COP27: Negotiating for an outcome on loss and damage to support the most vulnerable
For junior negotiator Prakriti Koirala, the agreement reached at COP27 for a fund dedicated to loss and damage was momentous. Thrashing out the nitty gritty of how the fund will work and where the money will go is a crucial next step.
COP27 was the third time I represented Nepal at the UN climate change negotiations.
Compared with previous COPs, many things were the same: the same pressure to keep pace with developments while trying to keep up with streams of information. The same high intensity of back-to-back meetings. The many late nights.
But a big difference for me at this COP was following one single negotiation track; in previous COPs I had tried to follow multiple agenda items. But the high volumes of information relating to one single topic was incredible – in practice, staying on track was almost impossible.
By following just one topic I could stay focused, engage more fully and maximise my contribution.
The agenda item I opted for was loss and damage, a topic that is deeply personal for me. My interest stems from how climate change is destroying the lives of my people in Nepal and eroding the beauty of our land. Every day I see the lives of people in my community being destroyed by loss and damage. The impacts are deep and irreparable.
Going into COP27, finance for loss and damage was a contentious topic, with developing nations, and the least developed countries in particular, calling for finance for loss and damage to be ringfenced.
My mentor Isatou Camara gave me valuable guidance on how to follow my designated agenda item, in particular staying committed to reading as much information as possible; she also guided me on where and how to get hold of the most up-to-date information, generated constantly as the negotiations progress.
Following discussions with my national focal point, we agreed I would pull together a daily bulletin on loss and damage, covering how dialogues on the topic were progressing, key issues arising, whether decisions had been made and which of these had gone in favour of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group and so on.
This concise information was useful for delegates who were following other negotiation tracks, but wanted a quick and easy way to keep up with progress on loss and damage.
It was satisfying that my efforts were helpful to group members.
A historic COP for loss and damage finance
I was extremely proud of my engagement in, what turned out to be, historic climate negotiations for loss and damage.
Establishing a specific fund for loss and damage at COP27 was a significant step forward. Parties made the monumental choice to establish new financial mechanisms and a separate fund to help developing nations respond to loss and damage. There was also agreement to set up a ‘Transitional Committee’ to advise on how to implement the new financial arrangements under the fund.
The committee expects to make its recommendations to the UNFCCC at COP28, after which parties will take decisions on future institutional arrangements for addressing loss and damage.
These are major steps forward – but now we need to see the money.
What’s still needed
Part 1: operationalising the loss and damage fund
A report on the budget implications for the new fund made clear that major financial resource is needed to realise the related activities.
And further questions on practicalities need to be addressed. For example, the fund is due to start in 2024. But where it will be held, or when or how the money will be distributed has not been fixed. The strong hope is that the majority of money will be channelled to the LDCs − but this remains unclear.
Now, we must actively work on operationalising the loss and damage fund. We must not get distracted with celebrating the establishment of the fund, but remain focused on getting it up and running, with clarity around how the money will be mobilised, how countries can claim from it and what assistance countries will get to do so.
Part 2: responsibility for major emitters
While the outcomes for loss and damage moved in a positive direction, COP27 failed to reach any strong decisions on reducing carbon emissions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made it unequivocal that decisions made in Sharm el-Sheikh should put clear responsibility on developed countries, the biggest contributors to climate change, to significantly step up their mitigation ambition, and agree to phase-out fossil fuels.
But the final text lacked any real ambition to phase out fossil fuels. There were no new targets and no new commitments for countries to reduce emissions.
So while Nepal’s glaciers continue to melt, and bursting glacial lakes threaten to sweep away entire communities, the biggest emitters still remain unaccountable.
Keeping the pressure on
So, it is for my country Nepal that I will stay committed to doing my part. In the coming months on the road to COP28 I will keep my focus on loss and damage. I’ll keep drawing on the guidance and expertise of Isatou and building on the lessons I learnt at COP27.
I’ll stay connected to the loss and damage agenda through ongoing dialogues and via the ‘New Generation’ platform – a group of junior negotiators from the least developed countries. For instance, I was in touch recently with fellow junior negotiator Olivier Ishimwe to discuss our experience in Sharm.
And I will keep hope that, when parties meet later this year at COP28 in Dubai, they will build on the promise of COP27 of supporting the most vulnerable communities and countries who bear the heaviest burden of climate-induced loss and damage.