Who is responsible when climate change hurts the world’s poorest countries?

Οι ακραίες πλημμύρες στο Πακιστάν το 2022 επηρέασαν 33 εκατομμύρια ανθρώπους.  <a href= Akram Shahid/AFP via Getty Images” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/dnsjDJo4HS0vgj.HEcp.Ag–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ2OQ–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/3276f7ce723d3f54869341c16b5e4518″ data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/dnsjDJo4HS0vgj.HEcp.Ag–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ2OQ–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/3276f7ce723d3f54869341c16b5e4518 “/>

You may hear the phrase “loss and damage” in the coming weeks as government leaders meet in Egypt for the 2022 UN Climate Change Conference.

It refers to the costs, both economic and physical, that developing countries face from the effects of climate change. Many of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries have done little to cause climate change, yet face extreme heat waves, floods and other climate-related disasters. They want the richest nations – historically the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases – to pay for the damage.

A powerful example is Pakistan, where extreme rainfall following a glacier-melting heat wave flooded nearly a third of the country in the summer of 2022.

The floods turned Pakistan’s farms into kilometer-wide lakes that stranded communities for weeks. More than 1,700 people lost their lives, millions lost their homes and livelihoods, and more than 4 million acres of crops and orchards, as well as livestock, were drowned or damaged. An increase in malaria cases followed as mosquitoes bred in the stagnant water.

Pakistan contributes only about 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. But greenhouse gases don’t stay within national borders – emissions anywhere affect the global climate. A warming climate is intensifying rainfall and studies show that climate change may have increased rainfall intensity in Pakistan by up to 50%.

Πολλά από τα εκατομμύρια των ανθρώπων που επλήγησαν από τις πλημμύρες του 2022 στο Πακιστάν ζούσαν ήδη στη φτώχεια.  <a href=Gideon Mendel For Action Aid/ In Pictures/Corbis via Getty Images” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/ecZRr9vYX5LUyKTzhoEMYw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ3MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/1c74d9aacab58323b4e9374dc4e1d059″/>

The issue of payments for loss and damage has been a long-standing point of negotiation at UN climate conferences, held almost every year since 1995, but little progress has been made towards including a financial mechanism for loss and damage in international agreements for the climate.

Many developing countries look to this year’s conference, COP27, as a critical moment to make progress in establishing this formal mechanism.

Africa Climate Conference

With Egypt hosting this year’s UN climate conference, it’s no surprise that loss and damage will take center stage.

African countries have some of the lowest national greenhouse gas emissions, and yet the continent is home to many of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries.

To deal with climate change, these countries – many of them among the world’s poorest – will need to invest in adaptation measures such as sea walls, climate-smart agriculture and infrastructure that is more resilient to high heat and extreme storms. The UN Environment Programme’s Adaptation Gap Report, released on 3 November 2022, found that developing countries need five to ten times more international adaptation finance than richer countries provide.

When climate disasters strike, countries also need more financial aid to cover relief efforts, infrastructure repairs and recovery. This is loss and damage.

Egypt stresses the need for rich countries to make more progress in providing financial support for both adaptation and loss and damage.

Climate injustice and loss and damage

The discussion of loss and damage is inherently about equity. It begs the question: Why should countries that have done little to cause global warming be responsible for the damages resulting from rich countries’ emissions?

This also makes it controversial. Negotiators are aware that the idea of ​​payments for loss and damage has the potential to lead to further discussions about financial compensation for historical injustices such as slavery in the United States or colonial exploitation by European powers.

At COP26, held in 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, negotiators made progress on a number of key issues, including stronger emissions targets and commitments to double adaptation finance for developing countries. However, COP26 was seen as a disappointment by advocates trying to create a financial mechanism for richer nations to provide financing for losses and damages in developing countries.

What a formal mechanism might look like

The lack of a resolution at COP26, combined with Egypt’s commitment to focus on funding for adaptation and loss and damage, means the issue will be on the table this year.

The nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions expects discussions to focus on institutional arrangements for the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage, which focuses on providing technical assistance to help developing countries minimize loss and damage. and on refining the Glasgow Dialogue, a formal process developed in 2021 to bring countries together to discuss funding for loss and damage.

The V20 group of finance ministers, representing 58 countries particularly vulnerable to climate change, and the G-7 group of rich nations also reached an agreement in October 2022 on a financial mechanism called the Global Climate Shield. Global Shield is focused on providing risk insurance and rapid financial assistance to countries after disasters, but it is unclear how it will fit into international discussions. Some groups have raised concerns that relying on insurance systems could overlook the poorest people and distract from the larger debate on creating a special fund for damages and losses.

Two elements of developed countries’ reluctance to formalize a loss and damage mechanism include how to determine which countries or communities are eligible for compensation and what the limitations of such a mechanism would be.

What would an eligibility limit look like for loss and damage? Limiting countries or communities from receiving compensation for loss and damage based on their current emissions or gross domestic product could become a problematic and complex process. Most experts recommend determining eligibility based on climate vulnerability, but this can also prove difficult.

How will world leaders react?

A decade ago, developed countries pledged to provide US$0 billion annually to finance adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. But they have been slow to live up to that commitment, and it doesn’t cover the damage from climate impacts that the world is already seeing today.

The creation of a loss and damage mechanism is seen as an avenue to provide recourse to global climate injustice. All eyes will be on Egypt, November 6-18, 2022, to see how world leaders react.

This article was updated on 3 November 2022, with the findings of the UNEP Adaptation Report.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a non-profit news website dedicated to the exchange of ideas by academic experts. Do you like this article; subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

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Bethany Tietjen does not work for, consult with, own stock in, or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article and has disclosed no relevant relationships beyond her academic appointment.

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