The 27th annual Conference of the Parties for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is currently underway in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt — and for the first time, there is an official agenda item dedicated to discussing the financial obligations for climate loss and damage.
This is, to put it mildly, absurd. But here we are.
As The Boston Globe summarized the occasion:
For 30 years, developing nations have been calling for industrialized countries to provide compensation for the costs of devastating storms and droughts caused by climate change. For just as long, rich nations that have generated the pollution that is dangerously heating the planet have resisted those calls.
On Sunday, negotiators from developing countries succeeded in placing the matter on the formal agenda of this year's climate summit, known as COP27, or the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties.
By the end of the third day of the conference, several European countries had pledged cash for a new loss and damage fund.
The Guardian explains a bit more about what "loss and damage" specifically refers to:
Loss and damage refers to the irreversible economic and non-economic costs of both extreme weather events such as hurricanes, heatwaves, drought and wildfires, and slow onset climate disasters such as sea-level rise and melting glaciers. It's about holding the biggest fossil fuel polluters liable for the pain and suffering already caused by the climate crisis, separately and in addition to securing climate finance for mitigation and adaptation to help developing nations prepare for what's coming.
Economic costs include the lives, livelihoods, homes, food systems and territory irreversibly lost, while the harder to quantify non-economic costs refer to the loss of culture, identity, sovereignty, human dignity, biodiversity, and psychological well being. The most serious losses and damages are being felt by the poorest countries – by and large those who've contributed least to global heating. As a result, funding for loss and damage has become a central tenet in demands for climate justice or, in other words, climate action that addresses the inequities behind the climate crisis.
Notably absent from the countries committing to this loss and damage fund? The United States of America.
It's not that the talk of money has never come up in any shape or form before. But historically, it's been more of a, "Yes, we will definitely pledge a portion of GDP to help developing nations!…but not too much because technically those developing nations all have higher carbon emissions per capita, and they should be paying their fair share for that, even though the reason those nations are still categorized as 'developing' is due largely to resource extraction from the Imperialism-to-Industrialism pipe line that was spearheaded for several centuries by European nations and, later, the US — all of whom have now been empowered to reduce their reliance on the emissions of greenhouse gases because they were able to export all their manufacturing needs to developing nations with cheaper labor costs."
And so they complain that China and India aren't doing their fair share, while the house continues burning down, and everyone on the lower floors is screaming for help.
After decades of resistance, rich countries offer direct climate aid [David Gelles / The Boston Globe]
Climate 'loss and damage': why it's such a big deal at Cop27 [Nina Lakhani / The Guardian]
Factbox: COP27: Which countries have offered 'loss and damage' funds? [Kate Abnett / Reuters]
Explainer: COP27: What is 'Loss and Damage' compensation, and who should pay? [Kate Abnett / Reuters]