“The people and communities who have been hardest hit by the drought are the human face of the global climate crisis,” said Heli Uusikyla, Deputy Director for Operations and Advocacy at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. , during an event on the sidelines of the climate negotiations.
“They do not deserve our sympathy but our solidarity, because they are going through a crisis that is not their fault,” she added.
At COP27, the topic of ‘loss and damage’ fueled by global warming is high on the political agenda, as hard-hit countries demand new funding to help them recover from the worsening blows.
“Loss and damage” refers to the physical and mental harm that people and places experience when they are unprepared for climate shocks or unable to adapt their lifestyles to protect against longer-term changes.
Gernot Laganda, director of climate and disaster risk reduction for the UN World Food Programme, said the unfolding emergency in the Horn of Africa was a clear example of this, as communities were running out of time. and resources to bounce back before the next climate shock.
“Here there is no recovery after cycles – it’s impact after impact after impact,” he said, adding that aid agencies are struggling to respond to the relentless flow of shocks.
Samantha Power, director of the United States Agency for International Development, also said at COP27 that climate change is causing “more humanitarian disasters around the world every day, at a rate that governments and humanitarians cannot can’t follow”.
Climate-related disasters caused $30 billion in damage in developing countries last year, while global humanitarian aid amounts to just over $30 billion a year – and much of this sum is used to relieve people caught up in the conflicts, she added.
“Unless we help countries adapt to climate change, help their infrastructure withstand storms and heat waves, help their crops grow in the midst of droughts and floods, help their people survive climate disasters, there may be no more foreign aid – only climate aid,” the power warned.
At the COP27 climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, flood-ravaged Pakistan – chair of the G77 group of developing countries – was among the countries leading the charge to set up a new climate change facility. funding for loss and damage.
The purpose of such a fund would be to help nations and communities recover quickly from disasters, as well as deal with slower changes on a warming planet, such as loss of land. because of rising seas or advancing deserts that could force people to leave their homes.
“We have repeatedly made a moral case for compensation for loss and damage,” Pakistan’s Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said in an interview ahead of COP27, adding that her country would do the same during the talks in Egypt.
The thorny issue for wealthy governments – whose historically high emissions have largely fueled global warming – is that many refuse to be held accountable and have to pay huge sums for climate damage.
On Saturday, US climate envoy John Kerry said the US would not support the creation of a loss and damage fund, and instead believed that existing platforms should be used to help countries. vulnerable affected by the climate.
“It’s a well-known fact that the United States and many other countries will not establish… some kind of legal structure related to indemnification or liability. It just doesn’t happen,” he insisted.
But, he added, he was confident a way would be found to put in place “financial arrangements that reflect the reality of how we are all going to deal with the climate crisis”.
On Monday, for example, Germany and other G7 countries, alongside the V20 group of vulnerable countries, unveiled plans to launch a “global shield” against climate risks.
It brings together and expands initiatives – from subsidized insurance coverage to stronger social protection schemes and pre-approved disaster financing – aimed at ensuring that international aid arrives quickly to support the poorest countries affected by the disaster.
The starkly differing views on how to deal with mounting losses pose a major challenge for negotiators and their ministers arriving in Egypt this week, with heated debate expected over how such financial arrangements – if not a fund – will be put in place. in place.
An item on resolving the issue has been added to the COP27 agenda – something vulnerable nations had been pressing for – but with the caveat that the outcome of the process, which must conclude no later than late in 2024, “would not imply liability or compensation”.
Jennifer Morgan, secretary of state and special envoy for international climate action at the German Foreign Office, said in an interview that talks on financing loss and damage in Egypt had been constructive so far, but that there was still a lot to do.
“There has been a fundamental change in the seriousness and acceptance with which the matter is now discussed here by all parties. It’s a discussion about the how, not the if,” she said.
“It is absolutely clear that there has to be a very meaningful outcome here where the most vulnerable feel they are not alone with these (climate) impacts,” she said.
Over the weekend, as COP27 delegates took stock of the first week of talks, developing countries – from Asia to Africa and small island states – expressed frustration with the slow progress.
They insisted that they would not be satisfied with an outcome that simply offered even more discussion on the issue of loss and damage.
“We have heard endless rhetoric from developed countries saying they care, but all they want to do is kick the streets when it comes to establish a funding facility,” said Teresa Anderson, global head of climate justice at charity ActionAid International. .
“It’s frustrating because as rich countries continue to lag, millions of people are losing their lives and livelihoods to climate change,” she added.
A 2018 study estimated that losses from climate change in developing countries could reach $290-580 billion by 2030, without considering non-economic damages, such as psychological impacts and loss of culture and of biodiversity.
So far, a net loss and damage funding from a few governments – including Austria, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium and Germany – amounts to just over 265 million of dollars.
Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy for Climate Action Network International, raised concerns that developed countries are trying to disguise existing sources of funding to respond to climate disasters as loss and damage financing, without putting more emphasis on money on the table.
Even if a facility isn’t officially established at COP27, it’s crucial that all countries agree it will happen and show that “policy makers are listening to the voices of the people,” Singh said.
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