The New Language of COP27

Updated: Nov 21

Update: Since the writing of this blog a commitment on Loss and Damage did occur, but did nothing to address the causes of the impacts - most specifically all countries could not agree on a phasedown of fossil fuels.

As you wander the zones and pavilions of COP27 you might think the predominant language would be English or possibly Arabic as we are in Egypt, but the language most heard is the dialect of Loss and Damage. The nearly 200 participating countries and their attending negotiators and observers are debating whether carbon intensive nations like the United States should compensate vulnerable countries for climate-generated disasters that impact the health and livelihood of millions.

Climate change caused by greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is responsible for the degradation of health, environmental harms and natural disasters such as hurricanes. Large industrial nations are responsible for the vast majority of emissions, but most often poorer countries pay the price via drought and floods such as in Pakistan which killed over 1,700, destroyed almost 400,000 buildings and displaced 7.9 million people at a cost of $30 billion dollars.

Loss and Damage has been bubbling under the surface since it was first brought up by island nations under threat of sea level rise who asked that it be included in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in the 90s. It was finally added as a third pillar, after mitigation and adaptation, in the Paris Agreement during COP21. Now, seven years later, it has come to a head with many wondering if the argument is about historical or current emission and who then makes the list of responsible parties.

So, what is Loss and Damage?

Loss and Damage refers to costs that are felt by countries experiencing extreme weather events caused by climate change. As detailed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change this would assist developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change by:

  • Enhancing knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches to address loss and damage

  • Strengthening dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies among relevant stakeholders

  • Enhancing action and support, including finance, technology and capacity-building

Focus areas for remuneration are broken down into five workstreams:

Non-economic losses - to cover losses that cannot be defined by economic terms such as life, biodiversity and cultural heritage.

Comprehensive risk management approaches - which includes risks assessment, resilience and emergency preparedness.

Human Mobility - displacement, migration and relocation caused by climate change.

Action and Support - meant to enhance facilitation and cooperation around finance, technology and capacity.

Slow Onset Events - these include increasing temperatures, sea-level rise and forest degradation to name a few.

The big question at COP27 is who pays. Underdeveloped countries have made it a priority that a funding mechanism be put in place to replenish the ever growing deficit due to climate change and have demanded that a decision be made to create the fund. The countries that are expected to pay do not seem willing to commit and as of now only offer two options, delay and delay, neither of which offers any security to those who suffer most.

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