‘Keep one point five alive’ was the mantra leading in to this year’s COP27 summit in Sharm el- Sheikh, Egypt and many people hoped that delegates would come up with more radical propositions to reduce carbon emissions and thus keep global warming down to no more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Tragically, that did not happen. To quote Alok Sharma, Britain’s delegate and president of last year’s COP26 meeting in Glasgow:
“Many of us came here to safeguard the outcomes that we secured in Glasgow, and to go further still. We joined with many Parties to propose a number of measures that would have contributed to this:
- Emissions peaking before 2025, as the science tells us is necessary. Not in this text.
- Clear follow-through on the phase down of coal. Not in this text.
- A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels. Not in this text.
- And the energy text, weakened, in the final minutes.
Friends, I said in Glasgow that the pulse of 1.5 degrees was weak. Unfortunately, it remains on life support.”
Definitely bad COP, and very bad news for our planet.
However, one small chink of light has shone through from the Sharm el-Sheikh conference. For years, those developing countries who have had to pay in climate terms for the behaviour of the developed world have been lobbying for funds to compensate for the damage that they did not cause.
A major catalyst was the reaction to the recent devastating floods in Pakistan, which covered more than a tenth of the country with water and affected a third of the population, including over half its women and children. More than 20 million people needed humanitarian aid and millions were made homeless.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, commented: “We struggled on as raging torrents ripped out over 8,000km of metal roads, damaged more than 3,000km of railway track and washed away standing crops on 4m acres and ravaged all of the four corners of Pakistan. We became a victim of something with which we had nothing to do, and of course it was a manmade disaster.”
He was not alone. Time and time again during the two weeks of the conference, developing countries warned “This is our future” and as Shehbaz Sharif warned, “What happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan.”
And, after an extra day and two nights of painful negotiation, delegates finally agreed to establish a Loss and Damage Fund to help developing countries to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
While the details of the fund have yet to be decided, in outline:
- It will be a dedicated fund to compensate the most vulnerable developing countries that are already bearing the brunt of climate-change-linked natural disasters.
- It will provide support to developing countries in efforts to avert, minimise and address loss and damage associated with the effects of climate change in the light of continued global warming.
- The expected monetary compensation from the Loss and Damage Fund is estimated to be nearly $500 billion and rising by $200 billion annually.
- A transitional committee will be established to decide the modalities, sources etc which will be considered at COP28 in 2023.
- The committee will have 23 members, 10 from developed countries and 13 from developing countries.
- The committee will consider establishing institutional arrangements, modalities, structure, governance and terms of reference of the fund, definition of the elements of the new funding arrangement, identifying and expanding sources of funding to ensure coordination and complementarity with existing sources of funding arrangements.
- Finally, it will be responsible for setting up the Santiago Network, (a set of principles and practices endorsed by the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds), which will provide technical assistance in averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage caused by climate change.
Will the Loss and Damage Fund treat the symptoms and not the cause? Yes, of course it will! Clearly, much more remains to be done. But at the very least there is hope that the innocent will no longer suffer quite so much from the behaviour of the guilty. And it is a call to the developed world to seriously ramp up its efforts to curb carbon emissions and limit global warming.