- Move to formally discuss issue followed late-night talks
- No reference to richer nations’ liability
- Poorer countries “rightly expect” solidarity – German govt
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, Nov 6 (Reuters) – Delegates from nearly 200 countries kicked off the U.N. climate summit in Egypt on Sunday with an agreement to discuss compensating poor nations for mounting damage linked to global warming, placing the controversial topic on the agenda for the first time since climate talks began decades ago.
The agreement set a constructive tone for the COP27 summit in the seaside resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where governments hope to keep alive a goal to avert the worst impacts of planetary warming even as a slew of crises – from a land war in Europe to rampant inflation – distract the international focus.
But pressure to address the issue has been increasing as weather calamities mount, including this year’s floods in Pakistan that caused economic losses of more than $30 billion and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
“The inclusion of this agenda reflects a sense of solidarity for the victims of climate disasters,” COP27 President Sameh Shoukry told the opening plenary.
He added the decision created “an institutionally stable space” for discussion of funding for loss and damage, and that the talks are intended to lead to a conclusive decision “no later than 2024”.
The issue could ramp up diplomatic tensions already stretched by Russia’s war on Ukraine, a surge in energy prices and the risks of economic recession triggered by inflation.
Negotiations on Saturday night before the agenda’s adoption “were extremely challenging,” Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at the non-profit Climate Action Network International, said.
Bangladeshi-based environmental research body, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said it was “good news” loss and damage was officially on the agenda.
“Now the real work begins to make finance a reality,” said Saleemul Huq, director of the centre who serves as an adviser to the Climate Vulnerable Forum group of 58 countries.
Rich nations are also underperforming on a promise to provide $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries cut CO2 emissions and adapt to climate change, for example by building infrastructure to protect drinking water supplies from rising seas.
And many countries, including the United States and members of the European Union, are calling for increased supply of fossil fuels to help bring down consumer energy prices, a trend that risks delaying a global shift toward cleaner energy.
Despite increased momentum to address loss and damage due to a rise in climate change-fuelled disasters, COP27 faces headwinds to raising cash – with western governments’ budgets depleted from huge spending to shield their citizens from the economic fallout of the war in Ukraine.
So far, only two small countries have offered funding for loss and damage. Denmark committed 100 million Danish crowns, and Scotland pledged £2 million ($2.28 million).
By comparison, some research suggests climate-linked losses could reach $580 billion per year by 2030.