COP27 summit strikes historic deal on climate damage financing

A tense UN climate summit ended on Sunday with a landmark funding deal to help vulnerable countries cope with the devastating effects of global warming, but also with anger over a failure to advance further ambitions to cut emissions.

Two-week talks in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, which at times seemed to be teetering on the brink of failure, led to a major breakthrough on the climate “loss and damage” fund.

Pakistani Climate Minister Sherry Rehman said COP27 “responded to the voices of the vulnerable, the affected and the lost around the world.”

“We have struggled along this path for 30 years, and today in Sharm el-Sheikh this journey has reached its first positive milestone,” she told the summit participants.

Weary delegates applauded when the loss and damage fund was passed as the sun rose on Sunday after nearly two extra days of round-the-clock negotiations.

But jubilation over this achievement was belied by stern warnings.

UN chief António Guterres said the UN climate talks “took an important step towards justice” with a fund of loss and damage, but failed to achieve the urgent carbon cuts needed to combat global warming.

“Our planet is still in the emergency room,” Guterres said. “We need to drastically cut emissions now, and that’s an issue that wasn’t addressed at this conference.”

“Stone wall of emitters”

Covering a wide range of global efforts to combat global warming, COP27’s final statement noted the ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

It also included language on renewables for the first time, while echoing previous calls to speed up “efforts to phase out relentless coal-fired power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

But it didn’t go much further than a similar decision at last year’s COP26 meeting in Glasgow on key issues related to reducing planet-warming pollution.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said the EU was “disappointed”, adding that more than 80 countries have backed tougher emissions commitments.

“What we have ahead of us is not enough progress for people and the planet,” he said.

“It doesn’t bring enough extra effort from the big emitters to increase and accelerate emission reductions,” said Timmermans, who threatened to pull out of the talks 24 hours ago to avoid a “bad outcome.”

Britain’s Alok Sharma, who chaired COP26 in Glasgow, said the energy segment had been “loosened in the final minutes”.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock said she was disappointed that cutting emissions and moving away from fossil fuels is “blocked by a number of major emitters and oil producers.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, chairman of COP27, criticized by some delegations for a lack of transparency during the talks, said any mistakes “were definitely not intentional.”

“I believe that I managed to avoid the retreat of either side,” he said.

“Loss and Damage”

The loss and damage deal, which barely made it onto the negotiating agenda, gained critical momentum during the talks.

Developing countries steadfastly pressed for a fund, and in the end they managed to enlist the support of wealthy polluters, who had long feared indefinite liability.

The Alliance of Small Island States, made up of islands whose very existence is under threat from rising sea levels, said in a statement that the loss and damage deal was “historic”.

“The agreements reached at COP27 are a victory for our entire world,” said Molvin Joseph of Antigua and Barbuda and AOSIS Chair.

“We showed those who felt left out that we hear you, we see you, and we give you the respect and care you deserve.”

Warming has so far been around 1.2 degrees Celsius, and the world has witnessed a cascade of extreme climate events that shed light on the plight of developing countries facing escalating natural disasters, as well as energy and food price crises and mounting debt.

The devastating floods in Pakistan this year have caused $30 billion in damage and economic damage, the World Bank estimates.

The fund will focus on developing countries “that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change,” the language requested by the EU.

‘On the Edge’

The Europeans also wanted to expand their donor base to pump out cash, the code for China and other more prosperous developing countries.

The final text on loss and damage left many of the more pressing issues to be considered by the transition committee, which will present a report at a climate meeting in Dubai next year to secure funding.

Scientists say that limiting warming to 1.5°C is a much stronger hedge against catastrophic climate impacts as the world is now off track and moving towards temperatures around 2.5°C according to current commitments and plans.

“The historic loss and damage record at COP27 shows that international cooperation is possible,” said Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and Chair of The Elders.

“In addition, the renewed commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius has been a source of relief. However, none of this changes the fact that the world remains on the brink of a climate catastrophe.”