Faced with increasing pressure to compensate low-income countries for the damage they suffer from climate change, rich countries could try to shift the money they have already pledged to other global warming goals rather than find new funding, say experts and participants at the UN climate conference in Egypt.
A draft document released this week at the talks says money for loss and damage – a key issue in the negotiations – should be added to climate finance that already goes to low-income countries to help them limit and s adapt to global warming. The current funding agreement, which was created more than a decade ago, reflects the fact that industrialized nations such as the United States emitted most of the pollution that warms the Earth, while poorer bear the brunt of the damage caused by rising temperatures.
But industrialized countries failed to fully fund these pledges for years. That makes the odds slim for another big cash injection for loss and damage, especially as countries face the threat of recession and war in Ukraine. And it increases the possibility that developed countries will now seek to shift money from old funding commitments to potential new loss and damage obligations, without actually increasing the overall funds that low-income countries need to cope with climate change.
“We need to see money, more money, flowing into” loss and damage, says Michai Robertson, an adviser to the Alliance of Small Island States, which represents communities particularly vulnerable to climate change. However, he says a shake-up of the climate funds is likely to be “a reality that we will have to deal with a lot in the future”.
Failure to provide new funds for loss and damage would mean that wealthier countries would continue their chronic underfunding of developing countries. This heightens fears that this year’s climate conference will not galvanize a strong global response to climate change despite the urgency signaled by deadly events around the world.
Without more money, loss and damage could hamper adaptation efforts
One of the challenges of tackling climate change is that countries need to do several things at once to protect their people, experts say. Countries must limit or mitigate further warming. They have to adapt to the risks people face. And they must compensate poorer nations for the damage already done and for impacts that cannot be avoided, such as communities displaced by rising seas. All of this requires funding which, given the scale of the problem, should increase over time.
So far, several countries have pledged money for loss and damage. But the amounts are relatively small and the money isn’t new, says Taylor Dimsdale, director of E3G, a climate change think tank. Instead, countries “just split the same climate finance pie in different ways.”
If money is taken away from mitigation and adaptation efforts, it could mean that more places and people will suffer irrevocable loss and damage.
Over time, the amount of money available to low-income countries will likely increase, so that loss and damage claims don’t eat away at extreme weather adaptation funding, says Gaia Larsen, director of the accessing and deploying climate finance at the World Resources Institute’s Sustainable Finance Center. But right now, “developed countries are stepping back, mainly because they don’t want to provide a lot more money,” she says.
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for John Kerry, the U.S. presidential special envoy for climate change, pointed to recent comments in which Kerry said the country “has been very clear about its support for dealing with the issue of loss and damage”.
The debate concerns the creation of a new fund for losses and damages
However, it remains unclear what sort of action world leaders would be willing to engage in in Egypt.
Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president of the European Commission, suggested on Wednesday that a decision on whether to create a new fund or financial mechanism to deal with loss and damage should be delayed while details are worked out, including whether certain developing countries like China should contribute and how the money would be distributed. China is the world’s largest emitter of heat-trapping pollution and the second-largest economy.
“Now we believe that a process should be started where the [financial] could be one of the results,” Timmermans said in Egypt. “But we also believe that the existing instruments we have could be mobilized immediately to support the most vulnerable.
The European Union and several member states said on Wednesday they were allocating more than one billion euros ($1.04 billion) in new and existing funds for adaptation programs in Africa. An EU spokesman said the bloc was providing €220 million in new funding, including €60 million for loss and damage.
“So you see we have the tools, the funds, the mechanisms to deliver financial relief now and to move it quickly,” Timmermans said.
Kaveh Guilanpour, vice president of international strategies at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said there may be “good reasons” to delay the creation of a new loss and damage fund at the climate change conference. climate this year.
It’s uncertain whether such a fund would “quickly lead to a flow of new funding,” says Guilanpour. And world leaders are looking for ways to use limited public money to attract other forms of funding, he says, including from the private sector.
Guilanpour says climate litigation along with better attribution science linking extreme weather events to climate change could expose fossil fuel companies to greater liability for the impacts of rising temperatures. This could provide a valuable source of funding for loss and damage claims.
“There is a will and there is a recognition [among industrialized countries] that more funding is needed for loss and damage,” says Guilanpour. “But I think there is also a question of where and how the money is going to come from.
Developing countries are also looking for guarantees to ensure that they get what they have been promised.
Even if world leaders decide this week to create a new fund for loss and damage, “we’ll still have the blurring of lines and the rebranding that you see a lot of developed countries doing right now,” Robertson said. ‘Alliance of Small Island States.
“We will have to make sure that we have clear rules about this and what can be considered funding for this cause,” Robertson said, “especially to hold them accountable.”