THE COP27 climate summit in Egypt concluded on Sunday with the announcement of an agreement to set up a “loss and damage” fund.
The fund is to be used to help developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Some have hailed this as a victory. But in the context of the overall outcome of the summit, it is little more than a cop-out.
Certainly, the agreement to set up the fund represents an important moment in the world’s response to the crisis.
For far too long, rich countries have ignored the fact that developing countries have more to lose when it comes to the repercussions of climate change.
All countries face the consequences of extreme weather, but many developing countries are in the direct line of fire, vulnerable to things like drought, sea-level rise, flooding and storms.
Alongside geographic disparities are economic realities. Developing countries simply do not have the money to reconstruct after being struck by disasters.
Ironically, a direct line can be drawn between such economic inequalities and the pollution-rich industrialisation processes enjoyed by many of today’s superpowers during the colonial and neo-colonial era.
As is the case with the history of slavery and the call for reparations, or the many tragic and unfolding legacies of imperialism, bigger countries often suffer convenient bouts of amnesia or else have blind spots in the way they have shaped the world’s problems.
So for a group of countries to admit to the need for a special fund to assist the developing world is potentially momentous.
Yet only “potentially,” because COP27 saw no real headway on the need for bigger countries to cut their emissions at a faster pace or to better police polluters within their jurisdictions.
After two weeks, which saw the contribution of over 112 heads of state and more than 46,000 delegates, all that could be agreed upon in relation to emissions was a reaffirmation of the current 1.5 degrees-Celsius heating limit.
Scientists have long warned this benchmark is not enough. And many of the countries in the developed world are not even meeting this low goal.
Two of the biggest polluters, China and the US, spent the summit bickering. Russia, meanwhile, also one of the worst polluters, has destabilised already fraught global geopolitics through its actions in Ukraine.
It is easy to see, therefore, why many wish to cling to the new fund as a victory.
But who will pay into the fund, how much and under what conditions withdrawals will be made – none of this has been worked out.
Meanwhile, climate change is an existential crisis.
It makes absolutely no sense to promise to pay damages when the people affected will – thanks to extreme, cataclysmic weather conditions – potentially be dead.