The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) began in Egypt on November 6th, and will end on November 18th, 2022. At the COP, Germany and Belgium pledged 170 million and 2.5 million Euros in aid for loss and damage caused by climate change. It is unknown how Germany’s funds will be used, while Belgium’s funds will be used in Mozambique, where extreme rain caused loss and damage. Indeed, developing countries have expressed the need for aid from developed countries who are responsible for most of the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. However, not all developed countries have agreed to create a fund to help developing countries, and the idea will be discussed further at the COP.
After announcing Belgium’s aid for Mozambique, the Brussels Times reported Development Minister Frank Vandenbroucke as having said that “Climate change knows no boundaries” and, “If we are serious about tackling climate change, we need to make a green and equitable transition worldwide.” However, there are other developing countries requiring aid. Reuters reported that Daniel Ribeiro of the Mozambican environmental advocacy group ‘Justica Ambiental’ had stated that “Mozambique is just one of many countries facing this reality. This time we were the chosen, hand-picked recipients, but what about the broader systemic solution?”
Richer countries have given climate aid to poorer countries in the past. According to the Associated Press, most aid developing countries receive is to help decrease the use of fossil fuels, and increase the use of renewable energy. Although renewable energy is important, loss and damage aid will do more to help countries adapt to climate disasters such as heat waves, floods, or droughts. Belgium’s aid to Mozambique could be used to map areas vulnerable to storm surges and create warning systems. This will decrease the damage of floods, and prevent climate disasters from stopping economic growth.
By giving poorer countries aid, richer countries are admitting to being responsible for contributing to climate change. In some countries, including the U.S., there are concerns that this admission could lead to lawsuits for damage caused by climate disasters. Before the COP, U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry agreed to discuss loss and damage, but has not agreed to the creation of a fund, likely due to concerns regarding a lawsuit. However, it is possible there could be lawsuits without the creation of a fund. According to The Guardian, Vanuatu asked the International Court of Justice to issue an opinion on the obligations countries have to help other countries adapt to climate change. The opinion could support climate litigation that would allow governments and companies to be sued for contributing to climate change. Additionally, developing countries have requested aid from developed countries for a long time. When developing countries receive aid from the fund, a lawsuit might be less likely.
Loss and damage was discussed at the COP26 in Glasgow in 2021. At the conference, developed countries committed to giving developing countries $100 billion in aid per year, and to double this aid by 2025. Developing countries supported the creation of the Glasgow Facility for Financing Loss and Damage. However, no facility was created because developed countries required more time to discuss how a facility should be financed. The discussions have been called the ‘Glasgow Dialogue’, and will occur every year for three years. With no facility, some developed countries have made their own decisions on giving aid to developing countries. In addition to Germany and Belgium, Euronews reported that Denmark had pledged 100 million Danish Krones for damage in the Sahel region of the Sahara Desert, where there have been a number of droughts. While rich countries can indeed choose to give poor countries aid, there will inevitably be less aid given overall without a specific loss and damage fund. Many countries have not received aid, including Vanuatu, which NPR reported as needing $177 million to relocate coastal communities.
Overall, it is undeniable that climate disasters have caused damage in developing countries. Although Germany and Belgium’s aid will be helpful, developing countries will need more. Without a fund, poorer countries will only receive aid when a small number of richer countries choose to give out aid for climate loss and damage. The U.S. and other developed countries should be less concerned about the possibility of lawsuits, and support a fund for climate loss and damage.