Historic deal struck at COP27 to create loss and damage fund for poor nations

(SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt) — Negotiators early Sunday approved a historic deal that would create a fund to compensate poor nations that fall victim to climate extremes exacerbated by rich countries’ carbon pollution, but an overall bigger deal is still up in the air because of the fight over emissions reduction efforts.

After that vote, talks on other aspects of the negotiations were postponed while delegates were given 30 minutes to read the texts of other measures they had to vote on.

The decision creates a fund for what negotiators are calling for loss and damage. It’s a big win for poorer nations that have long wanted the cash – sometimes seen as reparations – because they are often the victims of climate worsened floods, droughts, heat waves, famines and storms, even though they contributed little to the pollution that heats the globe

“This is how a 30-year journey of ours has finally, hopefully, come to fruition today,” said Pakistan’s climate minister Sherry Rehman, who has often taken the initiative for the world’s poorest nations. A third of her nation was submerged this summer by a devastating flood, and she and other officials used the motto: “What happens in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan.”

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Maldives Environment Minister Aminat Shauna told the AP on Saturday that “this means that for countries like ours, we will have the mosaic of solutions that we are advocating for.”

It’s a reflection of what can be done when the poorest nations stick together, said Alex Scott, a climate diplomacy expert at the E3G think tank.

“I think it’s huge for governments to come together to work out at least the first step of … how to deal with the problem of loss and damage,” Scott said. But like all climate finance, it’s one thing to set up a fund, another to get the money coming in and out, she said. The developed world has yet to keep its 2009 pledge to spend $100 billion a year on other climate aid — designed to help poor nations develop green energy and adapt to future warming.

The agreement “offers hope to vulnerable people that they will get help to recover from climate disasters and rebuild their lives,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy at Climate Action Network International.

Egypt’s presidency, which has come under fire from all sides, proposed a new loss and damage deal on Saturday afternoon and within hours a deal was reached, but the Norwegian negotiator said it was not so much the Egyptians as the countries working together.

German climate envoy Jennifer Morgan and Chilean Environment Minister Maisa Rojas, who got the deal to the agenda and to the finish line, embraced after crossing, posed for a photo and said “yes, we did it!”

Under the agreement, the fund will initially draw on contributions from developed countries and other private and public sources such as international financial institutions. Although major emerging economies such as China will not initially be required to contribute, this option remains on the table and will be negotiated in the coming years. This is a key demand of the European Union and the United States, which argue that China and other major polluters currently classified as developing countries have the financial clout and responsibility to pay their way.

The fund will largely target the most vulnerable nations, although there will be room for middle-income countries that are severely affected by climate disasters to receive aid.

Crushed, bleary-eyed delegations began filling the plenary hall at 4 a.m. local time on Sunday without seeing the comprehensive cover-up solution.

Going into the final session, battle lines were drawn over India’s demand to change last year’s agreement, which called for a phase-out of “raw coal” to include a phase-out of oil and natural gas, two other fossil fuels that produce capture heat gases. While European nations and others continue to push for the language, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Nigeria are pushing to ban it.

“We are extremely overtime. He was in a good mood earlier today. I think more people are more frustrated with the lack of progress,” Norway’s climate change minister Espen Bart Eide told The Associated Press. He said it all came down to tougher fossil fuel emissions and keeping the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial times, as agreed at last year’s summit on the climate of Glasgow.

“Some of us are trying to say that we actually have to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees and that requires some action. We need to reduce the use of fossil fuels, for example,” Eide said. “But there is a very strong fossil fuel lobby … trying to block every language we produce. So that’s quite clear.”

There has been strong concern among developed and developing countries about proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, known as mitigation. Officials said the wording proposed by Egypt contradicted some of the commitments made at last year’s United Nations climate conference in Glasgow aimed at maintaining the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2, 7 Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. The world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the mid-19th century.

Some of the Egyptian language about mitigation appears to have gone back to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which was before scientists realized how important the 1.5 degree threshold was and strongly mentioned a weaker target of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which is why scientists and Europeans fear a reversal, said climatologist Maarten van Aalst of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre.

Ireland’s Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said: “We need to get a deal on 1.5 degrees. We need strong language on mitigation and that is what we will be pushing for.”

However, attention focused on the compensation fund, which was also called a justice issue.

It’s a reflection of what can be done when the poorest nations stick together, said Alex Scott, a climate diplomacy expert at the E3G think tank.

“I think it’s huge for governments to come together to work out at least the first step of … how to deal with the problem of loss and damage,” Scott said. But like all climate finance, it’s one thing to set up a fund, another to get the money coming in and out, she said. The developed world has yet to keep its 2009 pledge to spend $100 billion a year on other climate aid — designed to help poor nations develop green energy and adapt to future warming.

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Wanjohi Kabukuru, David Keyton, Theodora Tongas and Kelvin Chan contributed to this report.

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