COP 27 Loss and Damage Fund: A Step Forward for Climate Change Management

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Frank F Islam

The UN Climate Change COP 27 summit in Egypt closed on November 20 with a breakthrough “loss and damage” fund deal. This fund, to be financed by developed nations, will bring some relief to those developing and poorer countries that have been severely impacted by climate-related calamities.
Getting this deal done took a marathon session at the end of the UN convening. Pakistan, as chair of the Group of 77 plus China, played a critical role in gaining support for the agreement, first by ensuring that it was placed on the conference’s agenda and then by focusing the attention necessary to secure its approval during the meeting.
There have been discussions about the issue of a loss and damage fund for vulnerable countries at UN Climate Change conferences for nearly three decades. This was the first time, however, that the issue was officially added to a conference agenda.
After the fund was approved, Pakistan representatives termed this an outcome achieved through the exemplary solidarity and steadfastness of the developing countries and acknowledged the cooperation of developed countries in recognizing the need for the fund. Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari labelled it a big victory for all of those who suffered from the devastation of climate change.
UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said, “This outcome moves us forward.”
“We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage, deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”
While the loss and damage fund is a step forward, it is just the beginning of what could be a long and arduous process. The agreement calls for the government setting up a transitional committee to recommend the working mechanism for the new funding arrangement.
The first meeting of this committee is likely to be held before the end of March 2023. The agreement also established the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage to connect developing countries with technical assistance, knowledge and resources. How the network will provide that assistance has not yet been specified.
Although there are still many questions to be answered, this forward momentum is important for Pakistan. This is the case because Pakistan has been facing the dire consequence of global climate challenges for years.
2022 has been particularly devastating for the nation because of a historic heat wave and forest fires earlier in the year and the unprecedented flash floods more recently causing colossal losses and damages. Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Office stated, “The catastrophic climate change induced floods in Pakistan early this year that resulted in losses and damages of over US$ 30 billion refocused the global attention towards this critical issue.”
As I wrote earlier, Pakistan accounts for less than one per cent of global greenhouse emissions. So, it is somewhat comforting to see the developed nations that account for the majority of those emissions beginning to pay attention to and assume some responsibility for the catastrophic problems they have primarily created.
As I also noted in my earlier writings, however, climate challenges are generally attributable to two factors: globally-driven climate change and inadequate preparation within a country to deal with climate change problems. I have also recommended measures, which could be implemented by the Pakistan government to address these conditions.
Today, I outline a multifaceted approach involving civic engagement, governmental action, and global accountability.
Solving local, state and national problems is not just the role of government. It is also the responsibility of good citizens, who are concerned about the future of their country and children. Citizens can play a pivotal role in implementing approaches to confront and mitigate climate change problems at the local level.
This can be accomplished by means such as:
Examining personal consumption and energy utilization practices.
Engaging in conversations in social circles and on social media about neighbourhood climate issues.
Using infographics to diagnose climate concerns.
Forming community groups and organisations to do things, such as cleaning up polluted areas or planting trees to renourish the environment.
The government can reinforce and expand the actions of its citizens by providing resources to support their local initiatives and securing the funding required for larger undertakings. Pakistan has not done very well in this regard to date.
An analysis of environmental projects pitched by Pakistan to different international funding agencies revealed that the country has barely managed to access global climate finances.
Dr Muhammad Khurshid, an environmental consultant states, “This very limited access to the international financing mechanism is mostly because of limited capacity, lack of technical expertise and a failure to submit quality proposals that allow the country to benefit from the available climate and other green-financing mechanisms.”
This assessment indicates that Pakistan would benefit from developing a team of highly trained professionals and a well-defined planning process to secure already available international funds and to take advantage of the Loss and Damage fund when it is in place.
As I observed, near the outset of this piece, the time for when there will be a fund or the amount in the fund has not yet been determined. Given this, Pakistan should remain in a leadership position, along with its allies, to hold developed countries accountable for establishing a loss and damage fund as quickly as possible.
Pakistan is to be commended for the initial results achieved on the creation of a loss and damage fund. As the old saying goes, “Well begun is half done.” The need now is to get the other half done.
Moving forward, Pakistan and the other vulnerable nations must ensure the COP27 pledges are translated into reality. If they disappear, catastrophic climate change conditions will not. And, we will all suffer the consequences–with those in the developing nations suffering the most.