By Busani Bafana
After much horse-trading, loss and damage is on the agenda at the COP27 raising expectations of an agreement for funding to promote resilience and address longer-term impacts of climate change.
For the first time since the adoption of the UN climate convention, the contentious issue of loss and damage made it onto the agenda after tumultuous 48 hours of informal consultations led by the Egyptian COP Presidency.
COP27 President and Egypt Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, has commended the sense of responsibility and commitment demonstrated by parties. He said parties showed collective keenness on preserving the credibility and relevance of the climate process by making the right decision that responds to the suffering of millions of climate calamities’ victims around the world.
Minister Shoukry said Egypt has ensured that COP27 will provide the optimum setting to align and converge multiple views, and facilitate transparent, inclusive, and fruitful discussions that will result in positive outcomes.
Despite the challenging economic and geopolitical factors, Shoukry said external circumstances should not be allowed to negatively affect the negotiating process. He added that as COP27 is hosted in Africa, it must consider the needs of the developing countries and ensure climate justice through availing the appropriate finance and other means of implementation, as countries that are the least responsible for emissions are the most affected by climate change.
The issue of loss and damage is about destructive impacts of climate change that cannot be avoided either by mitigation which is avoiding and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It can also be through adaptation which is adjusting to current and future climate change impacts. It means that climate change is already having negative effects on ecosystems, infrastructure and people’s health and livelihoods globally.
Loss And damage can be classified into economic and non-economic losses which can include the loss of biodiversity and cultural heritage through severe weather events such as droughts and floods which are due to climate change.
Commenting on inclusion of loss and damage on the COP27 agenda, Nisha Krishnan, Director for Climate, Africa at World Resources Institute, said this was only the first step in meeting vulnerable countries’ demands on loss and damage as much more needs to be done to understand arrangements of how resources will flow and when.
“I think a potential outcome from these two weeks of COP is a clear, accountable timeline for setting up what this financing arrangement will look like, and clear process for agreeing to this, Krishnan told IDN adding that, “This funding could be in multiple forms: whether through new or existing institutions or funds, potentially also outside the UNFCCC in addition to within the UNFCCC. This is what countries need to discuss: and wherever the funds flow, they need to be in addition to funding for adaptation, and they need to quickly match the urgency and scale of need.”
Welcoming that inclusion of loss and damage in the COP27 agenda civil society organizations warned that the world must act with haste to set up a loss and damage finance facility and not delay it to 2024 when communities on the frontline are witnessing increasing climate devastation with every passing month.
Mohamed Adow, Founder and Director of PowerShift Africa summed up COP27 in two words—poor start, saying that COP27 should learn from the mistakes that undermined COP26 in Glasgow and put the priorities of developing countries at centre stage.
“We cannot claim to be tackling the climate crisis if we kick the can down the road on issues like loss and damage,” Adow warned.
”We’re in the continent where loss and damage is a reality. It’s not too late for this COP to deliver for Africa and the developing world where other conferences have failed them. But we can no longer dodge this vital issue.”
Ahmed El Droubi, Campaigns Manager for Greenpeace MENA, commented that climate justice can be served at COP27 through the establishment of a Loss and Damage funding facility. He called for the doubling of adaptation finance in the form of grants rather than loans and strong commitments for a fossil fuel phase out in line with the 1.5 C scenario.
Tasneem Essop, Executive Director of CAN-International, noted that the context of COP27 showed a trust deficit with rich nations not following through with their commitments made on finance and civil society organizations being limited on their rights to raise their voices.
“The Global South must unite behind the decision to set up a loss and damage finance facility. We are not yet defeated, Essop said, highlighting that the human rights crisis prevailing in Egypt directly infringes on local civil society’s ability to hold the powerful accountable to deliver on climate justice.
From floods in Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa, cyclones in Southern Africa and a devastating drought in the Horn of Africa, climate change impacts are destroying lives and livelihoods, as well as culture that communities can never get back. A lingering question is who pays for the damage brought by climate change for which developing countries, especially in Africa, have contributed little to?
The United States, a major polluter, has for many years blocked efforts to establish a financing facility for loss and damage. At COP26, the US pushed for a dialogue on funding options rather than a direct mechanism for funding.
“In all honesty, the most important thing that we can do is stop, mitigate enough that we prevent loss and damage. And the next most important thing we can do is help people adapt to the damage that’s already there. And we have a limited, you know, we’re not—you tell me the government in the world that has trillions of dollars, cause that’s what it costs,” John Kerry, U.S. special presidential envoy for climate said at a meeting in New York last September after environmental lawyer and veteran climate negotiator Farhana Yamin, asked him if the US would put money toward “loss and damage”. Kerry was not done:
“There’s plenty of time to be arguing, pointing fingers, doing whatever. But the money we need right now needs to go to adaptation. It needs to go to building resilience. It needs to go to then technology that’s gonna save the planet.”
According to the Civil Society Equity Review, the need for loss and damage financing is projected to reach between $300 and $700 billion per year by 2030.
United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director Inger Andersen, speaking at the launch of the 2022 UNEP Adaptation Gap Report, noted that the drought in the Horn of Africa and floods in Pakistan and the severe summer heat across the northern hemisphere were inextricably linked to climate change, calling for a quick action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strive for net-zero.
Ms Andersen said efforts to adapt were not keeping pace with climate risks and impacts, making it urgent to turn existing adaptation plans into action and that funding is available.
“We are going to need from USD 160 to 340 billion per year for adaptation by 2030,“ said Andersen, adding that in 2020, international adaptation finance flows to developing countries hit USD 29 billion, leaving a yawning gap of up to 10 times the size of the adaptation finance available in 2020.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged COP27 to provide a clear and time-bound roadmap on closing the finance gap for addressing loss and damage.
“This will be a central litmus test for success at COP27.”
Meanwhile, the UN chief has warned that humanity has a choice to cooperate in cutting down emissions or perish. He urged rich and poor countries to work together in accelerating transition from fossil fuels and called for an agreement on phasing out coal by 2040.
“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator,” Guterres told global leaders at the opening of COP27summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. “Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish.”