After decades of resistance, rich countries are offering direct climate aid

After decades of resistance, rich countries are offering direct climate aid

SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt. For 30 years, developing countries have called on industrialized nations to compensate them for the costs of devastating storms and droughts caused by climate change. For just as long, rich countries that have produced pollution that is dangerously warming the planet have resisted those calls.

At last year’s UN climate summit, Scotland alone, the host country, allocated $2.2 million to so-called “loss and damage”. But this week, the dam could have broken.

On Sunday, negotiators from developing countries managed to raise the issue on the official agenda of this year’s climate summit, known as COP27, or the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties.

“Increasing loss and damage on the agenda is a significant achievement and one that we have been fighting against for many years,” Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said on Tuesday. “We have a moral and just reason.”

By the end of the conference’s third day, several European countries had pledged cash for a new loss and damage fund.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appeared at a New York Times event on the sidelines of COP27, pledging an extra $5.7 million.

“The global south still feels they have to come and beg the rich countries to recognize, not talk, for example, to address loss and damage,” Ms Sturgeon said. “There is a real need for tangible progress.”

The direct funding commitment for losses and damages is a major breakthrough. For decades, rich nations have emitted half Since 1850, all gases have been heated, have shied away from calling on poor countries to recover from climate disasters, fearing it could expose them to unlimited liability. And, as a legal and practical matter, it has been extremely difficult to define “loss and damage” and determine what it costs and who should pay how much.

However, in the wake of increasingly devastating fires, floods and droughts that have hit every corner of the globe but disproportionately affected the developing world, Western leaders have changed their thinking.

On Tuesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen endorsed the idea of ​​new funds for poor countries affected by climate change.

“The COP must make progress on minimizing and preventing loss and damage from climate change,” he said, addressing other world leaders. “It’s time to put this on the agenda.”

Shortly after Ms von der Leyen’s remarks, Irish Prime Minister Michelle Martin said her country was pledging $10 million for new efforts to “protect the most vulnerable from climate loss and damage”.

“The burden of climate change is falling globally on those least responsible for our predicament,” he said. “We won’t see the change we need without climate justice.”

Austria’s climate minister said the country would pay 50 million euros, or about $50 million, to developing countries struggling with climate impacts. Belgium joined in, pledging $2.5 billion in damage and loss funding to Mozambique. And Demark said in September it would spend at least $13 million to pay for losses and damages in developing countries.

Germany followed suit on Monday, when Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged $170 million for a new program that would offer vulnerable countries a form of insurance against climate emergencies.

Other leaders said it was time to fund the real losses and damages.

“I support governments paying for loss, damage and adaptation, but let’s be very clear, it’s a matter of billions or tens of billions,” Al Gore, the former vice president of the United States, said Monday.

Shortly after Mr Gore’s speech, French President Emmanuel Macron said Europe was already helping poorer countries and that other Western countries should do more. “The Europeans are paying,” he said. “Only we pay.”

“You have to put pressure on rich non-European countries, telling them, ‘You have to pay your fair share,'” Mr. Macron said, in a not-so-veiled allusion to the Americans.

But the United States, the world’s richest country and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, was conspicuously absent from the discussion of loss and damage.

President Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry has agreed to discuss the idea of ​​loss and damage financing at the climate conference, but the US has not agreed to the new fund.

“We want to see the issue of loss and damage addressed at the COP up front and in a real way,” Mr Kerry’s spokesman said at the start of the conference. “We expect that to be an agenda item, and we’re great at helping make that happen, which means at some point you have to have a result.”

However, no strategy was offered by the United States delegation on Tuesday. Instead, Mr. Kerry plans to unveil a new plan on Wednesday designed to buy carbon offsets for big corporations. The money will be used to reduce emissions in developing countries by phasing out fossil fuel plants, building renewable energy and building climate resilience.

The initiative was met with skepticism by some European countries, as well as members of the UN secretary-general’s staff, who believed the plan lacked detail and was rushed, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

The most influential U.S. environmental groups that the State Department has briefed on the strategy, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute, also do not support the plan because they fear it could actually undermine management efforts. brought global emissions to zero, activists say.

The mixed efforts by Western countries came as leaders of developing countries continued to call for financial compensation.

“We have to raise the loss and damage fund we’ve been talking about for years,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said in a fiery speech. He condemned capitalism and the extraction of natural resources as the cause of climate change, but did not mention his country’s history as an oil producer.

Tuvalu’s prime minister, Kausea Natano, said his nation was the “loss and damage champion of the Pacific region” and called for a “secure, assured loss and damage facility”.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif detailed the ongoing recovery after this summer’s extraordinary floods that killed nearly 1,700 people and left a third of his country under water. “All this happened despite our very low carbon footprint,” he said. “Loss and damage should be part of the main agenda at COP27.”

And Cleopas Dlamini, the prime minister of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, said countries like his are having such a hard time recovering from one climate disaster that they struggle to prepare for the next.

“We have reached a point where the urgency of mitigation and adaptation is being overshadowed by the need to deal with the loss and damage we are already facing and experiencing,” said Mr Dlamini, – hence the need for loss and damage financing. institution”.

Other African leaders have made similar statements, stressing that their countries cannot afford it the costs of adapting to climate change or mitigate extreme weather disasters.

Asked on Tuesday whether delegates from nearly 200 countries would end the two-week conference with an agreement on a loss and damage fund, Scotland’s Ms Sturgeon was skeptical, despite her country’s pledge.

“I’d like to say yes,” he said. “I think realistically, probably not. I hope I’m wrong about that. But I really think it’s really important that we come out of these two weeks with something tangible and concrete that people can see the final point of agreement.”

Refusing to help the most vulnerable countries, he said, would be a moral failure on the part of the West.

“This is a really fundamental issue of climate justice,” he said. “The rich world has a responsibility here.”

Lisa Friedman and: Somini Sengupta embedded report.

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