Who will bear the losses linked to climate change, the damage caused to the planet?

Who will bear the losses linked to climate change, the damage caused to the planet?


By Louise Osborne

Eric Njuguna is angry. The 20-year-old environmental activist is witnessing the devastating changes that global warming is bringing to Kenya. People are losing their livelihoods, their homes and many, even lives, due to the worst drought the region has seen in the last 40 years.

“Impact makes us thirsty. It makes us hungry for food. I feel like the anger doesn’t come from his knowledge, but from his impact. And knowing that we have done the least to cause this, but our countries bear the brunt,” Njuguna said. DW of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

Kenya is among the southern countries hardest hit by extreme weather conditions linked to global warming. But it is by no means the only one. Drought brings millions of people in the Horn of Africa to the brink of starvation, while increasingly destructive storms hit the Philippines.

(And this summer, some 1,500 people lost their lives when extreme monsoons flooded large swathes of Pakistan.

“There is what we can adapt to, but with the increasing severity of the climate crisis, there is what we cannot adapt to and for which we have to be paid,” he said.


Global North versus Global South

Calls are growing for wealthier countries to provide compensation in the form of a dedicated fund to cover the costs of severe damage and loss.

The contentious issue is expected to play a major role in discussions over the next two weeks at the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh. On Sunday, delegates agreed to address funding losses and damages by adding it to the summit agenda for the first time.

The concept of loss and damage was first introduced by the Alliance of Small Island States during the international climate negotiations in Geneva in 1991 with the proposal of an insurance scheme against the rise in the level of the sea, the costs of which would be covered by the industrialized countries.

But it was not seriously considered again until 2013 at the COP19 climate conference in Warsaw, Poland.

Endless delays

The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage was created with the aim of improving knowledge of the issue and finding ways to address it.

There has been little movement since then.

At last year’s UN climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, negotiators rejected a proposal made by members of the G77 group of more than 100 developing countries and China for a formal financial facility for loss and damage.

Instead, the Glasgow Dialogue was established to allow for a more in-depth discussion on financing in an “open, inclusive and non-prescriptive way”.

“Excuse for delaying further actions”

But Zoha Shawoo, a scientist who studies loss and damage at the Stockholm Environment Institute, says some countries have criticized the dialogue as “an excuse to delay further action”.

While historically developed countries are the main contributors to emissions driving global temperature rise – between 1751 and 2017 the US, EU and UK were responsible for 47% of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions of carbon, compared to only 6% in France. across the continents of Africa and South America – they have been slow to make financial contributions to mitigate the impact on the most affected countries.

In 2010, countries in the North agreed to commit $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, for example by providing farmers with resilient crops drought or paying for better flood defenses.

But according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which tracks funding, in 2020 rich countries have pledged just over $83 billion. This is a 4% increase over the previous year, but still below the agreed amount.

Building Resilience

Marlene Achoki, co-head of global policy on climate justice at Care International, says the wealthy countries that created the problem should “provide the necessary funding” because insufficient funding has a destabilizing effect on countries that are already in trouble.

“Instead of addressing poverty and education issues, they need to take action to address climate change issues,” Achoki said. “They have to look for resources, finances to try to build community resilience.”

According to a report by the Loss and Damage Collaboration, a global group of researchers, activists, advocates and policymakers.

Non-economic losses

But there have also been non-economic losses, including the disappearance of areas of cultural and traditional significance.

“If you have an area where you perform religious or cultural rituals on a beach or something that gets flooded and washed away, that results in a loss,” Shawoo said.

“Many of the communities most vulnerable to climate change are also indigenous and face the majority of the losses.”

Although developed countries widely recognize the need to address loss and damage, some are advocating for funding through existing climate funds, insurance schemes and humanitarian assistance.

The EU, for example, said in a briefing that it was “open to discussing L&D (loss and damage) as a topic, but was hesitant to create a dedicated L&D fund.”

Divided house

“I think there’s a fear that if they open up this space for recognizing the need for additional funding, for loss and damage, it will open them up to liability and compensation claims, which would be a huge cost. that would be associated with them,” Shawoo said. .

If a bridge collapsed due to flooding, or houses were destroyed by a typhoon in a developing country, for example, developed countries fear that they “would then have to pay for this,” she added. .

Some countries have decided to go their own way.

Earlier this year, Denmark pledged more than $13 million in loss and damage compensation to developing countries, including the Sahel region, and at the COP 26 climate conference last year, l Scotland has also committed at least $1 million.

Action by individual nations is a good way to respond to the urgency of losses facing developing nations, Shawoo said. “It’s an easy way for countries to show they’re doing something without committing to something that would hold them to account, like a finance facility.”

But with rising temperatures and the inability of rich countries to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the impacts of climate change will continue to affect poorer communities.

“The action window is closing. The impacts we face with a 1.2 degree warming are quite severe and no serious action is yet in sight,” Njuguna said.

Countries agreed to deliver on stronger commitments this year, including updated national plans with more ambitious targets. However, only 24 out of 193 countries have submitted their plans to the UN so far.

Glasgow has also seen many promises made inside and outside the negotiating rooms regarding net zero commitments, forest protection and climate finance, among many other issues.

According to the Presidential Vision Statement, COP27 will be about getting out of the negotiations and “planning for the implementation” of all those pledges and promises made.

Egypt called for comprehensive, timely, inclusive and large-scale action on the ground.

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