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With ‘Grand Statements’ Over, Small Island States Face ‘Delay and Obstruction’ on Loss and Damage

Immediate financial aid for small island states and other developing countries subject to extreme weather events is needed to make the Glasgow Climate talks a success, negotiators said yesterday.

One of the most contentious issues at COP 26 is what is known as the “loss and damage” claim by developing countries that find they can no longer recover from extreme weather events. These vulnerable countries have called on rich nations to provide grants—over and above the $100 billion per year designated for adaptation and mitigation that the rich countries had pledged but still not provided in full.

Milagros De Camps, deputy minister of international cooperation for the Republic of Dominica, said there was a disconnect between the grand statements of world leaders and what was happening in the negotiating rooms.

“When it comes down to the negotiating table, the old politics comes out—delay and obstruction,” he said. “That is what leads to accusations of greenwashing, and greenwashing is the new climate denial. It still amounts to no action.”

What is needed is seriousness, transparency in nations’ actions to build credibility and trust, and accountability, she said, adding that at the moment, none of that is happening. And the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) is not asking for charity, she stressed: The claim is compensation for the loss and damage caused by big, industrial nations that grew rich on their emissions at the expense of less-developed, low-lying states.

Asked whether the talks would be a failure if the issue is not resolved, she said progress was being made but “it would be very sad for us if there is not the political will to make it work. It is simply not possible for countries to recover from existing weather events without help.” 

De Camps added that many countries have been ravaged this year, and cannot rebuild without the money to do so. Only with recovery funding could these states then adapt to future climate extremes, she said.

Laurence Tubiana, a French economist credited as one of the architects of the Paris agreement, spoke up for the small island states. She said she’d seen considerable progress, still more would be needed before the end of the conference, but there was still hope.

“At the last minute in Paris, we got 1.5°C into the text as an aim. Now this is the agreed aim of everyone, backed by science. So we have moved on a long way,” Tubiana said.

 “At Paris we were still heading for 4°C warming for the world,” she added. “By the beginning of this COP, it was down to 2.7°C.”

Tubiana said 130 countries have announced plans to improve on that pathway, but for many of them there is no roadmap for how to get there, adding up to aspirations but no transparency. What is needed next, she said, are concrete plans and actions so that there is trust between nations that policy will follow the aspirations.