Climate Change ‘Loss and Damage’ Payouts Financing a Sticking Point

a crumbling house against a blue sky
The Sunday Times in Sri Lanka
Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Climate Change ‘Loss and Damage’ Payouts Financing a Sticking Point

In a historic first, discussions for the possibility of a separate financing facility for “loss and damage” was put on the agenda of this year’s United Nations Climate Conference (COP27) after nearly 30 years of negotiations.

At the opening plenary session, Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry was formally elected as the COP27 president by the parties.

However, activists claim that it is just another rope on the long list of promises that world leaders continue to feed at the climate summit every year, their reasoning being the two-year negotiation period that countries were “harassed” into agreeing to.

Speaking at a Climate Action Network press conference at COP27 last Monday, Power Shift Africa Director and Founder Mohamed Adow claimed that COP27 was off to a poor start.

“We have had 30 years of talks, it is time to move into implementation,” said Adow.

He held that the recognition of ‘loss and damage’ in the agenda means nothing if developing countries are not provided with the clear space to negotiate solid terms and conditions and be compensated for the climate disasters they suffer from due to the actions of developed countries and the Global North.

“We definitely feel like they’re just postponing it,” noted Ruwan Wijewardene, Senior Climate Change Advisor to Sri Lanka’s President.

In an interview in Sharm el-Sheikh with the Sunday Times, Wijewardene noted that from a developing country perspective, the continued delays were unfair since low-income countries and countries in the global south continue to face devastating natural disasters that they then have to find the resources to recover from.

“Getting access to climate funds for recovery is time-consuming and difficult,” he said. Immediate access to recovery funds for climate change-related natural disasters is a must.

This was one of the motivations behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s call for “like-minded leaders” who are facing disasters in their countries and feel that they are being unfairly treated by the more industrialized countries to get together before the next climate conference and have a united agenda that will increase their access to funds already pledged.

The motion to introduce ‘loss and damage’ onto the agenda was proposed by Pakistan, which suffered from horrific floods that affected 33 million people, displaced 7.9 million, killed 1,700, and resulted in US$30 billion of property damage.

The World Bank estimates that the annual average disaster cost in developing countries has skyrocketed from US$23b to US$150b and that the number of affected people has tripled to two billion.

Climate expert and founder CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water, (CEEW) Dr. Arunabha Ghosh, told reporters last week that there was a deadlock surrounding the discussion on ‘loss and damage’ that would need to be addressed to efficiently move towards solutions.

‘Loss and damage’ does not have a mutually agreed upon definition or methodology to assess the impacts of climate change — this is a problem.

“Lack of empirical data and poor technical expertise to measure and quantify ‘loss and damage’, lack of unified approaches and integrity in the institutional ecosystem and, most importantly, poor mobilization of finance for ‘loss and damage’ further restrict action,” he noted.

Recent CEEW studies revealed that 34% of all nationally determined contributions (NDCs) mention ‘loss and damage,' despite not being mandated under the Paris Agreement.

This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security. It was first published in The Sunday Times on 13 November 2022 and has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Banner image: A housebreak affected by the 2022 floods in Pakistan / Credit: Assad Tanoli via Unsplash.

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