Rich countries accused of ‘betrayal’ in Bonn talks

Rich countries accused of ‘betrayal’ in Bonn talks


A woman uses a fan to cool a child during the recent heat wave in India

The climate talks in Bonn have reached their final day with wealthy nations accused of betraying the developing world.

The poorest countries say they were promised at COP26 that their main claim on damages would be honored this year.

They believed that a new financing mechanism would be created to pay for climate change impacts to which they cannot adapt.

But in Bonn, they say, the issue has been sidelined by the US and Europe.

For many participants, loss and damage has become the key issue in global climate negotiations.

Participants from developing countries say climate impacts in their countries are more severe than in richer nations and they have less financial capacity to deal with it.

“We’ve already been living with losses and damages for the last 25 years,” said Adriana Vasquez Rodriquez of the La Ruta del Clima Association, a Costa Rican environmental group.

“We have families who have lost their homes, their crops, their lives, and nobody is paying for it, we are running out of resources and at the same time we are depending on debt.”

Developing nations argue that the climate change they are experiencing was caused by historic carbon emissions from richer countries. They say Europe and the US now have the responsibility to pay for these losses and damages.

The US and Europe do not agree. They fear that if they pay for historic emissions, it could put their countries on the hook for billions of dollars for decades or even centuries.

The issue came to a head at COP26 in Glasgow, where what was called a “delicate compromise” was reached.

Island states and developing countries would agree to the Glasgow climate pact with a strong focus on cutting carbon, if wealthier nations finally establish a process that finances damages.

“The commitment was based on the understanding that countries would be willing to start talking and making decisions about how to get this funding to flow towards loss and damage,” said Alex Scott of E3G, an environmental think tank.

“And we haven’t seen it come to fruition here. Instead, we’ve seen a workshop set up to talk about how we can fix some of the problems.”


Fire fighting in Spain

The compromise involved establishing the Glasgow Dialogue on Loss and Damage, which had its first workshop meeting here in Bonn.

Poorer nations had hoped that this mostly technical meeting would formally put loss and damage on the agenda of political leaders who would meet at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh in November.

But so far this has not happened, as several countries oppose it.

If no progress is made, many participants say it would be a significant blow to unity ahead of COP27.

“It would be tragic,” said Ambassador Conrod Hunt, chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

“What has been achieved here? Not much, I would say, there is still much more to achieve. Am I happy? No, I’m not happy.”

Climate activists have gone much further than diplomats.

“Vulnerable nations are being betrayed by rich countries. The EU, US and others have been blocking progress in financing damages,” tweeted CAN International’s Tasneem Essop.

“We are extremely disappointed with what is happening in the negotiations in Bonn.”

Some pointed to US climate envoy John Kerry, who told the BBC at the start of this meeting that the world was “cooked” if carbon emissions weren’t cut quickly.

“The countries of the global south are doing everything they can to make the US, the largest incumbent issuer, pay for the damage they caused,” said Rachel Rose Jackson of Corporate Accountability.

“Meanwhile, the US prepares delay after delay to avoid taking any responsibility or action on the climate crisis. It is not the US that ‘cooks’. It is cooking.”

With a day of talk remaining, there is some hope that a compromise can be found to put loss and damage on the COP agenda in Egypt.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattmcgrathbbc.

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