For more than three decades, developing nations have pressed for “loss and damage” money, asking rich industrialized countries to provide compensation for the costs of destructive storms, heat waves and droughts fueled by global warming.

But the United States and other wealthy countries had blocked the idea for fear that they could be held legally liable for the greenhouse gas emissions.

At the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 27) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, I had a front-row seat to the negotiation of this matter and others. Contentious debate in Egypt resulted in agreement to establish a loss and damage fund that would help poor, vulnerable countries deal with climate disasters created by the greenhouse gases spewed by wealthy nations – gases that are dangerously heating the planet.

What comes next matters; The agreement says nations cannot be held legally liable for payments. It calls for a committee with representatives from 24 countries to work over the next year to figure out exactly what form the fund should take, which countries should contribute and where the money should go.

The creation of a loss and damage fund was almost derailed by disputes that ran into the dawn hours of the conference’s final day over other elements of a broader agreement, including how deeply countries should cut their emissions and whether to include language that explicitly called for a phaseout of coal, natural gas and oil.

Developing nations made it clear that if this summit, held on the African continent, did not address loss and damage it would be seen as a moral failure. “The announcement that a loss and danger fund will be created offers hope to vulnerable communities all over the world,” said Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s minister for climate change. “And gives some credibility to the COP process.”


Pakistan, which led a group of 134 developing nations in pushing for loss and damage payments, provided a fresh reminder of the destructive forces of climate change. Over the summer, devastating flooding in Pakistan resulted in more than 1,500 deaths, plunging one-third of the country underwater and causing $30 billion in damages.

There is also no guarantee that wealthy countries will deposit money into the fund. The developed world was supposed to give $100 billion to various funds by 2020 to help the developing world pay for the climate-crisis produced destruction, and then give $100 billion per year until 2025, but they are still falling short.

While American diplomats agreed to a fund, the money must be appropriated by Congress. With Republicans, who largely oppose climate aid, set to take over the House in January, the prospects of Congress approving an entirely new pot of money for loss and damage appear dim.

“Sending U.S. taxpayer dollars to a U.N. sponsored green slush fund is completely misguided,” said Sen. John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming. “The Biden administration should focus on lowering spending at home, not shipping money to the U.N. for new climate deals.”

For their part, a variety of European nations have pledged more than $300 million to address loss and damage so far, with most of that money going toward a new insurance program to help countries recover from disasters like flooding.

One area of concern at the talks was whether nations would continue to strive to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. The 197 nations agreed to do so. The world is currently on a trajectory to warm by 2.1 to 2.9 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

If that happens, entire countries would disappear and the places we love and live in will be gone.

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