A deepening climate divide
Push back from richer nations underlined a rift in the recently concluded COP27 that is hampering climate action
This year’s annual United Nations Climate Conference (COP27) ended in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh late on Saturday, taking, in partic-ular, a significant step by setting up a Loss and Damage (L&D) fund. Simply put, this is a pool to which countries will contribute, and from which aid will be paid out to poor countries if they are struck by natural disasters linked to the climate crisis. Creating this fund was a clear acknowledgement that the vulnerable were paying for the carbon sins of the rich, who over decades have caused the bulk of emissions that have already pushed average global temperatures to 1.1°C more than the pre-industrial levels. Once the warming surpasses 1.5°C, flash floods and ice melts will accelerate further, drown-ing millions and leaving hundreds of millions more without homes or affordable food.
The acknowledgment was, in fact, a reiteration of an international environment law paradigm: Common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). Formalised in 1992, CBDR means all countries are responsible for tackling the climate crisis, but not equally — poorer nations have a legitimate interest in first bringing populations up to acceptable standards of living. The L&D fund underscored this principle, but only after days of drama that served as a reminder of the reluctance of developed countries to step up. Some pushed for widening the L&D fund to include contributions from India and China, home to hundreds of millions still in poverty. The premise of this demand was that these two regions lead to a large amount of emissions. Indeed, the climate crisis has reached proportions that all countries, no matter how rich or poor, must do what they can to adapt to the devastation of today and mitigate the threats in the future. But for this insistence to come from developed countries that have still not mobilised the $100 billion in annual aid that they committed in the Paris Agreement to start doing from 2020 is duplici-tous. Their conduct during negotiations is a worry-ing sign, and one that harks back to what happened during first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic — those with the means focus on guarding resources (vaccines, therapeutics, and test kits), instead of working together for a more equitable response.
Going forward, it will be important to call out such behaviour, and for individual countries to rise above parochialism. COP27 once again exposed the rich versus poor fault lines — one that is hampering climate action even as the planet and its inhabitants continue to pay a heavy price.
the Loss and Damage fund pool to include contributions from India and China, home to hundreds of millions still in poverty. The premise of this demand was that these two regions lead to large amount of emissions.