While many scientists, scholars and activists at the COP which began in Dubai agreed that it was a step in the right direction, they say the challenge towards implementation has only begun
On the very first day at the UN climate summit, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States and the European Union pledged 475 million dollars to the Loss and Damage Fund that was created last year in Egypt. Thus bringing to life a fund to assist poorer countries facing the brunt of erratic weather events and climate change, caused mainly by higher carbon emissions of the wealthy nations.
Every year, world leaders, scientists, business leaders, and civil society gather at the definitive annual global climate change event – or COP – to negotiate steps to tackle climate change challenges. This year the United Arab Emirates is hosting the conference in Dubai.
Last year, at the same conference, countries agreed that such a fund was the need of the hour. They had estimated that around 400 billion dollars should be the initial corpus. Merely a fraction of it has been pledged so far.
While many scientists, scholars and activists at the COP agreed that it was a step in the right direction, they say the challenge towards implementation has only begun. “We have got the fund, we are in serious business now,” said Harjeet Singh, head of Global Political Strategy at Climate Action Network International. “We have to be diligent about its implementation,”
Experts expressed concern that one of the first struggles is to figure out who is eligible for the money. This was a discussion in last year’s COP in Egypt as well.
Broadly, many experts agree that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) should be eligible for the money, as many of them might disappear in the not so distant future. But, when it comes to developing nations, the disparity in incomes within the country, vulnerability to climate emergencies and capacity to overcome them differ vastly.
How does one determine if the heat-wave ridden north Indian plains deserve the funds or the cyclone-ridden south Indian peninsula? Given that the south of the country is richer, does that make it less eligible?
Importantly, it is not merely about immediate allocation but also projection for the future. Take for instance the current UN lists of forty six least developed countries. In 2026, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal are said to “graduate” from the list. “But that does not make them any less vulnerable to climate emergencies,” said Singh. “Will we stop funding them at that point?”
Bangladesh experiences floods, cyclones and landslides almost every year. Nepal and Bhutan are earthquake prone and are nestled within the vulnerable Himalayas.
The next question to ask is how does one assess if the damage caused due to a natural disaster can be attributed to climate change? This is a hot potato question no one wants to tackle in public, but is expected to be negotiated tooth and nail in the coming months.
For Joyce Kimutai of the African Climate and Development Initiative, there is no doubt that attribution science has proved that loss and damage is real. “Therefore, science should be the basis to design the fund,” she said. But, she also cautioned that attribution could not be done equally in all parts of the world.
The data available on heat waves in Uttar Pradesh, for instance, is vastly different from the data available from Maharashtra on sea level rise. “I would say, we start where the data is available,” said Dr Diana Francis a professor at Khalifa University. This might push countries to gather more data on weather patterns and climate change.
In many ways, the allocation of money through this fund is asking experts to quantify human suffering. Are erratic rainfalls in the Indo-Gangetic plains hurting food security to the country worse off than the earthquakes in Nepal, which destroy entire villages?
Scientists also fear that if the basis to decide the allocation of funds is not hard data, there might be too many requests from countries, which will adversely affect vulnerable communities. However, there is a catch.
While talking of quantifying, there is a question of non-economic losses which are characteristically unquantifiable. These include historical factors such as colonialism to destruction of culture. “This would require us to separate events that can be conclusively proven to be a result of climate change,” said Anand Patwardhan, a professor at the University of Maryland, whose research focuses on mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change.
An example might be the 2022 floods in Pakistan which killed about 2000 people and cost the country about 15 billion dollars. But, how much of the 2018 floods in Kerala were due to man made actions is a hard question to answer.
Given that we are now talking about increasing instances of such climate emergencies, “it is imperative that affluent nations meet their financial obligations,” said Singh. Once we have more money, we can strategise implementation in a better fashion, he said.
(Raksha Kumar is a media fellow, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development)
Published in The NEWS Minute
Published on December 2, 2023
Link: $475 mn climate disaster fund pledged on COP 28 Day 1: Implementation is the challenge (thenewsminute.com)