COP27: Countries want climate compensation, but the US 'continues to block negotiation’

Loss and damage expenses for low-income countries by 2030 may range from U.S. $290 to U.S. $580 billion yearly.
Baba Tamim
Image of a Pakistani flood victim.
Image of a Pakistani flood victim.

Getty Images 

"Since 2013, I've seen the U.S. blocking every single discussion on #LossAndDamageFinance, by arm-twisting and threatening developing nations," Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International (CAN), tweeted in September.

"U.S. gave 1 of U.S. $3b of #ClimateFinance committed to @theGCF for #mitigation & #adaptation - nowhere close to its fair share," he said in a long thread of tweets expressing dismay at U.S.' actions over the climate crisis.  

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CAN is an international network of more than 1,800 civil society organizations working to advance social and racial justice while tackling the climate crisis. 

As the U.N. Climate Summit COP27 draws to a close, some high-carbon emitting nations are yet to fulfill the broken financial summit commitments from the past. And their future promises are likely to sadden the countries that are facing the brunt of the climate crisis.  

Singh, who has been attending conferences since 2008, is yet to come to terms with the lack of progress with high-carbon-generating countries attending these summits. He observed impoverished countries pleading and pushing for compensation at COP27.

"The first days of COP27 saw how developed countries were put under pressure to agree to a loss and damage finance agenda," Singh told Interesting Engineering (IE) on the sidelines of the summit at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. 

"We are definitely seeing some progress as a couple of European countries have come forward, and they have also pledged resources for loss and damage finance." 

"However, the U.S. continues to block the negotiation," added Singh, who is also the Global Engagement Director for Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

"COP27 may not yield immediate results"

COP27: Countries want climate compensation, but the US 'continues to block negotiation’
Mining dam failure in Bento Rodrigues, the biggest environmental disaster in Brazil.

Disputes over whether high-carbon emitting countries should compensate vulnerable states harmed by climate-related disasters broke out among almost 200 nations attending the summit very early in the conference. 

"In 2024, money should start flowing to communities and countries who are facing the climate crisis," said resolved Singh. 

"And this system must be based on the needs and not whims and fancies of donors who are not able to meet the demands of people who are losing their homes, crops, and income." 

The COP27 summit comes after a year of natural disasters, including massive floods in Pakistan that claimed more than 1,700 lives, uprooting 33 million people and causing losses worth at least $30 billion

"Conferences like this have aided in the creation of rhetoric among 'concerned' nations and international watchdogs," Ghulam Nabi Raikoti, a member of the Public Private Partnership Policy Board in Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan, and an environmental expert, told IE.

"The results of COP27 may not yield immediate results, but it will surely help table pressing climate-related discourse among global decision-makers," added hopeful Raikoti. 

The "Loss and damage" debate has been ongoing and unsolved for years; despite multiple conferences, wealthier nations have refused to cover partial or full damages incurred by developing nations that had little to no involvement in the crisis.

Understanding 'Loss and damage Finances'

Loss and damage, according to the U.N., refers to expenses incurred as a result of extreme weather events or impacts brought on by climate change, such as rising sea levels, wildfires, floods, etc. 

However, to compensate for costs that poor countries cannot avoid or "adjust," loss and damage payments would differ. 

The definition of "loss and damage" in climatic disasters, which might include destroyed infrastructure, damaged property, as well as harder-to-value natural ecosystems or cultural assets like cemeteries, is still up for debate, and there is no clear language in addressing the issue.

"It [Loss and damage] is linked to the demand for reparations, but in the formal negotiation space, we will never get the language of reparation, compensation, or liability," said Singh.

"But these do remain the core principles based on which rich countries are obligated to provide finance for addressing loss and damage."

COP27: Countries want climate compensation, but the US 'continues to block negotiation’
A flood-affected woman wading through the flood waters in Pakistan.

Demand for Loss and Damage Finance facility

Approximately $525 billion, or 20 percent of the combined GDP of vulnerable countries, was projected to have been lost due to climate change over the past two decades, according to a June report by 55 vulnerable countries.

By 2030, the costs of loss and damage to low- and middle-income nations might total between US$290 billion and US$580 billion annually, according to an Oxfam report. Non-economic costs like the end of life, civilizations, ways of life, and biodiversity are not taken into consideration.

Campaigners and vulnerable nations have repeatedly voiced that rich nations who have emitted the majority of greenhouse gas emissions should now foot the bill. The European Union and the United States have resisted the argument out of concern for rising obligations.

"Our demand for Loss and Damage Finance is absolutely clear. In the next two years, the [Loss and Damage Finance] facility must be established and operationalized," said Singh. 

If nations do decide to establish a fund, they will need to work out the specifics, including where the funding should come from, how much affluent nations should contribute, and which nations or disasters are eligible for compensation.

"Rich countries are responsible to pay for loss of damage finance because these industrialized nations, G7, have benefited from putting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, and that's why we are facing the climate crisis," stated Singh. 

They "have consistently failed in delivering climate finance, starting from meeting the 100 billion dollar goal, and also a roadmap to double the adaptation, and finance by 2025."

Emitting while committing low-carbon release 

Last week, IE reported about how the climate campaigning cyclists protested against private aircraft in Amsterdam, which had Pro-climate conference delegates leaving in anti-climate jets. 

Ironically, and for a variety of reasons, Egypt has seen hundreds of private jets whisking world leaders to the Sharm El Sheikh conference, not just from the Netherlands. 

Despite EGYPTAIR offering special flights for all participants to attend the event, the latest reports claim that 400 private jets have graced the nation's airports since November 4. 

Although some sources claim lesser numbers, the issue continues to rise even while the conference has one more day to conclude. 

With COP26 recording a dismal 1,02,500 tons of CO2 such meetings have continued to leave a larger carbon footprint.

"I think the activists are right...the few leaders that attended the event, are affecting climate more than helping it by coming on private jets," Dr. Gohram Malghani, associate professor of the Environmental Sciences department at the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering, and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), Pakistan, told IE last week.

"Environmentalists understand that leaders are less interested in climate issues." 

Private planes generally emit much more pollution per passenger compared to commercial flights.

"Private jets have a disproportionate impact on the environment. In just one hour, a single private jet can emit two metric tonnes of CO2," according to a report released last year by Transport & Environment, a major European clean transport campaign group.

"The average person in the E.U. emits 8.2 tons of CO2-eq over the course of an entire year." 

CO2-eq is a metric measure used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gasses on the basis of their global-warming potential (GWP)

COP27: Countries want climate compensation, but the US 'continues to block negotiation’
Power station chimneys stock photo.

However, such conferences must continue

At the U.N. climate conference (COP26) last year, the E.U. and the U.S. opposed a proposal to create a fund, opting instead for a "conversation" without a specific aim. 

The rich western countries have, however, shown signs of being more receptive to considering compensation at COP27, but they are still hesitant to establish a fund.

"The new collective quantified goal that has to be agreed upon must be based on needs and mobilized by rich countries based on equity," said the climate activist. 

"Europe is responding to developing countries' proposals. We will make sure that there is enough pressure on the U.S. to also change its stance."

In the meantime, Raikoti feels there is a change, and such conferences must continue.

"These bigger contributors to climate imbalance who did not agree to this idea a decade ago are now seriously partaking in the discussion and are committing resources too," he said. 

There is slow progress, but such conferences have "set the tone for responsible work ethics for the governments and corporate sector alike," materializing hopes for a better future and unified world response to the climate crisis, he added. 

Meanwhile, Vanuatu, an island nation in the Pacific, has petitioned the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue a ruling on the right to protection from the harmful effects of climate change. 

The case for compensating underdeveloped nations may be strengthened by any such ruling of ICJ, which has the highest legal power in dealing with global issues.