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Climate crisis: 2022 compensation pushes for ‘heartbreaking’ losses

Climate crisis: 2022 compensation pushes for ‘heartbreaking’ losses

Through 2021, a series of hurricanes and floods as well as forest fires highlighted one fact: The climate crisis doesn’t pose a problem in the future. It is a problem now.

Many people in the US and Europe are only now coming to terms with this reality. However, countries in the developing world, often called the Global South, have felt the effects of global warming for decades or even decades. 

Ineza Grace is a 25-year old activist and environmental engineer from Rwanda. The climate crisis that she experienced growing up has shaped her entire professional career. She recalled, “I can still remember waking up in the middle night to save my family’s house ceiling from intense rainfall and wind when I was a child.” 

Grace was a teenager who watched the news to see that she wasn’t the only one. Flooding and erosion are two of the main causes of displacement in Rwanda for children and women. Grace had to learn how she could protect her community. Grace decided to change her focus from being a pilot or a mechanical engineer to become an environmental engineer.

Grace’s experience when her ceiling collapsed, and other people who lose their homes to human-induced disasters. Climate ChangeThis is also known as “loss or damage.” It refers to the immediate damage caused by global warming that cannot be stopped or prevented. Prior to 2021, loss or damage was a niche concern that was often ignored and pushed aside by wealthy countries like the US and Europe in climate talks. These countries, which have historically emitted the most, are being asked for compensation by small islands states and other countries of the Global South. They don’t want it.

Saleemul Huq, director at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, stated that “Bad things already happen.” “And in our lifetimes, yours and mine, we’re not going stop them. It’s going to get worse.” Even with mitigation and adaptation, some damage is inevitable. Huq added that we shouldn’t try to stop it but should at least try and understand it.

Tension is building and 2022 could prove to be the year when real progress is made on damage and loss. The Glasgow Climate Pact, the global agreement reached in November at the COP26 Climate Summit, was notable in that it included a “loss-and-damage dialogue”, a two year process in which funding will also be discussed.

This isn’t a sudden change. It’s been a slow and difficult process to get wealthy nations to acknowledge their complicity. Next is to make this “dialogue” funding.

The stakes are high. The climate crisis is causing millions to be displaced. If they don’t receive funding for rebuilding, a climate-fueled refugee problem will occur as people flee weather-related disasters.

Many of the damages caused by climate change-induced human activity can be reversed with the right funding. The losses, however, cannot be repaired.  The climate crisis will endanger all human lives, cultures, ecosystems, and entire species.

What does it mean to talk about loss?

Along with mitigation (trying not to raise temperatures) and adaptation (making adjustments to prevent them from rising), loss and damage are the third pillar of the climate crisis solution. While all three must be prioritized but rich, developed countries have long rejected the idea that loss or damage is an issue apart from adaptation.

Small island nations were the first to voice concern about global community loss and damage. Rising sea levels will eventually cause the submersion of low-lying islands in both the Indian and Pacific oceans. This is not a prediction. It’s already happening.

Gladys Habu was 19 years old when she returned to the Solomon Islands in 2014. This place was a place she had visited often as a child. Kale, the island next to her, was where her grandparents lived. She found no white sand beaches or lush forests. Only a few branches remained, hinting at a once beautiful landscape that was now hidden beneath the waves.

“It was very difficult for us all because it happened so abruptly,” she stated. “We were shocked. I can’t believe how fast Kale disappeared. Kale was an island of beauty, rich in life and biodiversity. But it was also a large part of our identity and our connection to our history that was lost.

Grace, Habu and other young people are seeing the real-time loss and damage at an alarming rate. They are motivating their activism, and bringing them closer together. 

Yusuf Baluch was born in an indigenous community in Balochistan, Pakistan. He was six years old when his house was flooded and he had to leave the village. He explained that his family lost everything, and they had to sleep in open air without blankets until they were rebuilt.

Baluch is now 17 years old and was not surrounded with climate activists as a child. But Greta Thunberg (climate activist) and his own experiences inspired Baluch to start Fridays For Future in his local area, a youth-led climate strike organization. Grace is also co-director of Loss and Damage Youth Coalition. This coalition advocates for Climate justiceMore than 200 members are worldwide. She stated, “We will only have the future if we work together.”

Residents of an evacuation center in the Philippines following a typhoon in 2020.

Following a 2020 Typhoon, evacuation centers were set up in the Philippines.

Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

Even loss isn’t a single issue. It has both economic and non-economic consequences. Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a 24-year-old climate justice activist and climate justice activist from the Philippines, lost several months of school because of the typhoons’ effects. She said that she also lost her childhood, where she felt safe and secure.

Baluch stated that these non-economic losses do not have an adequate adaptation strategy. “If my culture was lost, I wouldn’t be able adapt to it in any other way in any other area.” he stated. “If my language is lost, I won’t have the ability to adapt to it.” You won’t be capable of adapting me after death if I’m starving, if my body is flooded, or if my life is in peril.

Campaigners are calling for it to be recognized as a priority due to the immediate effects of loss and destruction on people all around the world. Harjeet Singh (senior adviser at Climate Action Network International) stated, “We must support them.” “We have to respect the human rights of their people.”

Loss or damage to the front door

To appreciate the scale of the loss and damage happening right now, you need to look at local incidents as part an overall picture. Incidents such the tornado in Kentucky that killed 88 people last month aren’t isolated.

Huq stated, “Mozambique is experiencing a flood right at the moment.” “Madagascar currently has a famine. These are not the main stories. Global headlines are not made about the impact of the developing world on countries that have been impacted for years. But 88 Americans make global headlines — and there will be more.

Huq stated that, like other extreme weather events and climate change, the tornado was not caused. However, its intensity, timing, and magnitude were uncharacteristic of human-induced climate changes. This is something we should expect to see more of.

“Every day, an extreme weather phenomenon will break a record. He said that a flood, a hurricane, or heat wave will all occur in places around the world that have never been seen before.

He added that some records may be broken and even destroyed in certain cases. For example, the heat dome that formed over western Canada last summer broke several historic heat records, pushing temperatures in British Columbia up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

There are some key differences between the effects felt in the US versus those felt in countries in the Global South. The US is the world’s biggest emitter and has an economy built on polluting industries. The effects it is now experiencing are the result of its own actions (a fact that also applies to other wealthy countries).

Houses destroyed in December 2021 when a tornado swept through Kentucky.

Kentucky tornadoes decimated houses in December.

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Global South countries, which have done little to help the climate crisis but have been the worst and most affected, cannot be said the same.

Habu said, “We contribute almost nothing but face losses that can often be irreplaceable.” “My greatest fear is the ignorance of global leaders will drown many more islands and cause a serious change in our geographic nature.”

The second difference is money. In response to the catastrophic floods that decimated Germany last year, the government gave 30 billion euros (roughly $35 billion) for rebuilding. In the same vein, President Joe Biden pledged federal funding to 100% of the cleanup costs after the tornado that struck Kentucky last month.

Huq said, “That’s compensation for the loss and damage that has been caused by human-induced global warming.” They don’t know what it is. CNN or BBC will not be able to see the language that I speak. But this is what is happening.”

There is no money for rebuilding in developing countries. Asad Rehman, director at War on Want, stated that these countries are not only overwhelmed due to extreme weather events but also have limited resources, largely due to their unsustainable debt repayments towards the Global North.

The German flooding bill is a good example of how expensive it will be to pay for damage and loss. Rehman stated that the damage will spiral to trillions every year, and developed nations have drawn a line, saying they won’t help pay for them.

He said that the United States was “probably the most vocal on that side.”[It]Absolutely will not accept any climate agreement that makes it liable for the effects that would occur right now and when we breach the 1.5 degree guardrail which appears increasingly likely in the next five to ten years.

Huq stated that loss and damage have been used by the US to refer to liability and compensation. The US is resisting this at all costs. John Kerry, the US Secretary-of-State, made it a condition that the US sign the Paris Agreement. He stated that loss and damage could not be used to compensate or liability.

Smaller and developing countries had little choice but accept the language. However, their fight for damage and loss is not based on liability or compensation. Huq stated, “Our argument is founded on solidarity and humanity.” “We’re saying that you’re giving money to your citizens for loss and damage but not to us. Is that fair? Is that right? Is that right?

Funding: The fight for your life or death

Although the cost of loss and damage may seem prohibitive, the COVID response, which saw the rapid mobilization of trillions in dollars in a very short time frame, is proof that it is possible. Singh stated, “There are many ways we can raise funds.” “But the fact of the matter is that there has not been any political will.”

COVID also demonstrated how unwilling these countries are not to share their wealth or take a global approach when solving a global issue. The refusal of countries to remove patents on vaccines, and to ensure vaccine rollouts take place in both developed and developing countries does not inspire hope for those working for climate justice in less developed countries.

Rehman stated that there is a real issue where rich countries benefit from helping us. It prevents mutations of the virus and yet they won’t give the bloody vaccine to us. It’s so ingrained in our political system and economic system, this notion of disposability for parts of the world, or people.

Singh said that the consequences for failing to respond to financial claims for loss and damage raises serious questions not only about the so-called global leadership by rich countries but also about the entire Paris Agreement.

He stated that “our ultimate motive or goal” is to keep people safe, and the planet safe, and thriving. “People are already being affected — they’re losing houses, incomes, farms, which indicates that this agreement has failed, plain and simple. And if we can’t offer support to those who are impacted now how can I trust leaders who say we will decarbonize in 2050?

Progress at the COP26

Singh and Huq were active participants in the long-running battle to get loss and destruction on the global agenda. After many years of campaigning from small island states, it was first mentioned at COP13 Bali 2007. It has been a long and difficult journey to get it higher on the agenda.

Singh stated that COP26 was a significant breakthrough. It wasn’t even on their agenda at first. Adaptation, Loss and Damage Day was established by civil society groups after pressure from the conference.

Singh said it may have seemed superficial, but it was symbolic that recognition is on the horizon. Both inside and outside the summit, activists, campaigners, and others stepped up to the theme, staging events and presenting petitions, and speaking with negotiators. Singh stated that it was “a litmus test of the success or COP26.”

COP26, and the Glasgow Climate Pact that it delivered, weren’t a resounding success. Climate justice activists and civil societies groups demanded that politicians recognize the need for climate finance to help with loss and damage, as well as the establishment a Glasgow facility to fund it.

They succeeded with the first point. The text recognized loss and damage. They failed to succeed on the second. After pressure from the US and the EU, the original language was changed to establish a “loss-and-damage facility” to a dialogue about “loss/damage.”

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Teresa Anderson, climate policy coordinator at ActionAid International, said that there was so much hope for COP26 that the world leaders were finally catching up. She stated that this was not true. “The wealthiest countries, especially the US and Canada, are most responsible for global warming. They blocked any progress on loss- and damage finance.”

Rehman stated that while developing countries wanted to reject the last-minute change in their language, they were ultimately unable resist the US and other wealthy nations’ pressure. He said, “It’s basically lots and arm twisting.” “Unfortunately it’s just the truth of the negotiations.”

John Kerry and COP26 President Alok Sharma negotiate at the UN climate summit in November 2021.

John Kerry and Alok Sharma (COP26 President) negotiate in a huddle at the end of the UN climate conference in November.

Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Rehman described this “uneasy compromis” as being devastating for many smaller nations, especially island states, who came to COP26 with a loss-and-damage facility as their priority. Rehman stated that in that moment, the refusal to grant help makes one realize how little value they and others have in the world we’ve created.

Tan described the “clear, outright betrayal” that she felt at the outcome. She said, “It angers my knowing that they are deliberately stopping justice and ignoring millions of lives being impacted today.”

One bright spot in the darkness was a decision made by Scotland’s First minister Nicola Sturgeon at the summit. Sturgeon announced that Scotland would donate 1,000,000 pounds from its Climate Justice Fund for loss and damage and challenged other leaders. Singh stated, “Nobody wanted it to be discussed.” Singh said that she broke the taboo and everyone started talking about it. 

Although the amount in the fund is not enough, it was enough to get the ball rolling. Huq said that the summit saw him meet with Sturgeon one-on-one. He said, “She gets it.” “She doesn’t mince words when she says that this is reparations. It is not charity. We don’t give to the poor just because we feel sorry for them. It is a way to give it back and to challenge other leaders to do the same. “The challenge remains, even though nobody has stepped forward yet.”

2022: Bringing loss and destruction to the forefront

Campaigners for loss- and damage financing hope that Sturgeon’s fund will become a success this year, as other countries show increasing willingness to tackle the problem. The EU as a bloc sided with the US at COP26. However, progressive leaders from Germany (Danish, Sweden, Ireland) want to explore the possibilities.

Now activists are preparing for the next summit which will be held in Sharm-el-Sheikh (Egypt) in November.

Anderson stated that “Looking ahead at COP27 Egypt, the fight will not stop.” Anderson stated that the Global South’s women, girls, and indigenous communities, which are being hardest hit by a crisis that they did not cause, will not allow this issue to go unresolved.

Singh stated that it makes a difference that Africa will host the next summit. Singh stated, “It is a COP for the vulnerable people, and it is impossible to not talk about those issues that are most pressing to vulnerable people.”

Pushing loss and destruction to the forefront at COP27 means envisioning how a funding mechanism should look. This will require engaging with the governments that will likely push back against you. Singh claims that rich countries argue that they aren’t being instructed by their citizens not to fight for loss or damage. They use this as a reason not to do it. He stated, “We would love to engage them and say go and get that mandate.”

This is especially important in the US. Singh stated that the problem with the US isn’t inaction, but disincentive to others to act. “Many countries hide behind America — Australia, Canada and Japan. Everybody will fall in line if the US moves. He added that it is time for US citizens to hold their corporations and governments responsible for delaying and denying climate action.

Tan stated that although she doesn’t trust the leaders in developed countries, she believes in the people in those countries who are standing with the Global South and the global youth movement. She said, “It is through people that changes will be made.”

Anderson pointed out the protests that took place at summit, which brought thousands to the streets demanding that world leaders admit the devastating effects of the climate crisis on communities in Global South. She said, “Governments really felt that stress.”

Protesters at COP26 in Glasgow.

Protesters at COP26 Glasgow.

Christoph Soeder/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Baluch suggests that those who wish to support the fight against loss or damage to get educated about what’s happening around them. He said, “It’s impossible to feel the pain of those impacted, but it is possible to know about them.”

Grace, however, stated that she has faith, “too much faith” — that countries will succeed and reach their goals. She stated that she believes the world can fulfill its promises if it works together and listens to the needs of frontline communities. “I won’t lie to myself and say it will be easy … but as we like to say: ‘small steps to achieve climate justice.'”

Naomi Antonino from CNET created the photo illustration at top of this story.

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