As COP 27 Begins, Demands for Loss and Damage Compensation Grow Louder

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On Sunday, November 6, the annual two-week UN climate negotiations kicked off in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, with over 35,000 delegates, NGO workers, journalists, and activists from around the world in attendance. One hundred and twenty heads of state will join, including President Biden, who attended briefly on Friday and will attend again after the G20 for the final days.

The climate talks focus, as usual, on nations’ commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and on transferring funding and technology from developed to developing countries. But this year’s climate conference, also known as the Conference of the Parties or COP 27, addresses two additional issues: compensation from developed to developing countries for loss and damages incurred due to climate change; and human rights violations in Egypt under the current authoritarian regime.

According to the Paris Agreement, which was adopted in 2015, nations from around the world will work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (ghgs) to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), a commitment that was renewed at last year’s COP 26 in Glasgow. The ghg reductions to achieve that goal are known as “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs), which are then tallied by the UN to ascertain the collective reduction. The climate accord stipulated that nations must provide details about how much they will reduce their ghgs and by when.

Initially, nations were to put forward these NDCs by 2020 and then submit new NDCs every five years. But at last year’s COP 26, it was proposed that the NDCs be submitted annually, both to keep nations on track with their commitments and to increase the pressure to ratchet up commitments more frequently, given that action must be taken by 2030 to avoid the irreversible impacts of climate change. As COP 27 kicked off, only 24 of almost 200 nations have submitted new or updated climate plans. Last month, the UN Environment Programme’s “Emissions Gap Report 2022” showed that the current commitments to ghg reductions were insufficient, currently putting the world on a path of 2.8 C by the century’s end.

At the UN climate conferences, nations of the Global North and of the Global South often clash, since the former have historically benefited and continue to benefit from, among other things, the burning of fossil fuels, while nations from the Global South have already been disproportionately experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis, ranging from floods to heat waves to drought, though they have contributed the least to CO2 emissions. In 2009, Global North nations agreed to pay $200 billion per year by 2020 for mitigation technologies (to help reduce emissions) and adaptation programs (to address the impacts of climate change; for example, protecting existing and restoring mangroves and coral and oyster reefs, or managed retreat), but the Global North has failed on this commitment.

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