Sharm Alsheikh, Egypt
Delegates from nearly 200 countries at the COP27 climate summit agreed to create a Loss and Damage Fund aimed at helping vulnerable countries cope with climate disasters, in a landmark deal early Sunday morning in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
But while the deal represents a breakthrough in a contentious negotiating process, delegates were still working to hammer out other contentious parts of the agreement, including a proposal to include a call to phase out all fossil fuels, rather than just coal.
The agreement marks the first time that countries and groups, including long-time holdouts like the United States and the European Union, have agreed to create a “loss and damage” fund for countries vulnerable to climate disasters exacerbated by pollution from rich and industrialized nations. .
Negotiators and NGOs monitoring the talks said the fund was a significant achievement, after developing nations and small island states banded together to ramp up the pressure.
A senior Biden administration official told CNN that the fund will focus on what can be done to support losses and damages to resources, but does not include provisions for liability or compensation.
The United States and other developed countries have long sought to avoid such provisions that could expose them to legal liability and lawsuits from other countries. And in previous public remarks, US climate envoy John Kerry has said that losses and damages are not the same as climate compensation.
“‘Reparations’ is not a word or term that has been used in this context,” Kerry said on a final call with reporters earlier this month. He added, “We have always said that it is necessary for the developed world to help the developing world to deal with the effects of climate.”
Details about how the fund will operate remain murky. The script leaves a lot of questions about when it will be finished and running, and exactly how it will be funded. The text also mentions a transition committee that will help clarify those details, but it doesn’t set specific future deadlines.
And while climate experts celebrated the win, they also noted the uncertainty ahead.
“This loss and damage fund will be a lifeline for poor families whose homes have been destroyed, farmers whose fields have been destroyed, and islanders forced from their ancestral homes,” said Annie Dasgupta, CEO of the World Resources Institute. “At the same time, developing countries are leaving Egypt without clear assurances about how the Loss and Damage Fund will be supervised.”
Climate experts said the outcome on one of the funds this year came in large part because the bloc of the Group of 77 developing nations remained unified, putting more pressure on losses and damages than in years past.
“They needed to be together to force the conversation we’re having right now,” Nisha Krishnan, director of resilience at the World Resources Institute Africa, told reporters. “The coalition has endured because of this conviction that we need to stick together to make this happen — and advance the conversation.”
For many, the Fund represents a years-long victory, propelled over the finish line by the global attention given to climate disasters such as the devastating floods in Pakistan this summer.
“It’s been a huge buildup,” former US climate envoy Todd Stern told CNN. “This has been around for a long time and it gets worse in vulnerable countries because there is still not a lot of money being invested in it. We can also see the actual disaster impacts of climate change getting more and more severe.”
The conference went into overtime on Saturday before continuing into the wee hours of Sunday morning, negotiators still working out the details while workers dismantled the venue around them. At times, there was a real sense of exhaustion and frustration. Complicating matters is the fact that Kerry – the top US climate official – is now self-isolating Recently tested positive for Covidand working on phones rather than having face-to-face meetings.
Earlier on Saturday, EU officials threatened to walk out of the meeting if the final agreement failed to ratify a target of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
World scientists have warned for decades that warming should be limited to 1.5 degrees – a threshold that is fast approaching as the planet’s average temperature has already risen to about 1.1 degrees. Beyond 1.5 degreesScientists in India say the risks of severe drought, forest fires, floods and food shortages will increase dramatically The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
At a carefully choreographed press conference on Saturday morning, the EU’s green deal czar Frans Timmermann, flanked by a full lineup of ministers and other senior officials from EU member states, said that “there is no better deal than a bad deal”.
“We don’t want 1.5C to die here and today. This is totally unacceptable for us.
The EU has made it clear that it is willing to agree to the Loss and Damage Fund – a significant shift in its stance from last week – but only in exchange for a strong commitment to the 1.5 degree target.
As the sun set in Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday evening, the mood turned to guarded jubilation, as groups of negotiators began to hint that a deal was imminent.
But, as is always the case with high-level diplomacy, officials were quick to stress that nothing was really agreed upon until the final gavel fell.
“Lifelong food lover. Avid beeraholic. Zombie fanatic. Passionate travel practitioner.”