Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

As world leaders gather at Sharm-el-Sheikh for COP27, poor nations seek compensation

November 7, 2022
Opening plenary at #COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh | Photo: UNFCC | Kiara Worth

As world leaders started gathering at the Egyptian holiday resort destination Sharm-el-Sheikh, there was a big positive for the poor nations on the opening day of the climate change conference COP27 yesterday as negotiators agreed to discuss the creation of an international mechanism for compensating poor countries that suffer large scale damage due to climate disasters.

For the next two weeks, ministers, negotiators from countries large and small will be in this Red Sea resort to discuss the impact of climate change, especially being faced by the poor and the developing nations.

Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav is leading the Indian delegation at the summit.

The issue of loss and damage, as it is referred to in the climate negotiations, was included in the formal main agenda of the climate conference for the first time ever, which reflects a major gain for the poor and developing nations facing the brunt of climate change. For the past years this issue has been discussed in a separate track. This decision has set a positive tone for the two-week conference.

The decision to include loss and damage in the main agenda came in the wake of a series of unprecedented climate disasters this year — Europe’s worst drought in 500 years, Pakistan’s worst ever flooding and extensive heat waves in several parts of the world. There had been strong demand from a growing number of countries to discuss loss and damage more seriously and with greater urgency than earlier.

Although the demand for loss and damage finance has been quite old, but it has faced strong resistance from the rich and developed countries. They resisted it being brought onto the main agenda. After much persuasion by the developing countries and NGOs, the climate conference had, in 2013, set up the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on Loss and Damages as a separate track to continue the discussions on this front. But the progress has been painfully slow.

According to experts, inclusion of this issue in the formal agenda is just the first step. The actual provision for compensation for climate disasters is a long way ahead. Getting the rich and developed world to make money available for climate response has been a difficult struggle. And quantifying loss due to climate impact is complicated.

The discussions under WIM so far have focused mainly on enhancing knowledge and strengthening dialogue. No funding mechanism, or even a promise to provide funds, has come about. At last year’s climate conference in Glasgow, a three-year task force was set up to discuss a funding arrangement for loss and damage.

At the Cop27, in his opening remarks, Cop26 President Alok Sharma warned of “climate catastrophe” if sufficient action to limit global temperatures is not taken, as world leaders started to gather for international climate change talks. Sharma on Sunday handed over the presidency of the UN’s COP26 climate summit programme to his counterpart at the start of the COP27 meeting at Sharm-el-Sheikh.

It came as the UN’s weather and climate body released its annual state of the global climate report with yet another warning that the target to limit temperature rises to 1.5OC was “barely within reach”. Countries agreed under the Paris climate treaty in 2015 to try and limit it to 1.5OC above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, but there has not been enough action to meet this target.

“Friends, we are not currently on a pathway that keeps 1.5 in reach,” Sharma told the delegates. “And whilst I do understand that leaders around the world have faced competing priorities this year, we must be clear, as challenging as our current moment is, inaction is myopic, and can only defer climate catastrophe. We must find the ability to focus on more than one thing at once.”

“How many more wake-up calls do world leaders actually need?” he added, before listing a series of extreme weather events linked to climate change this year, including the Pakistan floods which submerged a third of the country underwater. Sharma said COP27 – which will see around 120 world leaders and 30,000 people attend the two-week summit – has to be about “concrete action” if climate crisis is to be avoided.

“The cascading risks are also clear,” he said, while adding “Entire economic sectors becoming unsustainable and uninsurable, entire regions becoming unliveable, and the strain on the global movement of goods, and the pressure on people to relocate because of the climate crisis, becoming almost unimaginable. “So, this conference must be about concrete action.”

Incidentally, a new report, by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization has pointed out that the past eight years were the eight hottest ever recorded.

Girja Shankar Kaura

The writer is a Delhi-based freelance journalist, who has reported and written on a wide range of subjects in an extensive career.