COP26 was a significant turning point in global politics. It was the UN climate conference in Glasgow that just concluded. For rich countries, climate justice will be a constant issue.
The Glasgow Climate Pact “urges” rich countries like the US (referred to as “developed countries” in the text) to increase funding for poor countries like Bangladesh (“developing countries”) to around US$40 billion (£29.8 billion) annually by 2025, to help them adapt to mounting floods, droughts and other effects of climate change.
This is quite strong language in UN talk and is welcomed support. The rich world has a history that has failed to fulfill its financial promises. Only 80% of the US$100 billionThe promise to aid developing countries in reducing their emissions and adapting to climate change was fulfilled every year by 2020.
The world faces a lifetime of climate impacts if it fails meet the requirements of developing countries to adapt to climate change. Those impacts that we won’t be able to prevent or adapt to are referred to as “loss and damage” in the lingo of international climate policy and they are already beginning to bite in the most vulnerable countries. Failure of COP26 commit to keeping warming below 1.5°CFuture loss and damage will be more severe.
Some people consider work on damage and loss to be an option. a form of compensationFor the indirect harm that rich countries have caused poor countries by contributing to climate change through their greenhouse gas emissions, Others prefer the term “climate reparations”, and yet others talk about “solidarity funds”.
No matter how you want to describe it, the 2015 Paris agreement, the UN climate treaty, tried to discredit any notion that developed countries were liable. The outcome of COP26 demonstrates that the question of who is responsible for and who should be paying for the consequences of climate changes cannot be ignored. However, even the annual climate funding that has been pledged doesn’t include any money allocated for loss and damage.
Who should pay?
The idea of paying for loss and damageAs something owed to small islands states, it was introduced at the UN climate treaty negotiations in 1991. Over the years, however, other groups including the poorest countries in Africa and others have started to champion the issue.
Major advances in the field attribution scienceThere is a growing understanding of the exact link between human-caused omissions and severe weather events. This relationship will intensify with every tonne of emissions, and for many of these climate-consequences, there is no turning back.
Loss and damage to Glasgow
Delegates were aware of the increasing adaptation needs of developing nations as they walked into the Glasgow summit. Adapting to climate change isn’t straightforward: even the UK, for all its wealth and its relative lack of exposure, isn’t getting it right.
All countries were expected, in the run-up to COP26 to update their climate action plans (known as NDCs), Recent analysisA growing number of plans included loss and damage. This makes sense: as countries increasingly have to divert resources towards preparing for and responding to disasters like cyclones, or sea-level rise and melting glaciers, there will be less public financing available for them to cut their emissions and contribute to meeting the 1.5℃ goal.
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Glasgow made significant progress. However, much of this progress was made outside of the negotiating rooms.
To clarify what the negotiators were trying to achieve, they met late into the night. Santiago Network – a new way of offering technical assistance to developing countries – should be doing to support countries in a practical way. But progress was slow and calls to set up a “Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility” which would have provided financial support for vulnerable countries went unheeded.
Agreed instead was the establishment of a “Glasgow Dialogue” to discuss funding arrangements over the coming years. This could be a significant step towards real, material assistance for vulnerable countries. In some ways, it feels like deja vu.
COP23 in 2017 established a “Suva Expert Dialogue” – a two-day workshop which produced a technical paper – to explore information on finance for loss and damage. COP24 in the next year and COP25 2019 pushed for the creation of an expert group on loss or damage, which was launched in the early 2021.
Progress is incremental, but with all these dialogues it’s no wonder that young protesters decry this “blah, blah, blah” approach to climate action.
Five things you need to know about the Glasgow Climate Pact
One of the surprises in Glasgow was the symbolic, and even material, support for loss and damage that came from outside the negotiation room. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, promised £2 million of funding to alleviate the impacts of climate change. This was further augmented by a US$3million dollar pledgePhilanthropists. Since then, a Belgian provincial climate minister has also committed €1 million.
This is only a drop in the ocean. This is an interesting twist in terms who is taking responsibility for the damage that climate change has already caused and will cause in the future.
This story is part of The Conversation’s coverage on COP26, the Glasgow climate conference, by experts from around the world.
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