The issue of loss and damage at COP26: Progress and frustrations
One of the main contentious issues at the Glasgow summit was ‘Loss and Damage’, as it pertains to supporting the climate victims of extreme weather and climate change
The two-week-long COP26 summit ended on 13 November this year in Glasgow, one day after their scheduled conclusion declaring the Glasgow Climate Pact to reinforce action and finalise the Paris Agreement rulebook.
While "Keep 1.5C alive" was one of the major discussions at the summit, there were other issues that were discussed.
For example, finance and recognition of loss and damages, arranging additional finance from the richer countries for adaptation; and $100 billion in climate finance a year for the developing countries to help those cut emissions and cope with the impacts of extreme weather etc. - could be noted.
One of the main contentious issues at the Glasgow summit was "Loss and Damage", as it pertains to supporting the victims of extreme weather and climate change.
The phrase "loss and damage" was used for the first time in a COP summit. It is estimated that climate impact has caused residual damages amounting to $1.2 trillion. The inquisitive eyes of experts and the vulnerable countries were on the issue and what decisions were being made from the discussions.
The developing countries made a major effort at the summit to ensure dedicated funds for climate refugees - those who lost their homes, lives, and livelihoods because of global warming caused by burning fossil fuels and deforestation. But it was not easy.
As the summit approached its final day, expectations - on the outcome of loss and damage- soared to a new height when the G77 and China proposed a dedicated funding facility.
However, in the end, the move of G77 and the developing countries was blocked by the United States and the countries of the European Union, leading to the final day's informal session locked in talks over finances for victims of the climate crisis.
As a result, the developing countries got frustrated as the rich nations have consistently refused to accept liability or calls for compensation.
In the plenary session, the vulnerable countries spoke, presenting their condition. Bangladesh said that the country is struggling with its climate refugees and "hundreds of thousands of people displaced by sea-level rise, flooding and intense cyclones" while Kenya said their "people are going hungry because of drought;" Tuvalu islands are sinking.
Terming it as "unbalanced", the countries said that the global south "feels cheated" once again as the wealthy nations are again avoiding responsibilities for their role in the climate crisis.
At the informal plenary session, Bhutan, the leader of LDC Group said, "LDC group came to COP26 with high expectations. Our call for ambition has risen with the decades in line with 1.5C, assurance on climate finance and most important decisions on loss and damage and particularly finance for loss and damage. We do agree with many that the text is not balanced but we also understand the text will not make us all happy."
"On this note, we would like to register that the outcome of loss and damage was not what we expected. From the very beginning of this meeting our position on loss and damage should be reflected equally in both COP and also CMA decisions and have a clear process to provide support for loss and damage."
The LDC group also has asked to adopt a text which is adequate to address the climate crisis urging us to take an incredibly important step together adopting the text.
After the final decision came out in the name of the "Glasgow Climate Pact", Professor Saleemul Huq, a leading climate scientist said, "We saw whose agenda counted in at COP26 and whose did not (indicating the vulnerable developing countries)."
"Now we will see whose spin prevails! The good COP narrative is for the polluters or the bad COP narrative is for the victims of pollution."
Harjeet Singh, a senior advisor of Climate Action Network International says, "COP26 fails to respond to the urgency of acting on climate change and helping people rebuild their ravaged homes and farms."
He added, "Developing countries' proposal to set up a mechanism to mobilise and channel money to vulnerable people has been brushed aside by the rich nations, particularly the US, Australia, Japan, and the European Union. While the outcome from the summit recognised the gap in dealing with losses and damages in developing countries, the step to provide finance and deliver justice to the climate victims has been delayed. We are walking in inches when we must move in miles."
However, there are some noteworthy progress such as countries agreeing to call out coal, double adaptation finance, and finalise rules for carbon trading, in a bid to "keep 1.5C alive".
The UK presidency made an effort to conduct shuttle diplomacy with the aim of finding a landing ground on loss and damage including the phrase "loss and damage" explicitly as one of the major agenda items of COP26.
On loss and damage, the countries agreed to establish a Glasgow Dialogue between Parties, the relevant organisations and stakeholders.
As written in the Glasgow Climate Pact, the goals of this dialogue would be "to discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimise and address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate change".
The pact also "acknowledges that climate change has already caused and will increasingly cause loss and damage and that, as temperatures rise, impacts from climate and weather extremes, as well as slow-onset events, will pose an ever-greater social, economic and environmental threat."
However, the Glasgow summit keeps the issues of Santiago network for further discussion in the final text, "welcomes the further operationalisation of the Santiago network for averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including the agreement on its functions and process for further developing its institutional arrangements."
Harjeet Singh said that some progress had been made, but without finance, "We are walking in inches when we must move in miles."
The milestone of the COP26 on loss and damage was the Scottish government declaration to finance a $2m pledge for loss and damage.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland made the announcement on November 1 that the Scottish government will fund $1m million and later they increased it to $2m.
Another significant development was the philanthropic moves - Children's Investment Fund Foundation, the European Climate Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and the Global Green Grants Fund- providing $3m in initial support for losses and damages.
While announcing the $3m, the philanthropies, in a joint statement, said, "The creation of a Glasgow Loss & Damage Facility at COP26 could signal a new era for global climate solidarity…"
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, told The Business Standard, "We must keep the issue alive for negotiation at the next COP in Egypt, where we hope there will be much progress."
As such, the issue of loss and damage will get the most attention at the next COP27, with the hope of funding for victims of extreme weather conditions and rising sea levels.
In the ending message of UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, "I want to make a particular appeal for our future work in relation to adaptation and the issue of loss and damage. Adaptation isn't a technocratic issue, it is life or death."
He said, "We have many more seeds to plant along the path...... Never give up. Never retreat. Keep pushing forward. I will be with you all the way. COP 27 starts now."
Shamsuddin Illius is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.