Von: Tyrell Gittens
For many countries of the Global South, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the creation of a dedicated climate loss and damage fund has defined the success of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt and represents progress on moving the needle to achieve climate justice. While the conference was officially due to wrap up on Friday 18 November, negotiators postponed the closing plenary in a bid to secure an agreement on the creation of a new loss and damage fund.
By 19 November, social media and international news outlets were buzzing as the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans submitted a proposal on behalf of the European Union to create a loss and damage fund. While the news was hopeful, negotiators faced an uphill battle to reach a consensus on the proposal and were only able to secure a deal on the fund by early Sunday morning.
During her time as a negotiator for Trinidad and Tobago’s COP27 delegation, Caroline Mair-Toby said the process to push through the loss and damage fund for countries of the Global South was challenging. Even with the establishment of the fund, which she described as a »remarkable reversal of direction« at COP27, Mair-Toby said there is a need to reflect on why it took such a great amount of time and effort to make it a reality. She told Climate Tracker, »I can’t talk about exactly what went on in the negotiations, but negotiators are up against a lot of challenges.« »You have to hold these negotiators in very high esteem because they’re not just fighting for small islands but they’re fighting for the future of the world against really steep odds. It was very worrying to see how shaky support was for climate loss and damage.«
Mair-Toby explained that climate justice is an overarching concept which has different meanings for different groups of people. For some, climate justice can mean litigation, while for others it can mean support for indigenous groups. However, Mair-Toby said that negotiating groups comprising countries of the Global South, such as the G77 and the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS), have collectively and consistently advocated for the creation of an easily accessible climate loss and damage fund. Apart from holding the industrialised countries of the Global North accountable for their role in climate change, a specialised fund can also reduce the inequalities caused by the climate crisis. »Climate justice is a lens through which we look at how people are suffering and how people are affected by the climate collapse,« Mair-Toby told us.
She went on to say: »This recently announced fund has been something which has been 30 years in the making thanks to the unrelenting insistence of vulnerable countries since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.« Still, Mair-Toby said the countries of the Global North have lacked the political will to support a loss and damage fund, which might explain why it has not been easy to create one up until this point or why such a herculean effort was needed to make the fund possible. With climate change linked to industrialisation, she said the issue is a sensitive one as some countries may have to take responsibility for their histories. »A lot of people don’t like what this story of loss and damage stirs up.
A lot of the time, what’s not being said is that it goes back to colonialism, back to the past and it’s reaching its fingers back into the sticky, ugly past of colonialism and oppression.« As the topic of climate justice gains momentum, Mair-Toby predicts it will only get harder for countries to bury past atrocities. Consequently, many issues will be brought to light, and it can help illuminate the plight of many countries of the Global South and result in meaningful change, such as the creation of the loss and damage fund. »This has been an almost 30-year process, so none of this happened in just two weeks. Parties sat down months in advance to negotiate these issues. I have seen negotiations stalled for weeks by developed countries ›concerned‹ about a certain paragraph or phrasing and other ridiculous things which have no bearing on the negotiations.«
While the process has been frustrating, Mair-Toby said COP27 proves it was worth it in the end but the fight for climate justice does not stop with the creation of the loss and damage fund. Looking forward to other COPs, negotiators and other stakeholders will now have to ensure the fund operates effectively to the benefit of those who need it most. Looking to the future, Mair-Toby said: »G77 and AOSIS have the political will and are ready to go in terms of negotiations, talking and hammering out issues. I am hopeful for the future of climate justice because there is more interest from the general public and the media than ever before.
There is a lot more international pressure and a lot more support for the vulnerable countries of the world and it’s important that the stories of those countries keep on coming out because those stories garner support.«
Outside the Conference of the Parties, Mair-Toby is also optimistic about the work being done by grassroots organisations and indigenous communities to move the needle on climate justice.
Tyrell Gittens, Trinidad and Tobago is a conservationist, environmentalist, geographer and journalist from Trinidad and Tobago. Tyrell holds a BSc (double major) in Geography and Environmental Management as well as an MSc in Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development from the University of the West Indies St Augustine Campus. He has been a journalist since the age of 19 and has published articles in all three of Trinidad and Tobago’s national newspapers. He is currently a freelance writer for the UWI Today Magazine and recently participated in Climate Tracker’s Caribbean Energy Transition Journalism Fellowship.
Tyrell loves spending time in nature and takes any opportunity he gets to hike and go to the beach.