Congress, Vulnerable Nations Call for Progress on Loss and Damage

Congress, Vulnerable Nations Call for Progress on Loss and Damage

A group of US Representatives led by progressive caucus members Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) wrote a letter to Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry recommending that the US support the creation of a Loss & Damage Finance Facility under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Climate Change (UNFCCC), designed to distribute public funds from wealthy countries to those in the developing world that are most vulnerable to climate change.

This letter -- signed by thirteen members of Congress including "Squad members” Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Cori Bush (D-MO) -- emphasizes the urgent need for leadership to ensure an equitable climate justice framework for the world, stating:

Ad hoc humanitarian assistance flows, insurance schemes, debt-based financing, and neglected existing funds under the UNFCCC are wholly insufficient to address the current reality in which countries are facing billions of dollars in loss and damage needs. A collaborative international effort is needed to make more high-quality, accessible, and fit-for-purpose financing available, especially to account for losses and damages caused by climate emergencies. Such financing must be supplementary to climate financing for mitigation and adaptation and should be unconditional public funding that does not deepen the debt crises faced by many vulnerable countries.

Robin Hood: The Global Story of Climate Change Loss and Damage - and Who Should Pay For It, May 3, 2022.

International Peace Institute: Discussing Financing Options on Loss & Damage Ahead of COP27, October 20, 2022.

Democracy Now!: Who Should Pay for Climate Crisis? Global South Demands "Loss and Damage” from Wealthy Nations, November 16, 2022.

Why This Matters

After a year of catastrophic extreme weather that devastated many developing nations, loss and damage has become a central issue at COP27. While draft texts for a formal global financing fund have been under consideration, leaders have yet to commit to a solution.

At the G20 Summit in Bali, leaders from the world’s wealthiest nations urged COP27 negotiators to "make progress on loss and damage.” Many are starting to take stronger positions. At the climate conference, President Biden reiterated a pledge to work with Congress to increase US international climate finance.

Guardian News: Joe Biden delivers speech at Cop27 summit in Egypt, November 11, 2022.

But these promises are difficult to fulfill. Increased funding requires Congressional approval, which has historically been difficult to obtain given the complete absence of Republican support. There is also a battle ahead over the language of financial assistance to the developing world. While Pakistan and other countries have begun using the word "reparations” to describe loss and damage financing, the word itself is anathema at home in US politics. Policy expert Paul Bledsoe expressed a pessimistic view to the New York Times: "America is culturally incapable of meaningful reparations. Having not made them to Native Americans or African Americans, there is little to no chance they will be seriously considered regarding climate impacts to foreign nations. It’s a complete non-starter in our domestic politics.”

It is currently unclear how the US will move forward -- but this letter indicates that one small faction in Congress is focused on supporting increased loss and damage funding.

CNA: Pakistan’s climate change minister calls for well-defined system for climate change payments, November 10, 2022.

PBS NewsHour: Gap between pledges and action sparks criticism at COP27 climate summit, November 16, 2022.

"Failure On Loss And Damage Fund Is A Failure For The World”

The stakes are enormous for developing nations in need of urgent assistance. In East Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are undergoing their worst drought in 40 years, ushering in a humanitarian crisis. Millions have been left hungry, a matter made worth given global increases in food prices. Across the rest of the continent, 12% of the population is facing food insecurity due to floods.

ABC News: Millions in East Africa face famine triggered by drought, May 11, 2022.

Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University, summed up the gap in urgency between developing nations and rich ones for the New York Times: "You hear the language from developing countries and it’s like a sharp knife. I hear African leaders say: ‘We’ve always understood the Congress is difficult. But do the American people not understand what’s happening to the planet?"

Meanwhile, Nigel Topping, the United Nations’ High-Level Champion of Egypt, said: "To complain about your difficult politics is insulting to every other country. Everybody’s politics is difficult.”

The EU has thrown its weight behind its commitments to loss and damage by announcing a $1 billion program to promote climate resilience in Africa. But this alone is not enough to protect vulnerable nations. As German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stated in a news conference: "The fact that we have now succeeded in putting this demand on the agenda of a climate conference for the first time is opening an important door, and we must now build on this.”

Bloomberg Live: Tubiana on Climate Loss & Damage, November 9, 2022.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) put together a statement urging rich nations to put their money where their mouths are. "We have come too far to fail on loss and damage finance. Three quarters of humanity is relying on a favourable outcome at COP27,” said the AOSIS Chair, the Honourable Minister Molwyn Joseph of Antigua and Barbuda.

As the end of COP27 approaches, the clock is ticking. "We need actual money," Avinash Persaud, special envoy to Barbados prime minister, told Axios.

AOSIS Media: Loss and damage discussions can no longer be delayed, September 14, 2022.

Down to Earth: Loss and Damage COP27 | Will developed nations pay for their CO2 emissions?, November 3, 2022.

AOSIS: Loss and Damage SIDS, June 15, 2022.

United Nations: #COP27 Dialogues - Climate Early Warning Systems, Loss and Damage | Amina Mohammed | United Nations, November 12, 2022.