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Cop27: Rich countries have long resisted a compensation fund. That could be changing.

For 30 years, developing nations have been calling for compensation from industrialized countries for the costs of devastating storms and droughts caused by climate change. For just as long, rich nations, including the United States and those in the European Union, have resisted those calls.

Just one country, Scotland, committed $2.2 million for “loss and damage” when it hosted last year’s U.N. climate summit. But this week, the dam may have begun to break. On Sunday, negotiators from developing countries succeeded in placing the issue of loss and damage on the formal agenda of the United Nations climate change conference for the first time.

Rich nations, which have emitted half of all heat-trapping gases since 1850, have worried that compensating poorer countries for climate disasters already underway could open them to unlimited liability. But on Monday, President Emmanuel Macron of France said Europe was already helping poorer countries, and that other Western nations needed to do more. “Europeans are paying,” he said. “We are the only ones paying.”

“Pressure must be put on rich non-European countries, telling them, ‘You have to pay your fair share,’” he said, in a not-too-veiled reference to the Americans. John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, has agreed to discuss the idea of financing for loss and damage at the climate conference, but the United States has not agreed to a new fund.

The new pledges come as African leaders on Tuesday emphasized that their countries could not afford the cost of adapting to climate change or mitigating the disasters that it fuels.

On Tuesday, the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, appeared at a New York Times event on the sidelines of COP27 after pledging an additional $5.7 million.

“The Global South still feel that they’re having to come and plead with the rich countries to acknowledge, let alone address the issue of loss and damage for example,” Ms. Sturgeon said. “There is a real need to make tangible progress.”

At about the same time, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, endorsed the idea of new funds for poor nations being impacted by climate change.

“The COP must make progress on minimizing and averting loss and damage from climate change,” she said while addressing other world leaders. “It is high time put this on the agenda.”

Shortly after Ms. von der Leyen’s remarks, Micheal Martin, prime minister of Ireland, said his country was pledging $10 million to a new effort “to protect the most vulnerable from climate loss and damage.”

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

Austria joined in, with the country’s climate minister saying it would pay 50 million euros, or around $50 million, to developing countries struggling with climate impacts.

Year after year, calls have steadily grown louder for industrialized nations responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions already heating up the planet to own up to the problem — and pay for the damage.

Known by the term “loss and damage” — sterile code words crafted to avoid blame — such funding would be separate from money to help poor countries adapt to a changing climate, its proponents have argued. Loss and damage, they insist, is not charity — it’s what’s due. (The New York Times’s Climate Forward newsletter explores the issue further.)

At this year’s COP27 summit, for the first time, “funding arrangements” for loss and damage are included on the formal agenda, overcoming longstanding objections from the United States and the European Union.

“We are pleased that the parties were able to agree on an agenda item related to loss and damage,” a U.S. State Department press officer said Sunday evening.

“Damage,” which refers to the destruction of physical things like roads, homes and bridges, is relatively easy to quantify. “Loss” refers to economic impacts: lost work hours because of extreme heat, for instance, or lost agricultural revenues because rising sea levels flood paddy fields with saltwater, or lost tourism revenues because of a hurricane. That is harder to quantify.

Estimates of the amount of money required vary widely, from $290 billion to $580 billion a year by 2030, rising to $1.7 trillion by 2050, according to one study.

Loss and damage was first championed by countries in the Pacific Ocean, and then embraced by a widening group of developing world countries. All the while, the real losses and damages kept piling up. Storms washed away crops. Droughts turned farmland to desert. Scientists got better at pinpointing the role of the warming planet in extreme weather.

As negotiators met at the climate summit in 2013 in Warsaw, Super Typhoon Haiyan wiped away homes and farms and killed more than 6,000 people in Southeast Asia.

In 2015, loss and damage was acknowledged in the Paris accord, the agreement among nations to jointly work to limit global warming, but not before the United States — historically the largest emitter of greenhouse gases — included specific language ruling out the prospect of liability and compensation.

A breakthrough came at the Madrid climate summit in 2019: an agreement to set up a technical assistance program. So far that consists of a website but no staff or funding.

At last year’s summit in Scotland, the United States signed a statement agreeing to “increase resources” for loss and damage, without committing to specifics. Then came record flooding in Pakistan last month, leaving what the World Bank estimated to be $30 billion in economic losses.

The issue represents the biggest fight at this year’s gathering, and even though it is finally on the formal agenda, the issue is far from settled: There’s no agreement on whether to set up a pot of money — and certainly no money yet.

While Boris Johnson, the former British prime minister, recognized his country’s role in polluting, he said it did not have the finances “to make up for that with some kind of reparations.”

On Monday, António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, issued an impassioned plea at the climate talks to help Pakistan and other vulnerable countries.

Standing in front of a sign that read “What goes on in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan” at the country’s pavilion there, he said the recent deadly floods were a harbinger of disasters to come. “The international community has a duty to massively support Pakistan in this moment,” he said to applause.

“If there is any doubt about loss and damage, go to Pakistan,” Mr. Guterres said. He called on nations to create “a road map to deal with it.”

Original source: NY Times


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