Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

For the first time, the nations of the world have decided to help pay for the damage that an overheated world is causing to poor countries.

But they ended marathon COP27 climate talks on Sunday without further addressing the root cause of those disasters – the burning of fossil fuels.

The agreement establishes a fund for what negotiators call losses and damages.

It’s a big win for poorer nations that have long been clamoring for money because they are often victims of floods, droughts, heat waves, famines and storms that worsen climate change, despite contributing little to the pollution that is warming the planet.

It has also long been called an equity issue for nations affected by extreme weather and small island states facing the existential threat of rising seas.

“Three long decades and we finally achieved climate justice,” he said Seve PaeniaMinister of Finance of Tuvalu.

Pakistan’s Environment Minister, Sherry Rehmanhe said that the foundation of the fund “is not giving charity”.

“It is clearly a down payment for a longer-term investment in our common future,” she said, speaking on behalf of a coalition of the world’s poorest countries.

In June, Pakistan suffered its worst ever monsoon floods, caused in part by melting glaciers.

Molwyn Joseph of Antigua and Barbuda, who chairs the Organization of Small Island States, described the agreement as “a victory for our entire world.”

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

The deal followed a game of chicken over climate change instead of fossil fuels.

Early Sunday morning in Sharm El Sheikh, delegates approved the compensation fund but did not address the contentious issues of an overall temperature target, emissions reductions and the desire to focus on phasing out all fossil fuels.

Through the wee hours of the night, the European Union and other nations fought what they saw as a setback in the Egyptian presidency’s umbrella agreement and threatened to block the rest of the process.

The package was revised again, removing most of the elements the Europeans objected to, but adding none of the increased ambition they had hoped for.

“What we have before us is not enough of a step forward for people and the planet,” a disappointed Frans Timmermans, the executive vice-president of the European Union, told his fellow negotiators. “It does not bring enough additional efforts by the big emitters to increase and accelerate the reduction of their emissions.

“We have all failed in our actions to avoid and minimize loss and damage,” Timmermans said. “We should have done a lot more.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also expressed frustration.

“It is more than frustrating to see the belated steps to mitigate and phase out fossil fuels blocked by many large emitters and oil producers,” she said.

The agreement includes a veiled reference to the benefits of natural gas as a low-emission energy, despite many countries calling for a phase-out of natural gas, which does contribute to climate change.

While the new agreement does not strengthen calls for emissions reductions, it retains language that maintains the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Egyptian presidency continued to offer proposals that harkened back to the 2015 Paris language, which also mentioned a looser two-degree target. The world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees since pre-industrial times.

Nor does the deal expand on last year’s call to phase out global use of “unabated coal,” although India and other countries have sought to include oil and natural gas in the Glasgow language. And that was the subject of discussion at the last minute, which especially upset the Europeans.

The chairman of last year’s climate talks rebuked the summit’s leadership for undermining his efforts to do more to cut emissions with a robust list of what hasn’t been done.

“We have partnered with many parties to propose a range of measures that would help these emissions peak before 2025, because the science tells us it is necessary. Not in this text,” said Alok Sharma of the United Kingdom, emphasizing the last part.

“A clear continuation of the gradual reduction of coal. Not in this text. A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels. Not in this text. And the energy text weakened in the last minutes.”

And in his remarks to negotiators, UN climate chief Simon Stiell, who hails from Grenada, urged the world “to move away from fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas.”

However, that fight was overshadowed by the historic compensation fund.

“A lot of positives to celebrate amid the gloom and doom” because emissions have not fallen fast enough to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, said climatologist Maarten van Aalst of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, which responds to climate disasters.

It’s a reflection of what can be done when the poorest nations stand united,” said Alex Scott, climate diplomacy expert at think tank E3G.

But as with all financial issues related to climate change, it’s one thing to create a fund, another to allow money to flow in and out, she said. The developed world has still not kept its 2009 pledge to spend 95 billion euros a year on other climate aid – designed to help poor countries develop green energy and adapt to future warming.

And there are reports suggesting that fossil fuel lobbyists relied heavily on African states, both to gain access to the Sharm El Sheikh summit and to water down commitments to address fossil fuel use.

Martin Kaiser, head of Germany’s Greenpeace, described the loss and damage agreement as “a small band-aid on a huge, gaping wound”.

“It is a scandal that the Egyptian presidency of the COP has given petrostates such as Saudi Arabia the space to torpedo effective climate protection,” he said.

Many climate change campaigners worry that pushing for strong action to phase out fossil fuels will be even more difficult at next year’s meeting, hosted by Dubai, in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.