In a historic move for poorer nations, government negotiators from over 200 countries secured an agreement to create a “loss and damage” fund for the devastation done by extreme weather exacerbated by climate change.
Nations reached the agreement Sunday, at the end of annual climate conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The idea of wealthy nations paying reparations for was first proposed by climate-vulnerable countries 30 years ago.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement via NBC News: “I am pleased that COP27 has opened a new chapter on financing loss and damage, and laid the foundations for a new method for solidarity between those in need and those in a position to help."
World leaders also reaffirmed their goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, though data reveals in order to achieve that threshold, emissions would have to drop 50 percent by 2030.
Activists have since called out the summit for not targeting restrictions at fossil fuel companies, who tend to be the worst global emitters.
“COP27 has kept alive the goal of 1.5C. Unfortunately however, it has not delivered on a commitment by the world’s major emitters to phase down fossil fuels, nor new commitments on climate mitigation," der Leyen added.
"Loss and damage" funds cover the effects of environmental disasters, including storms, flooding, and drought. The 134-country campaign to create the fund was spearheaded by Pakistan, which suffered a devastating flood over the summer that left 1,500 people dead and one third of the country underwater. The damages amounted to around $30 billion, despite Pakistan emitting less than one percent of global emissions.
Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s minister for climate change, said via The New York Times that “the announcement offers hope to vulnerable communities all over the world who are fighting for their survival from climate stress, and gives some credibility to the COP process.”
The European Union and United States are currently pushing for China to agree to contribute funds, as the largest global emitter. However, China is classified by the UN as a developing nation, making them eligible for climate compensation.
There is also no guarantee that the U.S. will contribute funds, as they previously pledged alongside the European Union to provide $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing nations shift to clean energy, and have fallen short of that goals by tens of billions of dollars annually.
Mohamed Adow, executive director of Power Shift Africa, believes that establishing a fund is useless without money in it.
“We have the fund, but we need money to make it worthwhile. What we have is an empty bucket," he said. "Now we need to fill it so that support can flow to the most impacted people who are suffering right now at the hands of the climate crisis.”