Supercharged extreme weather events are hitting every corner of the globe and every year seems scarier than the last. The climate is breaking down far faster than even the worst-case scenarios predicted – far too fast and erratically for even the wealthiest countries to adequately adapt and prepare.
It is a perverse reality that the countries and communities that have contributed the least to planet-heating greenhouse gases are suffering the most – and are the least equipped to deal with death and destruction. After a catastrophic year that left 37 million people facing hunger and starvation in the drought-stricken Greater Horn of Africa and a third of Pakistan under water due to unprecedented rainfall, expect to hear a lot about loss and damage to Cop27.
But what does it mean and why is it so controversial?
What is loss and damage?
Loss and damage refers to the irreversible economic and non-economic costs of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, heat waves, droughts and wildfires, and slow-onset climatic disasters such as sea level rise. sea and melting glaciers. It is about holding the biggest polluters of fossil fuels accountable for the pain and suffering already caused by the climate crisis, separately and in addition to securing climate finance for mitigation and adaptation to help countries developing to prepare for what’s to come.
Economic costs include irreversibly lost lives, livelihoods, homes, food systems and territory, while more difficult to quantify non-economic costs refer to loss of culture, identity, sovereignty, human dignity, biodiversity and psychological well-being. The greatest losses and damages are felt by the poorest countries – basically those that have contributed the least to global warming. As a result, the financing of loss and damage has become a central tenet of claims for climate justice or, in other words, climate action that tackles the inequalities behind the climate crisis.
Why are we talking about it now?
Island nations and other climate-vulnerable countries have begun to increase loss and damage by more than 30 years for a decade, but it has become an increasingly important and contentious issue at the UN climate talks over the past decade, as the speed, scale and cost of global warming have become apparent. At the peak of 2021, COP26 in Glasgowa coalition composed mainly of developing countries representing six out of seven people around the world has called on the countries most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions to commit to paying for loss and damage.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, given the UK’s role as COP26 president, their call for new financial support under Article 9 of the Paris Agreement (in addition to funds for the Adaptation and Mitigation) was defeated in the face of opposition from the US, EU, Australia and others. Almost all references were deleted in the final agreement, the Glasgow Climate Pactand instead the Glasgow Dialogue was established, ostensibly to agree on a clear path and process for loss and damage funding.
Who is for, who is against?
On the whole, developing countries, which often negotiate and vote in a bloc called the G77, are in favor because they are already suffering disproportionate irreversible damage. Wealthier nations, responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse gases since the industrial age – and therefore likely to spit – are against it.
Exceptions include Denmark, which has pledged 100m Danish kroner (£11.7m) to developing countries for climate losses, the first EU country to do so, as well as Scotland and Belgian region of Wallonia. At this year’s UN General Assembly, UN chief António Guterres described loss and damage as a “fundamental issue of climate justice, international solidarity and trust” – adding that “the polluters must pay” because “vulnerable countries need meaningful action”.
Will Cop27 be different?
Rights groups have criticized the decision to hold this year’s summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, because of the authoritarian regime’s dismal record on free speech, protest and freedom of expression. independent research. But it was Africa’s turn and Egypt was named by African nations, in part because of its tough stance on loss and damage, as well as its respected negotiators, who they hope will sail to through Western delaying tactics.
In a boost for developing countries, loss and damage were highlighted in this year’s IPCC report despite opposition from the United States, whose main objective is to provide climate finance in the form of loans and not grants. Yet Western economies are reeling from the pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine, and US climate envoy John Kerry made America’s position clear when he said that focus on loss and damage “could delay our ability to do the most important thing of all, which is [to] achieve sufficient mitigation to reduce the level of adaptation”.
Nevertheless, it is expected to be one of the dominant themes to Cop27 and is a red line in negotiations for many developing countries, including Pakistan, which holds the G77 and China presidency and has been devastated by floods and extreme heat this year. Pakistani Climate Minister Sherry Rehman told the Guardian: “We are on the frontline and intend to keep loss and damage and adaptation to climate disasters at the heart of our arguments and negotiations. There will be no getting away from this.”