World leaders at the 27th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP27), which was held this month in Egypt, have agreed to establish a “loss and damage” fund to support nations that are most vulnerable to the effects of human-driven climate change, according to an announcement from the conference that was released on Sunday after an all-night negotiating session.
The creation of the fund is a major achievement for climate activists who have long fought to secure more assistance to less developed nations that are bearing the brunt of climate impacts, such sea level rise and extreme weather, even though wealthier nations—like the United States—have contributed the most to the problem.
“This outcome moves us forward,” said Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, in a statement. “We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage—deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”
Some of the biggest proponents for this fund include island nations, such as Vanuatu, and coastal countries, such as Pakistan, which have suffered more intense natural disasters as a result of anthropogenic climate change. Leaders from these communities, and others, have long argued for a more equitable partnership between the biggest emitters and less developed nations that do not have the adequate resources to recover from delirious climate effects.
Despite the climate disasters that are currently wreaking devastation around the world, the fund will follow a slow-moving process. Leaders at COP27, which was held from November 6 to 18 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, have convened a transitional committee to work out the details of this fund. Their recommendations will be presented at next year’s conference, which will be held in the United Arab Emirates.
Despite this big win, the final COP27 deal falls short on many other issues, including a firm commitment in writing to phase out fossil fuels, which are the main driver of anthropogenic climate change. In the absence of a clear plan to transition the world to more sustainable energy sources, it is unclear how nations will keep global temperatures from warming by 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which is the target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
“The loss and damage deal agreed is a positive step, but it risks becoming a ‘fund for the end of the world’ if countries don’t move faster to slash emissions and limit warming to below 1.5C,” said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, global climate and energy lead for the World Wildlife Fund, according to Reuters.
António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, also celebrated the creation of the fund, while warning that it may not be enough to prevent enormously inequitable outcomes for the nations that are being battered by climate change.
“A fund for loss and damage is essential—but it’s not an answer if the climate crisis washes a small island state off the map—or turns an entire African country to desert,” Guterres said in a tweet. “The world still needs a giant leap on climate ambition.”