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EXPLAINER: How will UN climate action on loss and damage work?


SHARM el-SHEIKH, Egypt – The decision by nations around the world on Sunday to set up a fund to help poor countries hit hard by global warming was one of the most significant since the start of climate talks of the United Nations 30 years ago.

It was unequivocal confirmation that poor countries with limited resources are the most affected by extreme weather events such as floods, heat waves and storms and, at least to some degree, industrialized countries which have contributed the most to climate change have a responsibility to help.

While government leaders, environmentalists and campaigners have celebrated plans for such a fund, many questions remain unanswered, ranging from how it will work to long-term implications. Here’s a look at the development of the idea of ​​”loss and damage”, the term given to it in the climate negotiations, and what we know about the fund.

In the early 1990s, the Alliance of Small Island States, a group of coastal and low-lying small island states, began calling for the establishment of a loss and damage fund as the United Nations established a framework for dealing with climate change on an international level basis.

Since then, the idea has always been part of the annual UN climate summits. However, it was often talked about on the sidelines of the negotiations, which developing countries and activists would push as many wealthy countries used their clout to crush the idea. For the first time, at this year’s COP27, it was put on the agenda and became the centerpiece of discussions.

The fund will initially rely on contributions from developed countries and other private and public sources, such as international financial institutions, with an option for other major economies to join the line.

The final text says “identifying and expanding funding sources”, which the EU, US and others had called for during the negotiations, suggesting that countries that are both highly polluting and considered to be developing according to the criteria, should also contribute to the fund. .

During the talks, China said the money for the new fund should come from developed countries, not them. But there is precedent for China to voluntarily contribute to climate funds, if the United States does too.

When the Obama administration pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund in 2014, China also contributed $3.1 billion to the fund.

More details on who pays will be decided by a committee that plans to launch the fund within a year.

The agreement says the fund will help “developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”, although there is room for middle-income countries that are severely affected by climate-related disasters to be also paid.

Pakistan, which was devastated by floods that plunged a third of the country under water, or Cuba, recently hit by Hurricane Ian, could be eligible.

It will be necessary to determine how the fund for loss and damage will integrate with “other institutions, agencies that do humanitarian work, help people to rebuild, deal with migration and refugee crises, deal with food security , water security”. David Waskow, international climate director of the World Resources Institute.

These details will also be worked out by the committee over the coming year.

Beyond mere financial assistance, the creation of the fund is seen as a huge step forward, but how it will ultimately be perceived will partly depend on how quickly it can be set up.

In the closing session on Sunday, Lia Nicholson of Antigua said the transition committee should be set up immediately and given clear terms of reference.

“This loss and damage fund must become the lifeboat we need,” she said.

There is a lack of credibility because of past broken promises.

In 2009, rich countries agreed to provide $100 billion a year to help developing countries transition to green energy systems and adapt to climate change. However, to date, this initiative has never been fully funded.

One of the main reasons why rich countries have long opposed such a fund for loss and damage was the fear that it would then open up to long-term liability. Despite the passage, this concern is still relevant, as evidenced by the way negotiators ensured that the language of the fund did not say “liability” and that contributions were voluntary.

Despite these caveats, the creation of such a fund could have repercussions, both legal and symbolic, in climate circles and beyond. For example, several Pacific island nations have pushed for the International Court of Justice to look into climate change. They argue that international laws must be strengthened to protect their rights should their lands be swallowed up by rising seas. The creation of a fund for loss and damage could strengthen these arguments.

Associated Press writers Frank Jordans and Seth Borenstein contributed to this report.

The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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