excuse that the Paris Agreement was not yet operational to avoid conversation,” says Singh.
After last year, when a settlement was signed to guide implementation of the Paris Agreement, says Singh, the argument will no longer hold, and loss and damage financing should feature for the very first time in the final COP agenda. .
Although this is a historic step, “even the most optimistic person will not believe that we will get approval for a funding mechanism and all its procedures will be decided”, says Nisha Krishnan, expert in climate resilience within the non-profit organization World Resources Institute Africa.
If the financial facility is approved this year, “it will be up to the parties to negotiate its design, especially by developing countries,” she said.
“I think this inclusive process is important because otherwise this facility would have no legitimacy.”
At the earliest, this work would begin during the next round of climate talks, launching a years-long process before any funding reaches affected communities on the ground.
While climate diplomacy can only progress slowly to build consensus and build strong policy frameworks, the frequency and severity of climate-related disasters are only accelerating.
Necessary “in-depth discussions”
That’s why at COP27, negotiators and civil society groups will push not just to see more money on the table, but to open up new avenues for capital to flow faster and have impact.
The Working Group on Access to Climate Finance is one example, set up in March 2021 to help simplify and accelerate access to finance for developing countries.
Bangladesh, Fiji, Jamaica, Rwanda and Uganda have volunteered to take part in the pilot phase of the programme, the results of which should be evaluated this year. Krishnan also mentions the Santiago network for Loss and Damage, set up in 2019 to help countries access technical assistance to address climate devastation.
“[The Santiago Network] has yet to be operationalized, it still does not have a governance structure,” she explains.
With regard to formal negotiations, in addition to the main objective of setting up a loss and damage financing facility, says Krishnan, “there could be special windows opened within the framework of the existing funds, including a rationale for the Glasgow Dialoguea forum created last year to discuss irreparable environmental degradation, currently with a broad and detailed mandate.
“At the moment the concern is that the Glasgow Dialogue remains just that, a dialogue with no outcome in sight,” Krishnan said.
“Is there a result that can be mandated? Can there be more in-depth discussions instead of meeting once a year? These are some of the things we would like to see come out of COP27. »
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