COP27: What is “Loss and Damage”, a Key Issue of the Climate Summit?


Aftab Khan felt helpless when heavy rains submerged a third of his native Pakistan.

Khan’s hometown was completely submerged. A friend of his rescued a woman who was walking barefoot with a sick child through a stagnant floodwater, where she was 15 miles away. And Khan’s own mother, who now lives with him in Islamabad, was unable to return home through the swept road to see if her daughter was safe.

Khan, an international climate change consultant, told CNN, “These are heartbreaking stories and true stories. ‘I’m heartbroken.'”

Pakistan this year has become the clearest example of why some countries are fighting for so-called “loss and damage” funds. The concept is that the countries that contributed the most to climate change with their global warming emissions should pay the poorer countries to recover from the resulting disasters.

Earlier this year, Pakistan cooked under a deadly heatwave that made climate change 30 times more likely, according to the World Meteorological Organization. I am now reeling from the worst flood aftermath in my living memory.

South Asian countries are responsible for less than 1% of global warming emissions, but at a heavy price. And there are many other such countries in the world.

This year’s COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt will be centered around loss and damage. Because the low-emission countries that are flooding and watching their islands sink into the sea are demanding that the developed countries, the high-emission countries, pay compensation for this damage. .

But it has been a controversial point for years because wealthy nations like the United States fear that agreeing to a damages fund could lead to legal liability and potential future litigation. It has become.

A climate activist in the developing world and a former US climate change official told CNN that time is running out, saying Pakistan’s spate of disasters is the clearest evidence of why a dedicated loss and damage fund is needed. pointed out that

Developing countries are “unprepared to protect themselves, adapt and recover” from climate disasters, former White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy told CNN. It is the responsibility of the developed countries to do so.We have made promises, but they have not materialized.”

As a concept, loss and damage is the idea that rich countries that emit the most greenhouse gases should now pay poor countries that are suffering from climate disasters not caused by them.

Loss and damage is not a new problem. Developing countries and small island nations have been embracing this type of investment since 1991, when the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu first proposed a plan for high-emitting nations to invest in countries affected by rising sea levels. I have asked for funds.

It took more than a decade for the proposal to gather momentum, even as Vanuatu and many other Pacific island nations were slowly disappearing.

In Fiji, home to climate activist Ravetanaragi Sel, it cost an average of $1 million to relocate communities because of rising sea levels. Sel, regional policy coordinator for the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, said leaving his ancestral land is no easy decision, but climate change is having irreversible impacts on the islands.

“Climate change is threatening the very fabric of our Pacific communities,” Sel said. “This is why we need these funds.

The main reason these types of funds are controversial is that wealthy countries fear that payments to such funds could be seen as an admission of liability and lead to legal battles. is to be Developed countries like the United States have opposed it in the past and still avoid this issue.

Mr Khan said he understood why wealthy developed countries were “limping”. But he added, “It’s very important that they empathize and take responsibility.”

There was also some confusion about its definition. That is, whether the losses and damages are in the form of liability, compensation, or indemnification.

“‘Compensation’ is not the word or term being used in this context,” US Special Envoy for Climate Affairs John Kerry said during a recent conference call with reporters. He added:

A hut made of sticks and cloth provides shelter to Somalis displaced by drought in the suburb of Dorow, Somalia, in September.

Kelly pledged to discuss the fund later this year, ahead of a 2024 deadline, to determine what the fund will look like. And US officials still have questions – will it come from existing sources like the Green Climate Fund, or from entirely new sources?

Kelly also sparked some controversy on the topic at a recent New York Times event. In response to his question about his losses and damages, Kelly appeared to suggest that no country has enough money to help places like Pakistan recover from devastating climate disasters. .

“The governments of the world are said to have trillions of dollars, and that’s the cost,” Kelly said at the event.

But some say the money is there. It’s more of a matter of priorities.

“Look at the annual defense budgets of developed countries. We can mobilize funds,” E3G senior associate Alden Meyer told CNN. “It’s not a question of whether the money is there. It’s a question of political will.”

At COP27, the biggest debate will be whether to create a dedicated loss and damage financing mechanism, in addition to existing climate finance to help countries adapt to climate change and transition to clean energy.

It is likely to be on the official agenda of this year’s COP27 after climate-stricken countries called for new loss and damage financing facilities at COP26 in Glasgow last year. Even if wealthy countries promise to discuss it, there is not much hope that a country will come out of Sharm that agrees on the fund.

“Do you expect to have the funds raised by the end of the two weeks? I hope so, but we will see how the parties make that happen.

However, Nasr also tempered expectations, saying that if countries are still debating whether to put loss and damage on the agenda, they are unlikely to make a breakthrough in funding mechanisms.

He said the loss and damage debate would likely continue over Sharm’s two weeks, possibly ending the established framework for funding mechanisms.

Some officials in climate-vulnerable countries have warned that if countries fail to reach a deal now, the problem will get worse later.

Avinash Persaud, a special envoy to Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley, told CNN, “I think it’s kind of a distraction for countries that aren’t on the front line and people should focus on mitigation.” “If we had mitigated early, we wouldn’t have had to adapt, and if we had adapted early, we wouldn’t have lost the damage. But we’re not doing those things.” ”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated how much money was spent to relocate Fijian communities due to rising sea levels. $1 million on average.

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