India firm on finance as loss and damage climbs to climate agenda in Egypt

A man trying to restore his house on the outskirts of Puri a day after cyclone Fani hit Odisha in 2019. Archive photo by-Manish Kumar

  • Participants at the UN climate summit have agreed to put loss and damage financing on the official agenda in an early win for countries vulnerable to the worst impacts of the climate emergency.
  • The development strengthens India’s stand at the global forum that there has to be further clarity and commitment by wealthy nations on funding to adapt to climate change and to address loss and damage.
  • The signs on climate adaptation funding are not encouraging, even as world temperatures have inched up on increased emissions, key UN organizations said in their latest reports.

The UN summit being held in Sharm el-Sheikh in eastern Egypt started on an optimistic note as all participating nations agreed to place loss and damage financing on the official agenda of the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27). In the past 28 years since the UN climate convention was adopted, this is the first time that the issue will be discussed officially.

The positive development came after “herculean informal negotiations” for over 48 hours, according to COP27 president Sameh Shoukry of Egypt. Negotiators agreed upon a 20-point provisional agenda in which matters relating to funding for loss and damage due to climate change’s impact will also be discussed. The discussions will continue till November 18.

Experts and activists hailed the move. “Countries have cleared a historic first hurdle toward acknowledging and answering the call for financing to address increasingly severe losses and damages,” Ani Dasgupta, president of the think tank World Resources Institute, said in a statement.

Small island nations and developing countries like India have been for long demanding a separate fund for loss and damage. Loss and damage refer to compensation for impacts of extreme weather events like cyclones, droughts, and flooding, and other events that emerge gradually, like sea level rise and the retreat of glaciers.

This was just the initial step in the struggle, activists said. “The inclusion of loss and damage finance in the agenda for COP27 has renewed the fight for justice for communities losing their homes, crops and income,” according to Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, a collective of climate non-profits.

A presentation during the opening ceremony at COP27, Egypt. Photo by Kiara Worth/UNclimatechange/Flickr.
A presentation during the opening ceremony at COP27, Egypt. Photo by Kiara Worth/UNclimatechange/Flickr.

Rich countries, which are mostly to blame for the current climate emergency, have in the past compelled less developed countries to protect polluters from having to pay for climate damages while ignoring the worries of vulnerable individuals and nations, Singh said. “COP27 must agree to establish a loss and damage finance facility to help people recover from the impacts of the climate crisis,” he said.

The foremost goal of the UN summit remains imperative to contain emissions. According to the World Bank, cutting greenhouse gas emissions will require much more money than is presently available. Global investment in green energy requires to increase three-fold from 2022’s $1 trillion a year. The multilateral bank said it will have to focus on developing countries, which generate most of today’s emissions.

Discounted lending and financial aid from rich countries are necessary to achieve these ambitious goals, experts have repeatedly said. However, rich nations have failed to keep a promise made as far back as in 2009 of providing $100 billion in climate finance every year. The Glasgow Climate Pact last year stipulated that adaptation finance should be doubled.

India reiterates its stand at COP27

India’s position has been clear on the issue of climate finance. “COP27 should be a COP of Action, with key deliverables having a specific focus on defining climate finance, outcomes on adaptation, and loss and damage,” environment minister Bhupender Yadav said in a statement before leaving for Egypt.

India is expected to continue to demand the formulation of strategies that addresses the needs of developing nations. Adaptation and loss and damage are two issues at the center of attention, the Indian delegation led by minister Yadav has underlined, and progress on these two issues must complement each other.

To India’s advantage, the UN agrees with its stance. There has to be a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies that could be utilised to finance nations suffering from loss and damage, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said at the UN General Assembly in September. “Vulnerable countries need meaningful action. Loss and damage are happening now, hurting people and economies now, and must be addressed now — starting at COP27,” Guterres said.

While placing loss and damage on the official agenda is a step in the right direction, the negotiations on funding to adapt to and mitigate climate change are likely to be trickier. Climate adaptation is defined as adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to adverse climatic impacts, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

But progress on adaptation funding has been negligible since COP26 was held in Glasgow in November last year. Global adaptation finance to developing countries is 5-10 times below projected requirements, and the breach continues to widen, according to the Adaptation Gap Report 2022 of the United Nations Environment Programme released on November 3.

A house submerged in the flood-affected part of Kodagu in 2019. Photo by Abhishek N. Chinnappa/Mongabay.

The report revealed that the finance for adapting to climate change provided by rich nations was only $29 billion in 2020, a mere 4 percent increase since 2019. On the other hand, yearly climate adaptation needs worldwide are projected to be between $160 and 340 billion by 2030 and $315 to 565 by 2050, the UN environment agency said in its annual Adaptation Gap report.

India’s views on the global goal on adaptation are clear. COP27 must ensure significant progress on the action, indicators, and metrics with regard to climate adaptation without the rich countries resorting to diluting this through resource mobilisation for climate mitigation in the name of co-benefits, the Indian government has reiterated. “We need more clarity on adaptation at this COP,” India’s environment secretary Leena Nandan said last week.

The financial scorecard is discouraging, the Adaptation Gap reported, advocating faster action. The report said that if the Glasgow Climate Pact’s goal of doubling 2019 financing flows by 2025 is to be accomplished, there must be a significant acceleration.

“Adaptation must therefore take centerstage alongside mitigation in the global response to climate change,” the report said. “However, even ambitious investments in adaptation cannot fully prevent climate impacts, so losses and damages must be addressed adequately.”

World warmer by 1.15 degrees Celsius  

Meanwhile, the warning signs of the climate emergency kept multiplying at COP27. The earth is now 1.15 degrees Celsius hotter compared to preindustrial times, and the rise in temperatures continues, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Sunday in its annual State of Global Climate report.

The global mean temperature in 2021 was 1.11 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial average, which increased to 1.15 degrees Celsius in 2022, the UN weather agency said in its provisional report. According to the report, 2021 saw record-breaking carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide concentrations. “The greater the warming, the worse the impacts,” said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas. “We have such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now that the lower 1.5 degrees Celsius of the Paris Agreement is barely within reach.”

Nations had in 2015 agreed to contain global temperature rise “well within” 2 degrees Celsius through the landmark Paris Agreement and said all efforts be made to keep the increase within 1.5 degrees Celsius. The goal of 1.5 degrees would be impossible to meet if global temperatures continue to rise at the current pace.

The past eight years were the warmest on record due to higher emissions and accumulated heat in the atmosphere, the WMO said. Extreme rainfall in July and August caused widespread floods in Pakistan, resulting in at least 1,700 fatalities and the displacement of 7.9 million people. In another instance, an extreme heatwave in March and April in India reduced the spring wheat harvest amid a global food scarcity precipitated by the Ukraine conflict.

“The heat caused a decline in crop yields. This, combined with the banning of wheat exports and restrictions on rice exports in India, are threatening the international food markets and posing risks to countries already affected by shortages of staple foods,” the WMO said.

“As the World Meteorological Organization shows so clearly, change is happening with catastrophic speed — devastating lives and livelihoods on every continent,” Guterres said in a statement. “People and communities everywhere must be protected from the immediate and ever-growing risks of the climate emergency.”

“We must answer the planet’s distress signal with action — ambitious, credible climate action,” Guterres added. “COP27 must be the place – and now must be the time.”


Banner image: A man looking at his damaged house on the outskirts of Puri a day after cyclone Fani hit Odisha in 2019. Photo by Manish Kumar.

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