historically the largest springs greenhouse gas emissions – to pay for the evil.
A striking example is Pakistan, where extreme precipitation on the heels of glacier melt heat wave flooded almost a third of the country in the summer of 2022.
The floods have turned Pakistan’s agricultural fields into mile-wide lakes that have stranded communities for weeks. More than 1,700 people have died, millions of people lost their homes and livelihoods, and more than 4 million acres of crops and orchards, as well as livestock, drowned or were damaged. This was followed by a resurgence of malaria cases while mosquitoes were breeding in standing water.
Pakistan contributes only about 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. But greenhouse gases don’t stay within national borders – emissions from anywhere affect the global climate. A warming climate is intensifying rainfall and studies suggest that climate change could have increased rainfall intensity in Pakistan by up to 50%.
The issue of payments for loss and damage has been a long standing bargaining point at the United Nations climate conferences, which are held almost every year since 1995but there has been little progress towards including a financial mechanism for such payments in international climate agreements.
Many Developing countries view this year’s conference, COP27, as a critical moment to make progress on establishment of this formal mechanism.
African Climate Conference
As Egypt hosts the UN climate conference this year, it’s no surprise that loss and damage take center stage.
African countries have some of the lowest national greenhouse gas emissionsand yet the continent is home to many of the most climate-vulnerable countries.
To deal with climate change, these countries – many of them among the poorest in the world – will need to invest in adaptation measures, such as dykes, climate-smart agriculture and infrastructure more resilient to high heat and extreme storms. The United Nations Environment Program’s Adaptation Gap Report, released on November 3, 2022, found that developing countries need five to 10 times more international adaptation finance that wealthier countries do not provide.
When climate disasters strike, countries also need increased financial assistance to cover relief efforts, infrastructure repair and recovery. It is loss and damage.
Egypt insists on the need for rich countries to make further progress in providing financial support to both adaptation and loss and damage.
Climate injustice and loss and damage
The conversation about loss and damage is inherently about fairness. He raises the question: why should countries that have contributed little to global warming be responsible for the damage resulting from the emissions of rich countries?
This also makes it controversial. Negotiators know that the idea of payments for loss and damage has the potential to lead to new discussions about financial compensation for historical injustices, such as slavery in the United States or colonial exploitation by European powers.
At COP26, held in 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, negotiators made progress on some key issues, such as tougher emissions targets and pledges to double adaptation funding for developing countries. But COP26 was seen as a disappointment by proponents trying to establish a financial mechanism for wealthier countries to finance loss and damage in developing countries.
What Loss and Damage Payments Could Look Like
The lack of a resolution at COP26, combined with Egypt’s commitment to focus on financing adaptation and loss and damage, means the issue will be on the table this year.
The association Climate and Energy Solutions Center expects discussions to focus on institutional arrangements for Santiago Network for Loss and Damage, which focuses on providing technical assistance to help developing countries minimize loss and damage; and on the fine adjustment of the Glasgow Dialoguea formal process developed in 2021 to bring countries together to discuss loss and damage financing.
The Group V20 finance ministers, representing 58 countries highly vulnerable to climate change, and the G-7 group of rich nations too reached an agreement in October 2022 on a financial mechanism called the Global Climate Risk Shield. The Global Shield focuses on providing risk insurance and rapid financial assistance to countries after disasters, but it is unclear how it will fit into international discussions. Some groups have raised concerns that relying on insurance systems can overlook the poorest people and divert attention from the wider discussion on the creation of a dedicated fund for loss and damage.
Two elements of the reluctance of developed countries to formalize a loss and damage mechanism relate to how to determine which countries or communities are eligible for compensation and what limits of such a mechanism would be.
What would a loss and damage eligibility threshold look like? Preventing countries or communities from receiving compensation for loss and damage based on their current emissions or gross domestic product could become a problematic and complicated process. Most experts recommend determine eligibility based on climate vulnerabilitybut it can also be difficult.
How will world leaders react?
More than ten years ago, developed countries pledged to provide 0 billion US dollars per year to finance adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. But they were slow to meet this commitment, and it does not cover the damage caused by climate impacts that the world is already experiencing today.
Establishing a loss and damage mechanism is seen as a way to provide remedies in the event of global climate injustice. All eyes will be on Egypt from November 6-18, 2022 to see how world leaders react.
This article was updated on November 3, 2022 with the findings of UNEP’s Adaptation Gap Report.
This article is republished from The conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. Like this article ? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
It was written by: Bethany Tietjen, Tufts University.
Bethany Tietjen does not work for, consult, own stock, or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond her academic appointment.