For the first time in the UN’s climate talks history, delegates at COP27 in Egypt have agreed to discuss funding for climate reparations – known as loss and damage – as part of the conference’s official agenda.
Many viewed the ground-breaking deal to discuss how rich countries can help pay for climate damages as a victory for the developing world. The inclusion was not easily added to the agenda and came after two days of intense discussions, which ended with a compromise. Parties agreed to the loss and damage discussion, but would focus on “cooperation and facilitation” not “liability or compensation.”
Climate reparations, sometimes referred to as “loss and damage” payments, have been one of the thornier issues in the discussions on how to take collective action in the climate crisis. Loss and damage is expected to help vulnerable countries, like Africa, deal with the devastating consequences of climate change, by creating a fund that obliges rich countries – who bears the historic responsibility for the climate crisis – to pay damages.
After delaying the start of the conference countries agreed to discuss “matters relating to funding arrangements responding to loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including a focus on addressing loss and damage.”
Boon for developing world
The inclusion is a significant gain for developing countries going into COP27. Countries also agreed on a timeline for the process, with a final decision on funding arrangements to be taken no later than 2024.
More than 30,000 delegates – including representatives from the African Climate Foundation – from countries across the globe will convene in Egypt over the next two weeks, in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh for the annual climate talks.
The conference was delayed as delegates haggled about whether to include loss and damage on the official agenda behind the scenes. This was to avoid a public confrontation at the start of the conference when parties voted on the order of proceedings. The opening session on 6 November 2022 was delayed for more than an hour to finalise the wording of the agenda.
The Global South has lobbied for a discussion on climate reparations since the climate talks of the early 1990s. But the developed world has long blocked formal discussions around loss and damage and its funding, because they fear that accepting liability could trigger a wave of lawsuits by climate vulnerable countries.
During the agenda negotiations before the start, the United States – though not opposed to loss and damage funding – reiterated that it would not support any official discussion till it was agreed that there would be no claim of liability or compensation.
COP27 hinged on loss and damage inclusion
Before COP27 calls have been growing, with climate activists insisting that the success of this year’s climate talks hinged on the inclusion of loss and damage.
Saleemul Huq said before the start of the conference that “if we lose the agenda fight then we might as well come home and forget about the rest of COP because it will be useless in the face of what is happening in the world on climate change.”
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in taking over the reign as COP27 president at the start of proceedings said the sense and responsibility parties in the agenda discussions displayed, was a boon to the conference. Shoukry said parties showed a collective keenness on preserving the credibility and relevance of the climate change process.
He explained that the inclusion of loss and damage was reached after 48 hours of intense talks that included the compromise that shied away from liability.
“Inclusion of this agenda reflects a sense of solidarity and empathy with the suffering of the victims,” Shoukry said, adding that climate delegates intended to reach a conclusive decision on loss and damage “no later than 2024.”