Delegates from nearly 200 countries kicked off the UN climate summit in Egypt on Sunday with an agreement to discuss compensating poor nations for mounting damage linked to global warming, placing the controversial topic on the agenda for the first time since climate talks began decades ago.
The agreement set a constructive tone for the COP27 summit in the seaside resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where governments hope to keep alive a goal to avert the worst impacts of planetary warming even as a slew of crises – from a land war in Europe to rampant inflation – distract the international focus.
For more than a decade, wealthy nations have rejected official discussions on what is referred to as loss and damage, the term used to describe rich nations paying out funds to help poor countries cope with the consequences of global warming for which they bear little blame.
At COP26 last year in Glasgow, high-income nations, including the United States and the European Union blocked a proposal for a loss and damage financing body, instead supporting a three-year dialogue for funding discussions.
But pressure to address the issue has been increasing as weather calamities mount, including this year’s floods in Pakistan that caused economic losses of more than $30 billion and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
“The inclusion of this agenda reflects a sense of solidarity for the victims of climate disasters,” COP27 President Sameh Shoukry told the opening plenary.
He added the decision created “an institutionally stable space” for discussion of funding for loss and damage, and that the talks are intended to lead to a conclusive decision “no later than 2024”.
The issue could ramp up diplomatic tensions already stretched by Russia’s war on Ukraine, a surge in energy prices and the risks of economic recession triggered by inflation.
Negotiations on Saturday night before the agenda’s adoption “were extremely challenging,” Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at the non-profit Climate Action Network International, said.