I have just spent two weeks in Bonn, Germany attending the Subsidiary Bodies meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in preparation for the 27th Conference of Parties (CoP 27) to be held in Sharm Al Shaikh, Egypt in November this year. I have been participating in these meetings since 1992 and it is depressing to see the lack of momentum right now.
This Intersessional meeting is held every year at the negotiators’ level only, to prepare the agenda for the upcoming CoP, and identify both promising and difficult areas for work over the next few months. Hence it is an important meeting where the agenda for CoP 27 has to be agreed, and where you can get a sense of the shape of what may be agreed in Egypt. It also provides an opportunity to take stock and identify immediate actions which could achieve a better result at the next CoP, with time for discussion between the different groups.
This Dialogue is meant to discuss arrangements for establishing some kind of finance mechanism for addressing the heavy and growing costs of Loss and Damage from climate change. Governments, scientists, and civil society were allowed to participate in the dialogue.
A key intervention was made by the scientists representing the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), at which they presented clear cut evidence of adverse impacts attributable to human induced climate change causing losses and damages around the world in both poor countries as well as rich countries now. Such evidence has built massively over the years, and from earlier Assessment Reports, and now constitutes a shocking catalogue of losses felt by people across the world, especially in developing countries.
This message from the IPCC was used by the Group representing developing countries (known as the G77 and China) who came with a collective demand to make finance for loss and damage an agenda item for CoP 27. This position was strongly supported by civil society groups who held demonstrations supporting the demands of the developing countries.
An important addition to the discussion was provided by the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) now chaired by Ghana, who took over this role from Bangladesh recently. The CVF presented their analysis of the impacts of climate change, and the consequent reductions in Gross Domestic Procut (GDP) of CVF member countries by at least 20% in the last decade, and as much as 50% for a few specific countries. The CVF also announced their own Loss and Damage fund to help the most impacted communities in their own countries, demonstrating the importance of leading by example.
However, all the developed countries representatives (grouped in Annex 1), while expressing their understanding and sympathy in words refused to put their hands in their pockets and offer any money for Loss and Damage. They argued that questions of loss and damage should be rolled into existing adaptation finance. They even refused to allow this issue to be on the official agenda for CoP 27 in November. This shows quite clearly that they are not willing to provide any funds to help the victims of human-induced climate change despite their historic responsibility.
Egypt needs to make this an agenda item at Sharm el Sheikh, as demanded by the vast majority of countries as well as civil society. It is important to keep in mind that adaptation funding is meant to support ways of building resilience to climate impacts, whereas Loss and Damage concerns addressing impacts which have already occurred. So they represent distinctly different elements in the climate negotiations.
As the Bonn Climate Conference came to an end, with no resolution of this issue, we received news of the devastating flash floods hitting India and Bangladesh, which have caused losses and damages to millions of people in both countries. These devastating floods follow many other flash floods in the same area, and their severity is unmistakably due to human induced climate change.
This is a clear reminder, if one was needed, that climate change is already here and causing impacts leading to losses and damages around the world. Somalia is in its fourth year of harsh drought, now affecting the entire Horn of Africa region. Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa has suffered heavy flooding in the last two months, and hydro-power systems across the African continent find themselves without the water to generate much needed power.
With four months left before CoP 27 opens, we need some Annex 1 countries, including the European Union and its Member States to break ranks and commit to having Loss and Damage on the agenda in Sharm el Sheikh, by supporting the Egyptian presidency add a last minute agenda item. Several of the more progressive EU member states, and possibly Canada, could help build bridges with developing countries by agreeing to talks on this item. But time is short, we sense no urgency on the part of rich countries despite the rapidly rising damage occurring around the world. Such unwillingness does not bode well for productive talks in Egypt, at a CoP which needs to put the interests and priorities of African countries at the heart of the negotiations.