Climate and Us | COP27: A win for Loss and Damage, but fight for equity remains

Published on Nov 07, 2022 05:38 PM IST

While Loss and Damage funding being added to the official agenda is historic, financing mechanisms to ensure powerful outcomes remain elusive.

Loss and Damage will be discussed and negotiated over the next two weeks to arrive at a landing zone on how such funding can be materialised. (AFP) PREMIUM
Loss and Damage will be discussed and negotiated over the next two weeks to arrive at a landing zone on how such funding can be materialised. (AFP)
ByJayashree Nandi

The United Nations (UN) climate conference (COP27) has begun in Sharm-el Sheikh, Egypt on a significant note. It has put “Loss and Damage” funding on its official agenda for the first time in UN climate negotiations, which means that the issue will be discussed and negotiated over the next two weeks to arrive at a landing zone on how such funding can be materialised.

Why is that significant?

Simply because “Loss and Damage” is a contentious issue. It involves holding polluters to account and ensuring that they compensate climate-vulnerable nations for losses and damages to life, infrastructure, biodiversity, culture, and so on. Being an issue involving liability and accountability for historical emissions that have largely contributed to global warming of 1.15 degrees Celsius today over pre-industrial levels, there was considerable pushback from the rich or Annex 1 countries.

Egypt, the host of COP27 along with G77 and China, which had proposed the agenda item and the rest of the developing world, however, managed to seal it in following what COP27 President Sameh Shoukry described to be over 40 hours of “herculean informal negotiations.”

What is this agenda item?

“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.” The agenda item has two footnotes: 1) Neither the inclusion of this item in the agenda nor the annotations to it prejudge outcomes on matters related to the governance of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage. 2) This sub-item and the outcomes thereof are without prejudice to the consideration of similar issues in the future.

Further, Shoukry clarified during agenda adoption on Sunday that the issue will be discussed based on cooperation and facilitation, and does not involve liability and compensation. The discussion agenda on Loss and Damage will launch a process to take a conclusive decision no later than 2024. It is indeed noteworthy that such a contentious issue has found space in the formal agenda. And unless negotiations lead to something more concrete, this will be a lost opportunity.

"The inclusion of the loss and damage issue in the COP as an item on the agenda is welcome but this is linked to the outcomes in CMA, Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement which is different from COP. In CMA, the discussion will only focus on the Warsaw mechanism, not the financing facility or the window. So, one has to keep one's fingers crossed on whether this will result in an ambitious outcome,” said R R Rashmi, Distinguished Fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute. The implies that the funding mechanism for loss and damage may not be discussed by all official country bodies that meet at COP27.

Jen Allen, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University who is a lecturer in international relations tweeted:

The semantics may take some time to understand, as is the case with jargon and phrases used in negotiations of this kind.

L&DC Master document, a briefing note prepared by researchers on Loss and Damage on Sunday evening said the agenda language “means there is space to discuss finance for Loss and Damage here at COP27. The agenda item will be negotiated under the subsidiary bodies. It will provide space for negotiating some of the issues that arise from the Glasgow Dialogue which began in 2022 and will end in 2024... We expect that the outcome of negotiations under this agenda item will be an agreement to establish a Loss and Damage finance facility and the process for setting it up.”

The fight for an L&D facility has only begun. The other critical issues on the formal COP27 agenda include matters related to adaptation, including adaptation fund, long-term climate finance — including the new collective quantified goal on climate finance (post-2025); matters related to capacity building and development, and transfer of technology.

What is not on the agenda?

The big one is fossil fuels.

Though during the Glasgow COP26, fossil fuels — coal, in particular — were discussed, this time, the subject is not on the agenda. This is concerning. “There is a massive greenwashing exercise at play at COP27,” said Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network International on Monday during the briefing. She said that there are even more fossil fuel representatives at COP27 than there were at COP26, where they outnumbered any single country's delegation. Fossil fuels and just transitions will be discussed — but outside of the formal agenda parallel to the negotiations.

Moreover, there is no agenda item on keeping the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal in reach. According to observers at COP26 and COP27, Bolivia last year had proposed the agenda of keeping the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal alive, but it was scuttled by rich nations by pushing for the agenda without “equity” and the “common but differentiated responsibilities” approach — cornerstones of the Paris Agreement.

Another worrying development is a recommendation that was adopted last night by a technical body (the Supervisory Body on Article 6.4) that would promote geo-engineering of the oceans and other technofixes under the Paris Agreement. Some experts believe this might weaken existing references to human rights, especially the rights of indigenous people.

As COP27 progresses, the traditional positions of country groups, especially the broad groups of the global South and North will gain strength. And yet, this COP brings a lot of hope for the developing world simply because it is being held in Africa with attendance from African countries. Africa and most of Asia’s position on equity are likely to be in focus.

“The context of this COP27 shows a trust deficit with rich nations not following through with their commitments made, and CSOs [civil society organisations] being limited on their rights to raise their voices,” said Essop on Monday. "We're in the continent where ‘Loss And Damage’ is a reality. It's not too late for COP27 to deliver for Africa and the developing world where other conferences have failed them. But we can no longer dodge this vital issue." Said Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa during the press briefing.

Over the next two weeks, I will attempt to write about how critical agenda items including Loss and Damage, Adaptation funding and climate finance are shaping up. From next Monday, I will write from the ground at Sharm El Sheikh during the last leg of the negotiations which hopefully will lead to a powerful outcome for the developing world.

From the climate crisis to air pollution, from questions of the development-environment tradeoffs to India’s voice in international negotiations on the environment, HT’s Jayashree Nandi brings her deep domain knowledge in a weekly column

The views expressed are personal

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