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In November of 2022, the United Nations (UN) held its 27th annual Climate Conference (COP 27). The biggest development of this conference was the creation of the Loss and Damage Fund. In this case, the term “Loss” in international law generally refers to “that which is irreparable— “the complete disappearance of something,” such as lives, culture, and heritage, while “Damage” refers to “harms that can be repaired, such as bridges and buildings (Sokol, 2022)”. These actions are a direct result of our failures to adapt to our rapidly changing climate. While the creation of this program is long overdue, it is a groundbreaking first step in helping developing nations secure funding to aid in the devastating effects of natural disasters caused by climate change.
The disproportionate effect on developing nations can be seen in several major disasters in 2022 alone. During its monsoon season, Pakistan has been ravaged by extreme flooding in which over 1,700 people have died and over 2 million people have lost their homes. Total loss estimates are expected to be over $20 billion (Reliefweb, 2022). In Africa, similar flooding has killed hundreds of people in Nigeria, as well as Madagascar and Mozambique. In contrast, extreme famine and drought have killed over 2,500 people in Uganda and affected over 8 million in Ethiopia (Dunne, 2022). The common theme amongst these disasters is that these nations contribute very little to the global carbon footprint. For instance, Pakistan contributes less than 1% of the global carbon footprint (Reliefweb, 2022), while the African continent only contributes 4% of emissions (Dunne, 2022). The most significant contributors to the global carbon footprint are G-20 nations that have amassed much of their wealth by exploiting many of the factors that have led to the global climate crisis. Recent research has shown that “the top five emitters (the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, and India) have collectively caused US$6 trillion in income losses from warming since 1990 (Callahan & Mankin, 2022)”. These high-emitting countries have repeatedly reaped the profits gained from the emissions while at the same time causing great harm to underdeveloped nations.
The historic agreement at COP 27 was an important first step in climate mitigation, but the agreement is just the framework of a deal. Whether the fund will be successful or not will largely be tied to the willingness of many of the G20 nations to contribute financially. Historically the United States has been the highest carbon emitter, while China is currently the top contributor. The US has made it clear that the amount of financial support they provide will be dependent on how much China contributes. We must remain hopeful that both sides will understand that the future of climate mitigation lies in their hands, and will recognize that both sides should do their part to help offset the catastrophic damage being done in underdeveloped nations because of their inaction thus far.
Callahan, C. W., & Mankin, J. S. (2022). National attribution of historical climate damages. Climatic Change, 172(40).
Dunne, D. (2022, October 26). Analysis: Africa’s unreported extreme weather in 2022 and climate change. Retrieved December 2022, from CarbonBrief: https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-africas-unreported-extreme-weather-in-2022-and-climate-change/#:~:text=Carbon%20Brief%20analysis%20of%20the,since%20the%20start%20of%202022.
Reliefweb. (2022, October 13). Pakistan Monsoon Floods 2022 Islamic Relief Pakistan (12 October, 2022). Retrieved December 2022, from https://reliefweb.int/report/pakistan/pakistan-monsoon-floods-2022-islamic-relief-pakistan-12-october-2022
Sokol, K. (2022, December 14). What Comes After the Loss and Damage Fund for Responsibility and Repair in a Climate-Disrupted World? Retrieved December 2022, from Lawfare Blog: https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-comes-after-loss-and-damage-fund-responsibility-and-repair-climate-disrupted-world#:~:text=The%20loss%20and%20damage%20fund%20was%20created%20at%20the%2027th,until%20next%20year's%20COP%2028.