Although the major aim of COP27 is to cut carbon emissions causing climate change and deal with existing climate impacts, the issue of “loss and damage” is likely to be one of the priorities of the meeting this year as the impacts of climate change, including floods, drought and wildfires, become clearer on the ground and affect ever more people.
Egypt has repeatedly underlined that it will put the issue of loss and damage at the centre of COP27, scheduled to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh between 6-18 November.
Wael Abul-Magd, Egypt’s special representative of COP27, told the media this week that Cairo is putting a lot of effort into ensuring that compensation for countries that have experienced heavy economic loss due to climate catastrophes is prioritised.
“We need to find a practical solution and it is up to the incoming COP presidency to navigate and finesse the process,” he said. “We are inching closer.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to act against what he called “a life-or-death struggle for our own safety today and our survival tomorrow”. He was speaking ahead of the COP27 preparatory meeting which took place on 3 and 4 October in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We know people and nations are suffering now... Failure to act on loss and damage will lead to more loss of trust and more climate damage… This is a moral imperative that cannot be ignored and COP27 must be the place for action on loss and damage,” he told media at the UN headquarters in New York ahead of the Kinshasa talks.
Before the same meeting, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri highlighted the importance of “appropriate and fair” climate financing, including financing for adaptation as well as mitigation. “We must find a way to address this challenge,” Shoukri said. “Without appropriate and fair financing serving as a catalyst, we will struggle to make a significant impact on climate change.”
The issue of loss and damage was discussed at last month’s UN General Assembly during the meeting of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), among the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Shoukri told the AOSIS meeting that Egypt understands the seriousness of the losses and damage suffered by small island nations and will make them a key issue in discussions at COP27.
“Climate change is inflicting increasing losses and damages on small island developing countries through repeated waves of severe weather conditions in the form of storms, hurricanes, floods and droughts that result in grave human and economic losses,” said Shoukri.
The issue was also raised in New York during a high-level meeting with the Group of 77 and China. Shoukri told the meeting he was looking forward to active engagement from all climate change stakeholders, including the G-77 and China, in dealing with the loss and damage caused by climate change.
Meanwhile, informal consultations at the level of the heads of delegations have been organised to bridge views among the various parties on how losses and damages can be assessed. The same topic also preoccupied the pre-COP27 meeting in June in Bonn, Germany, which ended without any agreement being reached.
Negotiators at last year’s COP26 agreed to launch a two-year dialogue on loss and damage but stopped short of setting up an actual fund. During COP27 the topic is likely to raise debates on where the money for any fund comes from, how it will be distributed or how climate-induced losses are defined, with some research suggesting the latter could reach $580 billion annually by 2030, rising to between $1-$1.8 trillion for developing countries by 2050.
Tensions and difference over the war in Ukraine and the rocketing energy and food prices it has brought and their negative economic and political impacts across the developed and developing world and the diplomatic showdown between the US and China, the world’s biggest producers of greenhouse gas emission, will further complicate any breakthrough over the loss and damage issue.
Shoukri highlighted during this week’s Kinshasa meeting that challenges posed by the current geopolitical and economic situations must not be an excuse for delaying action on climate change.
The Egyptian COP presidency has repeatedly called on all parties to set aside political differences and work together to make progress on climate change.
It has also welcomed a Danish initiative “as a step in the right direction” which sets a precedent for other countries to follow. The Danish government announced it would provide DKK100 million (€13.4 million) to countries most vulnerable to climate change. In doing so it became the first UN member state to pay loss and damage compensation to developing countries for the impact of climate change. Scotland — a non-UN member — also pledged finance to address loss and damage, when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon committed £2 million to the cause during COP26 which was held in Glasgow. The allocated funds are already being used to deliver on the ground and help communities recover from climate-related events such as flooding, wildfires, and tropical storms.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 6 October, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.