IN A big positive on the opening day of the climate change conference here, negotiators agreed to discuss the creation of an international mechanism for compensating poor countries that suffer largescale damage due to climate disasters.
The issue of loss and damage, as it is referred to in the climate negotiations, was included in the formal main agenda of the climate conference for the first time ever, after being discussed in a separate track for years.
“It is an important movement in the right direction. Now, it must be ensured that it is taken forward with complete transparency, keeping in mind the needs of the poorer and most vulnerable countries,” said Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav. “India is in full support of the move,” he said.
The decision to include loss and damage in the main agenda comes in the wake of a series of unprecedented climate disasters this year — Europe’s worst drought in 500 years, Pakistan’s worst ever flooding, extensive heat waves in several parts of the world. There had been strident demands from a growing number of countries to discuss loss and damage more seriously and with greater urgency than earlier.
The demand for loss and damage finance is quite old, but it has faced strong resistance from the rich and developed countries. After much persuasion by the developing countries and NGOs, the climate conference had, in 2013, set up the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on Loss and Damages as a separate track to continue the discussions on this front. But the progress has been painfully slow.
Inclusion in the formal agenda is just the first step. The actual provision for compensation for climate disasters is a long way ahead. Getting the rich and developed world to make money available for climate response has been a difficult struggle. And quantifying loss due to climate impact is complicated. But this decision has set a positive tone for the two-week conference.
The discussions under WIM so far have focused mainly on enhancing knowledge and strengthening dialogue. No funding mechanism, or even a promise to provide funds, has come about. At last year’s climate conference in Glasgow, a three-year task force was set up to discuss a funding arrangement for loss and damage.
The inclusion in the main agenda will have the effect of mainstreaming the issue, and would force regular discussions and greater progress.
Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, who has been one of the most active campaigners on loss and damage finance, said the Sharm el-Shaikh meeting must deliver more on this issue.
“The inclusion of loss and damage finance in the agenda for COP27 has renewed the fight for justice for communities losing their homes, crops, and income. Rich countries, historically responsible for the climate crisis, have bullied poorer nations to protect polluters from paying up for climate damage, while disregarding the concerns of vulnerable people and countries. COP27 must agree to establish a Loss and Damage Finance Facility to help people recover from the impacts of climate crisis, such as intensifying floods, droughts and rising seas,” he said.
Amitabh Sinha is at Sharm El-sheikh reporting on COP27, his 10th consecutive year covering the event.