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Africa's landmark climate damage compensation deal

A synchronised diplomatic offensive by African states, which resulted in a historic deal to set up a "loss and damage" fund, highlights deepening unity and cooperation on the continent.

Seth Onyango, bird story agency

With the smash of a hammer, COP27 President Sameh Shoukry announced Sunday (November 20) that states had agreed to establish a kitty to compensate vulnerable states for the climate change fallout.

The announcement put to rest, at least temporarily, weeks of intense political brokering to ram the landmark deal over the line in the face of push-back from the states most responsible for climate damage.

The mechanism will see rich economies and donors provide the funds required to save lives and livelihoods from climate change-related catastrophes.

According to Pan-African Parliament vice-president Lucia Passos, the deal to set up a fund shows what unity among African states can achieve during critical multilateral negotiations.

Compensation of states for loss and damage emerged as a sticking point at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, as developing nations and their island counterparts refused to back down in their appeal for cash to help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Africa's landmark climate damage compensation deal

But strong opposition from rich and heavily polluting economies caused the issue to be pushed back until one year later, when the climate talks opened again, this time at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt.

On the sidelines of the negotiators, African leaders intimated that they would not relent until the loss and damage deal was on the table and a payment plan featured in the final resolutions of the talks. They achieved both.

Speaking in the closing plenary, Shoukry thanked delegates for concluding historic agreements.

COP27 Closing Plenary.

“The work that we’ve managed to do here in the past two weeks, and the results we have together achieved, are a testament to our collective will, as a community of nations, to voice a clear message that rings loudly today, here in this room and around the world: that multilateral diplomacy still works…. despite the difficulties and challenges of our times, the divergence of views, level of ambition or apprehension, we remain committed to the fight against climate change…. we rose to the occasion, upheld our responsibilities and undertook the important decisive political decisions that millions around the world expect from us,” he said.

“This was not easy. We worked around the clock. Long days and nights. Strained and sometimes tense, but united and working for one aim, one higher purpose, one common goal that we all subscribe to and aspire to achieve. In the end, we delivered.”

This comes as drought, cyclones, rising sea levels, and flooding wreak havoc in Africa and other developing countries.

“This outcome moves us forward,” said Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary.

“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.”

Governments have also agreed to establish a ‘transitional committee to make recommendations on operationalising the new funding arrangements and the fund at COP 28 next year.

The inaugural meeting of the transitional committee for COP 28 is to occur before the end of March 2023.

At the same time, parties also agreed on the institutional arrangements to operationalise the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage, to catalyse technical assistance to developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

The talks also delivered a package of decisions reaffirming commitments to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The package is expected to strengthen action by countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, as well as boost support for developing countries finance, technology and capacity-building needs.

However, the UN climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh failed to reach an agreement on phasing out fossil fuels, with African states blocking the attempts unless it falls under a "just energy transition" framework.

The Pan-African Parliament, the legislative body of the African Union, had vowed to block any attempts at a rushed phasing out of fossil fuels without a provision for the introduction of alternative energy sources.

"The issue of fossil fuel phase down cannot come without other major commitments being delivered. In short, there are winners and losers. There are promises to support those countries that lose out in implementing some of these decisions," said the organisation's president, Fortune Charumbira.

COP 27, billed as "Africa's COP", brought together more than 45,000 participants to share ideas and solutions and build partnerships and coalitions.

Indigenous peoples, local communities, cities and civil society, including youth and children, showcased how they address climate change and shared how it impacts their lives.

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