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UN climate negotiators approve compensation deal for poorer nations

Negotiators have approved a historic deal that would create a fund for compensating poor nations that are victims of extreme weather worsened by rich countries’ carbon pollution (Peter Dejong/AP)
Negotiators have approved a historic deal that would create a fund for compensating poor nations that are victims of extreme weather worsened by rich countries’ carbon pollution (Peter Dejong/AP)

Negotiators have approved a historic deal that would create a fund for compensating poor nations that are victims of extreme weather worsened by rich countries’ carbon pollution.

But an overall larger agreement still was up in the air because of a fight over emission reduction efforts.

After that vote, talks on other aspects of the negotiations were put on hold while delegates were given 30 minutes to read texts of other measures they were to vote on.

The decision establishes a fund for what negotiators call loss and damage.

It is a big win for poorer nations which have long called for cash — sometimes viewed as reparations — because they are often the victims of climate worsened floods, droughts, heat waves, famines and storms despite having contributed little to the pollution that heats up the globe.

“This is how a 30-year-old journey of ours has finally, we hope, found fruition today,” said Pakistan Climate Minister Sherry Rehman, who often took the lead for the world’s poorest nations.

One-third of her nation was submerged this summer by a devastating flood and she and other officials used the motto: “What went on in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan.”

Maldives Environment Minister Aminath Shauna told the Associated Press on Saturday “that means for countries like ours we will have the mosaic of solutions that we have been advocating for”.

It is a reflection of what can be done when the poorest nations remain unified, said Alex Scott, a climate diplomacy expert at the think tank E3G.

“I think this is huge to have governments coming together to actually work out at least the first step of… how to deal with the issue of loss and damage,” Ms Scott said.

But like all climate financials, it is one thing to create a fund, it’s another to get money flowing in and out, she said.

The developed world still has not kept its 2009 pledge to spend 100 billion dollars (£84 billion) a year in other climate aid — designed to help poor nations develop green energy and adapt to future warming.

The agreement “offers hope to the vulnerable people that they will get help to recover from climate disasters and rebuild their lives”, said Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International.

The Egyptian presidency, which had been under criticism by all sides, proposed a new loss and damage deal on Saturday afternoon and within a couple hours an agreement was struck.

Norway’s negotiator said it was not so much the Egyptians but countries working together that achieved the deal.

Germany’s climate envoy Jennifer Morgan speaks
Germany’s climate envoy Jennifer Morgan was joyful at the result in the early hours of Sunday (Ruochen Zhang/AP)

Germany climate envoy Jennifer Morgan and Chilean Environment Minister Maisa Rojas, who shepherded the deal on to the agenda and to the finish line, hugged each other after passage, posed for a photo and said “yeah, we made it”.

According to the agreement, the fund would initially draw on contributions from developed countries and other private and public sources such as international financial institutions.

While major emerging economies such as China would not initially be required to contribute, that option remains on the table and will be negotiated over the coming years.

This is a key demand by the European Union and the United States, who argue that China and other large polluters currently classified as developing countries have the financial clout and responsibility to pay their way.

The fund would be largely aimed at the most vulnerable nations, though there would be room for middle-income countries that are severely battered by climate disasters to get aid.