Poor countries face a trillion-dollar “loss and damage” bill, but rich countries will not pay

The costs of climate-related disasters are increasing, with the poorest countries bearing the brunt of the impacts of unprecedented disasters. Pakistan floods to expand Famine in Somalia. Natural disasters in 2022 alone cost the global economy an estimate 227 billion US dollars.

Such disasters are prompting calls at this week’s COP27 climate summit for rich countries to pay for the “losses and damages” that poor countries have suffered (and still are) due to climate change.

Loss and damage financing would help developing countries recover from climate change-fueled disasters and economic losses, and could extend to non-economic losses such as cultural destruction, displacement and health impacts. But this type of financing has long been a sticking point in global climate change negotiations.

As Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, Prime Minister of flood-ravaged Pakistan, begged this week:

How on earth can one expect us to do this enormous task alone?

Few countries suffered losses and damages pledges So far at COP27, but the money currently in place is just a drop in the ocean compared to what is actually needed. By 2050, the economic cost of loss and damage in developing countries is estimated between 1-1.8 trillion US dollars.

So why is loss and damage such a hot issue? And why only now the developed countries started talking about it?

Money on the table

Loss and damage is a new aspect of “climate finance” – money from developed countries to help developing countries reduce their emissions and adapt to a changing climate. In 2009, developed countries promised to mobilize $100 billion annually in climate finance by 2020. This goal still not fulfilled.

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The report presented at COP27 challenges the adequacy of this amount, and shows that developing countries need an astonishing level $2 trillion each year as of 2030 Climate finance.

Denmark took the lead in financing losses and damages in September, when it pledged 100 million Danish kroner (US$13.5 million). few other countries It has since followed suit during the summit and on “money day” yesterday.

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Germany It has pledged €170 million (US$170.4 million) to the Global Shield project, which will provide climate risk insurance and prevention support to countries at risk. Ireland has announced that it will contribute 10 million euros ($10 million) for this project in 2023.

Other pledges include 20 million NZD (US$11.8 million) from New Zealand and up to €50 million (US$50.1 million) from Austria, and an additional €2.5 million (US$2.5 million) from Belgium is destined for Mozambique as part of a broader package.

Under intense pressure from Barbados, he The UK government announced A loan scheme with so-called “climate flexible debt terms”. This provides low-income countries and small island developing States with the ability to defer debt for two years in the event of a severe climate shock or natural disaster.

Even China, which maintains that it is not obligated to participate in contributing to the Loss and Damage Fund, has indicated that it will be Willing to support the mechanism of compensation for losses and damages For poor countries, although this will not include the cash contribution.

charged case

This year marks the first time losses and damages have been formally presented to the United Nations Climate Conference Negotiation schedule – Although it took long negotiations in the early hours of the first day of the conference to get there.

While this is an important victory for developing countries and small island states, only intense negotiations for the right to speak of loss and damage show just how serious this issue is.

Furthermore, agreeing to simply put losses and damages on the agenda comes with conditions. The first is to develop a plan by 2024, which is considered “Our minimumBy the Alliance for Small Island States. Activist Muhammad Adow From Power Shift Africa he was scathing, saying it would leave talks “like a car stopping on a starting grid” if no plan is agreed upon in Egypt.

Another condition is the exclusion of discussions about liability and compensation. This is a red-line issue for many rich countries like the United States, who fear that acknowledging responsibility for historical and ongoing climate disasters may open themselves up to compensation for open claims.

But for countries most vulnerable to climate change, critical issues of climate justice are at stake.

Climate justice means recognizing that those who have contributed the least to climate change bear its greatest costs in extreme weather, disasters and sea-level rise, and then taking measures to address that injustice.

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These countries include Pacific and Caribbean island nations, poor Central African nations, and poor poor nations like Bangladesh. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley described it as acidity Its title is COP27:

This world still looks a lot like when it was part of an imperial empire.

Motley also demanded that oil and gas companies be obligated to contribute to the loss and damage fund, asking:

How do companies generate $200 billion in profit in the past three months and not expect to contribute at least 10 cents of every dollar of profit to the loss and damage fund?

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley is calling on behalf of vulnerable nations for loss and damage funding.
AP Photo / Peter Dejong

What happens if funding fails?

Despite the strong rhetoric following the COP 27 financial day announcements, we are unlikely to see agreement on a loss and damage funding target at COP27. Developed countries’ pledges have been welcomed, but developing countries are pushing for a systemic, long-term global response.

Where there may be further progress in the mechanism for providing funding, clarification of where the funding might come from – whether from governments, multilateral funding agencies, private funding sources or big pollutants.

If developing countries do not see progress in financing losses and damages at COP27, they may explore other options to hold nations and major carbon companies accountable for the damage their emissions do, including through litigation in domestic and international courts.

Many countries already Explore such options. Antigua, Barbuda and Tuvalu are jointly planning to submit a request for an advisory opinion on climate damage to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Vanuatu is mobilizing support for a similar request to the International Court of Justice.

More broadly, failure to meet the developing world’s demands for justice through genuine negotiations over loss and damage may dash fragile hopes for Climate Solidarity that support international action.

quote again Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley:

If COP can’t keep its promise about losses and damages […] 40% of the world’s population and more will wonder what the point of it is.

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