Countries at the United Nations’ COP27 climate summit in Egypt have reached a final agreement establishing a fund to help poor countries cope with the extreme weather conditions caused by global warming.
After tense negotiations that lasted through the night, Egypt’s presidency of the summit released a draft text of the global agreement early Sunday and also convened a plenary meeting to push through the document as the final, overarching agreement for the UN summit.
The plenary approved the document’s provision to establish a “loss and damage fund” to help developing countries meet the immediate costs of climate-induced events such as storms and floods.
However, many of the more contentious issues related to the fund were pushed into talks to be held next year, when a “transitional committee” will make recommendations for countries to then adopt at the COP28 climate summit in November 2023.
The recommendations will focus on “identifying and expanding funding sources,” which refers to the thorny question of which countries should pay into the new “loss and damage” fund.
Still, the fund’s approval is a major win for poorer countries that have long been asking for financial compensation because they are often victims of climate change – such as worsening floods, droughts, heatwaves, famines and storms – despite having contributed little to climate change . the pollution that warms the planet.
“This loss and damage fund will be a lifeline for poor families whose homes have been destroyed, farmers whose fields have been destroyed and islanders who have been driven from their ancestral homes,” said Ani Dasgupta, president of the environmental think tank World Resources Institute, minutes later. the early morning approval was announced.
Calls from developing countries for such a fund have dominated the two-week summit, pushing talks past their scheduled end on Friday.
“This is how a 30-year journey of ours has finally, we hope, paid off today,” said Pakistan’s climate minister Sherry Rehman.
A third of her nation was engulfed in a devastating flood this summer, and she and other officials used the motto, “What happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan.”
Collins Nzovu, Zambia’s Green Economy and Environment Minister, said he was “enthusiastic, very excited”.
“Very exciting because for us success in Egypt would be based on what we get from loss and damage,” he said.
“This positive outcome of COP27 is an important step towards restoring trust with vulnerable countries.”
Under the agreement, the fund would initially draw on contributions from developed countries and other private and public sources such as international financial institutions.
While major emerging economies such as China would initially not be required to contribute, that option remains on the table and will be negotiated for years to come.
This is a key demand from the European Union and the United States, which claim that China and other major polluters currently classified as developing countries have the financial clout and responsibility to pay their fair share.
The fund would largely target the most vulnerable countries, although there would be room for middle-income countries hard hit by climate disasters to receive relief.
Experts said the fund’s approval reflected what can be done when the poorest countries remain united.
“I think this is huge that governments are coming together to at least work out the first step of … how to deal with the problem of loss and damage,” said Alex Scott, a climate diplomacy expert at the E3G think tank.
But, as with all climate finance, it’s one thing to create a fund and another to keep money flowing in and out, she said.
The developed world has still not lived up to its 2009 pledge to spend $100 billion a year on other climate aid – designed to help poor countries develop green energy and adapt to future warming.
“In many ways, we’re talking about reparations,” said Sacoby Wilson, a professor of environmental health and justice at the University of Maryland.
“It’s an appropriate term to use,” he said, because the wealthy northern countries had been enjoying the benefits of fossil fuels, while the poorer southern countries were experiencing the effects of climate change.
Some delegates, meanwhile, said the approved deal doesn’t do enough to step up efforts to tackle the emissions that cause global warming.
It did not include a reference to the phasing out of “all fossil fuels” requested by India and some other delegations.
Instead, it called on countries to take steps towards “the phase-out of unabated coal energy and the phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”, as agreed at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.
The design also included a reference to “low-emissions energy,” leading some to worry that it opened the door to the increasing use of natural gas — a fossil fuel that leads to both carbon dioxide and methane emissions.
Norwegian Climate Minister Espen Barth Eide told reporters his team had hoped for a stronger agreement. “It’s not a complete break with Glasgow, but it doesn’t inspire any ambition at all,” he said.
“I think they had a different focus. They were very focused on the fund,” he said.