Ireland takes seat at talks on loss and damage funds for climate vulnerable countries

Sinead Walsh, director of the climate unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs, starts work on the new 'transitional committee' in Egypt today. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Caroline O'Doherty

Ireland takes it seat today on an international committee tasked with turning into action the loss and damage commitments from the last UN climate conference.

The first meeting of the “transitional committee” will begin the work of teasing out how reliable funding to compensate poor countries worst affected by climate change can be sourced and channelled.

Ireland is sharing a seat with Germany and is represented by Dr Sinead Walsh, director of the climate unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs and former ambassador to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The agreement to establish a loss and damage fund was one of the few achievements from COP27, the UN climate conference held in Egypt last November. As country representatives return to the talks table in Egypt for this week’s meeting, aid agencies stressed they must do more than talk.

Chief executive of ActionAid Ireland Karol Balfe said the delegates carried a huge responsibility.

“Defining how the new loss and damage fund will work in practice, including ways it will be governed, is of utmost importance,” she said.

“For far too long developed countries have failed to take responsibility for the overwhelming role they have played in causing the climate crisis.”

Advocacy manager with Concern Sally Tyldesley also stressed the importance of the gathering.

“The world’s poorest people are already footing the bill for the damage currently being done by climate change,” she said.

“For example, in 2015, rural households in Bangladesh spent an estimated $2bn (€1.85bn) on climate and disaster risk management.

“To do this, households living in poverty had to divert money away from basic needs, such as food, education, and health, to repair damage to their homes, replace animals or destroyed crops, and implement disaster risk management measures, such as raising their houses above flood levels.”

Ireland played a key role in getting agreement on the principle of loss and damage funding over the line at COP27.

The challenge now is to put a solid shape on the commitment before COP28, which will be held in Dubai in December.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said urgently scaling up finance for loss and damage was a key priority for Ireland.

“It is hoped that the first meeting of the committee will come up with a detailed and realistic plan for how the committee will achieve its task of developing recommendations on how to operationalise the funding arrangements, which are to include a fund, by COP28 in Dubai in December,” a spokesperson said.

“In addition, the committee will start the work of looking at what finance is already available for loss and damage from various organisations and hence, what the key gaps are that need to be funded by the new arrangements.

“The committee will also start the discussion of what innovative sources of funding might be possible to fund new arrangements.”

Among innovative sources suggested at COP27 were levies on airline tickets, freight shipping and other high emission industries.