Speakers often use the term “climate control” to describe the responsibility of future generations for the impacts of the past. That echoes the tradition of World War I, when other countries were blamed for paying for the cleanup, explains Lisa Vanhala, a political scientist at University College London who studies losing and damaging negotiations. But wealthy destroyers like the US remained fearful of being held accountable outside the United Nations, even though they had previously agreed to COPs to avoid prosecution. Those countries want the negotiations to be at the forefront, away from the many problems of the past, they prefer to use the simple and open words “waste and damage” at the negotiating table. Concerned that the rich world will be alienated, the world’s financial boosters have agreed to speak in this way – at least in the negotiating room. The UN needs cooperation to move forward.
The question remains what is meant by the term “waste and damage”. One idea, spearheaded by Germany ahead of the COP, is the type of insurance that would be paid out in the event of a climate-related disaster. The program, which the EU calls the Global Shield, would likely include aid from rich countries to finance the provision and support disaster relief efforts. At the COP, several countries, including Belgium and Ireland, have provided funding for the program.
But some countries want a fund for damage and destruction within the UN. Among the proponents of risk are some of the small island countries that introduced the idea of loss and damage, who say that insurance arrangements cannot come from the policy from the affected countries. Michai Robertson, who leads the economic dialogue at AOSIS, a group of small islands, said: “Climatic damage is getting worse, some places are not safe. In addition, he adds, insurance is good to cover sudden disasters but not gradual changes such as desertification and sea level rise. The member states of the group have many ideas on how to contribute to the UN fund for loss and damage, including money from polluters or other means such as profits from oil companies.
By the end of Tuesday in Egypt, world leaders leave, leaving the negotiators with their marching orders, some seem to be optimistic about the implementation of the fund. “Suffice it to say that the threat is increasing,” said Mottley of Barbados at a press conference on Tuesday. There are challenges ahead, including indications that the United Kingdom is unwilling to provide funding and uncertainty about the role of the US as it emerges from the mid-term elections. Also unclear is the role of countries, such as China and India, which are major polluters today but have not contributed much to the problem in the past. On the sidelines of the discussion, Mr. Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, emphasized that everyone must do something. “The polluter must pay.” I don’t think there is a free license for any country,” he said.
At present, many activities are taking place outside the UN framework. At COP27, New Zealand and other polluters set their losses and damages, joining a group led by Scotland, a non-UN member, which has pledged $7 million in losses and damages. This is “very little” in light of the billions in damage and loss, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted at the event. Covering these huge costs, he said, cannot be solved unless there is a “coalition of willing people” who have decided to take action on their own, highlighting the importance of finding consensus in the COP negotiations.
He turned to Huq, who was helping him, thanking him for his years of work to make this possible. He replied that he is often asked why he still goes to the COP every year, even though he fails. The answer is constant hope. This year, at least, they have been talking money, and that is the beginning. “We have been playing this game for many years, and we have been losing,” he said later, “but this time we won.”