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With UNFCCC talks on the horizon, loss and damage initiatives gain momentum

Climate leaders from vulnerable countries this week issued a renewed plea for the international community – especially heavy polluters – to pay hard-hit communities to recover from climate-related loss and damage.

The interventions came at an online event on Tuesday 3 May.

Now is the moment – urged Vanessa Nakate, the Ugandan youth climate activist – for rich, historical polluters to disburse funds to compensate those suffering from loss and damage:

“We don’t need help in the form of formal statements and words. The time has run out for promises. What we need right now is action”, she said.

Even in the six months since COP26, Ms Nakate’s home country has been hit by devastating floods, which have swept away houses and displaced residents.

Context for formal discussions

Her remarks come in the run-up to the Glasgow Dialogue on Loss and Damage, which will begin at the Bonn climate conference in June this year and go until mid-2024. (More information about the Glasgow Dialogue on the Bonn conference agenda, point 22).

The Glasgow Dialogue was agreed by governments at COP26 to “discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimize and address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate change” (Glasgow Climate Pact, paragraph 73).

Ms Nakate’s remarks also fell on the eve of a Technical UNFCCC Workshop about the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage – a process which has so far focused on “catalyzing technical assistance” to “vulnerable developing countries”. 

Glasgow Loss and Damage Finance Facility

Calls are growing from civil society activists in affected countries and “a wide, wide support base beyond the usual support base” for a Glasgow Loss and Damage Finance Facility, said Tasneem Essop of South Africa and CAN International, at Tuesday’s event.

The idea is that this Facility would go beyond technical assistance to provide monies for climate-affected people to recover and rebuild sustainably, after losses.

The formal Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a negotiation among governments – as the name suggests.

These governmental Parties did not discuss a Loss and Damage Finance Facility at COP26 in 2021. However, it should have been on the agenda, said Ms Essop, as “a fundamental justice issue”.

Nonetheless, COP26 saw several announcements on loss and damage financing by private philanthropies and non-Party state actors.* A group of philanthropies including the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation collectively pledged $3 million and the Governments of Wallonia and Scotland both pledged funds for communities affected by loss and damage.

Minister Mairi McAllan of the Scottish Government explained, at Tuesday’s event:

“[At COP26], the Scottish Government set ourselves the job of responding to those hit first and worst by climate change. We know that communities are already living with and dying from climate impacts.”

Scotland’s Climate Justice Fund will now seek to directly address loss and damage in partner countries in Africa.

“A formal facility for loss and damage is ultimately the goal, but there is much we can do in the meantime to tangibly address loss and damage,” Minister McAllan said.

“We hope around this [new Scottish finance] we can improve our understanding on how funding can be deployed. We know our funding for this programme is small in global terms, but we hope can go a long way to enable other countries to follow our lead to develop a framework to be used at scale.”

Growing momentum

Momentum on loss and damage has grown since COP26. In early 2022, the V20 Group of Finance Ministers from climate-vulnerable countries launched a new loss and damage finance window within their CVF and V20 Joint Multi-Donor Fund.

The V20 comprises 55 member countries representing 1.4 billion people, from a range of low- and middle-income countries and Small Island Developing States.

V20 Finance Ministers say they will begin testing the loss and damage finance facility. They already contribute their own revenues to the fund, and they have invited G7 and G20 members and private philanthropies to channel further monies to it. 

According to the V20 Communique, the compounding pressure from climate shocks, the Covid-19 crisis and the Ukraine war have intensified the urgent need for this fund. Many of their members are in debt distress.

As a consequence, V20 members face being “wall[ed]-off [from] public options for investing in climate action to protect our economies”, the Communique states.

Road to COP27 in Egypt

Processes such as those above, which sit outside the UNFCCC, can be important to influence the UNFCCC process – noted Laura Schaefer, a loss and damage finance analyst at Germanwatch. In addition, she cited the German G7 Presidency’s current initiative to create a ‘global shield’ against climate risk for the most vulnerable. But there’s an important caveat: such initiatives “need to be at scale to meet the needs of people” Ms Schaefer said.

 “The UNFCCC is the only forum where all countries affected are sitting around the table,” Ms Schaefer continued. “That’s why in the end, these initiatives need to be linked to the UNFCCC process.”

Beyond immediate talks in Bonn in June, climate leaders are also anticipating progress on loss and damage finance at the COP27 climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in November 2022. It is seen a providing the opportunity for key, new commitments.

“This Glasgow Dialogue cannot be an ongoing, never-ending dialogue for three years, it has to result in something concrete. The first point has to happen at COP27 in Egypt” – Ms Essop stressed.

“The climate crisis is already impacting so many people right now. We need to speed up the action, the finance, the compensation fund for loss and damage. We have been asking for this for a long time” – Ms Nakate of Uganda emphasised.

“There is a need of all of us to build momentum as we head to COP27.”  

Reporting by CASA’s Mairi Dupar. Image (above) – Flooding, Uganda, courtesy Climate Centre.

*Non-Party state actors are devolved and state governments that have their own budgets for international cooperation, like Scotland and Wallonia, but are not represented directly in the UNFCCC talks because they are part of a larger country (like the United Kingdom) or bloc (like the European Union) that has representation there.

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