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Opinion Ireland has failed to demonstrate real leadership on climate justice at COP27
Ross Fitzpatrick of Christian Aid is at COP27 in Egypt.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 14th 2022, 8:00 PM

AS COP27 ENTERS its second week in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, the gravity of the threat posed to the world by climate breakdown could not be clearer.

Amongst the range of issues that countries will continue to discuss, the issue of finance for ‘Loss and Damage’ looks set to be the litmus test for success at COP27.

For developing countries, this would mean the establishment of a loss and damage finance facility to provide the funding needed in the aftermath of climate disasters.

For decades wealthy, polluting countries have refused to even allow formal talks on loss and damage finance as they fear being held liable for trillions of dollars.

Despite being added to the COP agenda for the first time, wealthy countries stripped out language referring to ‘liability’ or ‘compensation’ – a blatant refusal to acknowledge the polluter pays principle – a core element of climate justice. Equally undermining is the desire of wealthy countries to delay any decision on loss and damage finance until 2024.

Facing reality

We know that loss and damage are happening now and will continue to escalate into the future with worsening impacts with every increase in global temperature. Despite this stark reality, a recent report has shown that there is a 50% chance that global warming of 1.5C will be exceeded in nine years should current emissions levels continue unabated.

This year there is added significance of the COP returning to Africa. Despite being responsible for less than 4% of historic global emissions, many African countries are bearing the brunt of the worst effects of the climate crisis.

According to a new report by Christian Aid, based on current climate policies, where global temperature rise reaches 2.7C by the end of the century, African countries can expect to suffer an average GDP hit of -20% by 2050 and of -64% by 2100. Even if countries keep global temperature rise to 1.5C as set out in the Paris Agreement, African countries face an average GDP reduction of -14% by 2050 and -34% by 2100.

More worrying still is that these are the predicted impacts of temperature rise alone. Adding extreme weather events to the mix could make these economic hits to African countries even worse. Globally, the cost of loss and damage is set to become eyewatering for developing countries, estimated to be up to $580 billion by 2030.

Loss and damage is already taking a heavy toll on some of the world’s poorest communities, impacting beyond the purely economic to threaten both loss of life and entire ways of life. The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing the worst drought in 40 years, which has so far left over 20 million people – four times the population of Ireland – struggling to find enough food to eat, including hundreds of thousands facing famine-like conditions in Somalia.

Harvests have failed and nearly nine million valuable livestock, which herders rely on to feed their families as well as to sell in order to pay for everyday essentials, have died across the Horn of Africa because of the drought. Due to the scale of these losses, more than 1.3 million people in the region have abandoned their homes in search of food, water, pasture and alternative ways of earning a living to support their families.

The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing its fifth failed rainy season in a row and there is still no end to the drought in sight, with below-average rainfall also predicted for the March-May rainy season in 2023.

Developing countries should not be left to pay for environmental disasters caused by a climate crisis not of their making. Ireland has a real opportunity to show leadership on this issue at COP27, but so far the government has failed to match encouraging rhetoric with meaningful action.

Failure to show leadership

Instead of taking the opportunity last week to throw down the gauntlet to other wealthy, high-emitting countries and follow in the footsteps of countries like Denmark and Scotland by providing dedicated, new and additional financial support to pay for loss and damage, Ireland opted instead to commit €10 million to the Global Shield initiative, a largely insurance-based initiative which still leaves developing countries at risk of footing the bill.

Insurance-based solutions like the Global Shield Initiative are no substitute for new and additional loss and damage funding. Insurance requires the payment of costly premiums, would not cover slow-onset disasters such as rising sea levels, and payouts would not cover the full cost of loss and damage caused by extreme weather events.

Further still, this funding will be drawn from existing climate finance contributions and will not amount to the new and additional money which is so desperately needed.

Repackaging financial support like this does not send a positive message to countries on the frontline of the climate crisis that Ireland, as a wealthy, high-emitting country, is fully prepared to acknowledge its ecological debt and provide the funding needed to help them pay for current and future loss and damage.

Week one at COP27 has seen Ireland fall at the first hurdle to show real leadership on climate justice. Environment Minister Eamon Ryan, who will represent Ireland in Egypt this week, must commit to providing finance for loss and damage that is new and additional to existing climate finance funding and support the establishment of a finance facility.

Failure to do so would be a blatant rejection of a core principle of climate justice and would put Ireland on the wrong side of history.

Ross Fitzpatrick is Policy & Advocacy Officer with Christian Aid Ireland. He is writing from COP27 in Egypt.

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