Countries to be compensated for climate change
Published 09/12/2012 | 05:00
Poor countries have won historic recognition of the plight they face from the ravages of climate change, wringing a pledge from rich nations that they will receive funds to repair the "loss and damage" incurred.
This is the first time developing countries have received such assurances – and the first time the phrase "loss and damage from climate change" has been enshrined in an international legal document.
Developing countries had been fighting hard for the concession at the fortnight-long UN climate-change talks between 195 nations in Qatar, which ended last night.
Ronald Jumeau, negotiating for the Seychelles, scolded his US counterpart: "If we had had more ambition [on emissions cuts from rich countries], we would not have to ask for so much [money] for adaptation.
"If there had been more money for adaptation [to climate change], we would not be looking for money for loss and damage. What's next? Loss of our islands?"
Ruth Davis of Greenpeace, said: "This is highly significant – it will be the first time the size of the bill for failing to take on climate change will be part of the UN discussions.
"Countries need to understand the risks they are taking in not addressing climate change urgently."
But the pledges stopped well short of any admission of legal liability or the need for compensation on the part of the rich world.
The US had opposed the initial "loss and damage" proposals, which would have set up a new international institution to collect and disperse funds to vulnerable countries.
It also ensured that neither the word "compensation" nor any other term connoting legal liability, was used, in order to avoid litigation.
Instead, the money will be viewed as aid.
However, key questions remain unanswered, including whether "loss and damage" funds will come from humanitarian budgets.
Another question is how the funds will be disbursed. These issues will have to be resolved at next year's climate conference in Warsaw.
Governments also looked set to rescue the Kyoto protocol, the initial targets of which run out at the end of this year.
The EU, Australia, Norway and a few other developed countries have agreed to new carbon-cutting targets under the treaty, which runs to 2020.
A separate strand of the UN negotiations also looks certain to be closed.
This will allow unified discussions to begin on a new global climate treaty that would require both developed and developing countries to cut their emissions.