Climate Talks: Wealthy Countries Urged to Foot Bill for Weather-Related Disasters

Nov 20th, 2013 | By | Category: News, UNFCCC

cop-19The Guardian: The proposal by developing countries that their wealthier counterparts be held financially responsible for the damage incurred by extreme climate events such as typhoon Haiyan and droughts in Africa has become the most explosive issue at the UN’s climate change conference in Warsaw. With neither side prepared to give way on the principle of “loss and damage”, confrontation looms at the close of the talks on Friday.

Earlier this year, governments agreed to resolve the issue of possible recompense. But with only two days of high-level negotiations remaining, positions have hardened. Some of the least developed countries have threatened to quit the talks over the situation.

“This is a red line for us,” said Munjural Khan, a spokesman for theLeast Developed Countries (LDC), a coalition of 49 nations that, though the most vulnerable to climate change, claim to have contributed the least to the problem. “We have been thinking of ways to harden our position, to the point of walking out of the negotiations.”

“I expect this to go to the wire, to the last minute of the last hour. It’s all or nothing,” added Saleemul Huq, the Bangladeshi scientist whose work on loss and damage with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London helped put the issue of compensation on the conference agenda.

Huq said the G77 coalition of developing countries was united behind the LDC and Alliance of Small Island States, a group of low-lying coastal countries that have similar development challenges and concerns about the environment. “I see unprecedented unity among the developing countries. It is a win-or-lose issue. If they get a mechanism, the developing countries will win.”

Developed countries have been reluctant to address the issue, blocking calls for a full debate and delaying negotiations. They dismiss the idea of setting up a new global body as “pointless”.

But the G77 and other countries say their wealthier counterparts have only themselves to blame if the loss and damage issue has become central to the Warsaw talks.

“They have consistently delayed helping developing countries adapt to climate change and have not reduced emissions, as agreed. It’s because of a failure of mitigation and adaptation, that we need to talk about it,” said Huq. “Agreed liability is better than unagreed. It’s in their interests to address loss and damage now.”

The high cost of delaying action on climate change adaptation was illustrated on Tuesday with the publication of a UN environment report suggesting that it will cost African countries about $50bn a year to adapt by 2050, but $350bn a year if it is delayed until the 2070s.

Typhoon Haiyan, which is expected to cost tens of billions of pounds, has concentrated minds on the rising cost of environmental change, according to Khan.

“We see the impacts of climate change are happening now,” he said. “We cannot wait to adapt in 2020, or some time in the future. But we have no resources. If rich countries had helped us with resources years ago, this would not have happened.”

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