Europeans brace for tough talks on climate reparations

Countries such as Pakistan and Caribbean nations are seeking 'loss and damage' compensation

An Egyptian police officer stands guard in front of the International Congress Centre before Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh. EPA
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European countries are bracing for tough talks at Cop27, during which vulnerable nations hit hard by climate change are expected to step up their demands for reparations.

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell on Friday said that “there are high expectations” that nations that grew rich burning fossil fuels will move towards the creation of a funding facility to cover “loss and damage” — UN-speak for unavoidable and irreversible climate impacts.

The European Union wants the topic to be placed on the Cop27 agenda, but it remains unclear if this will be the case, one official told a briefing on the coming summit this week.

The agenda for the event, which begins on Sunday in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, was still under discussion at the time of writing and many western countries are reportedly worried about linking liability and compensation to loss and damage.

Small island nations as well as countries that were recently hit by catastrophic floods such as Pakistan have said that they would ask nations at Cop27 for a loss and damage funding facility to pay for the consequences of climate change that go beyond what they can afford.

Some say that poorer countries are unfairly suffering from the effects of climate change, which was largely caused by western countries’ carbon-intensive industrialisation process over the past two centuries.

“We have repeatedly made the moral case for loss and damage compensations at different platforms,” Pakistan's Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said. “We will deliver the same message at Cop27.”

The EU official believed it remained necessary to first identify existing financial resources instead of discussing or launching a new fund at Cop27.

“We need to understand what the needs are for loss and damage and how existing funds and existing mechanisms can be already mobilised to address potential needs for loss and damage,” he said.

The official added that such discussions are being conducted as part of the Glasgow Dialogue, which was named after Cop26, held last year in Scotland.

The Glasgow Dialogue aims at examining over the next two years what funding exists or might be produced to address the issue of loss and damage.

“We are really in the middle of this process,” said the official.

“We hope that, in couple years, [we] will be in a very good position to understand exactly where we are.”

In September, Denmark became the first UN member state to agree to pay for loss and damage from climate change by pledging 100 million Danish crowns.

“It is grossly unfair that the world's poorest should suffer the most from the consequences of climate change to which they have contributed the least,” said Denmark’s development minister Flemming Moeller Mortensen at the time of the announcement.

In an apparent reference to Denmark’s initiative, the EU official said that, “if the parties take decisions much earlier than that, that’s their prerogative, but we need to complete this [Glasgow Dialogue] process”.

In France, one of Europe’s economic powerhouses, officials also believe that it is necessary to first focus on existing available funds and mitigation.

“We need to agree on what is the most efficient solution,” said a source at the Elysee Palace.

“I honestly doubt it when you see that only one third of the Green Climate Fund has been disbursed. We need to find solutions, not new funds.”

The Green Climate Fund was established in 2010 to support developing countries to adapt to the effects of climate change.

“Rendering developed countries automatically responsible for climate catastrophes is a difficult legal question,” said the source.

The readjustment of global finance towards climate issues is also expected to be a topic of conversation at Cop27.

The EU official said that Brussels gets “a lot of push back from developing countries” on this topic.

“This is counterintuitive because global finance flows need to be reformed to be able to address the whole challenge of climate action,” he said.

Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley in September said in her address to the UN General Assembly that countries should embrace a more inclusive global finance architecture.

Barbados bought back $150 million of a $531m bond due in 2029 and replaced it with lower-cost debt that carries repayment guarantees from the Nature Conservancy and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Like other Caribbean nations, Barbados is vulnerable to intensifying cyclones and rising sea levels.

Updated: November 04, 2022, 6:00 PM