COP27 — the Camel’s nose of Loss and Damage enters the talks

Published November 1, 2022

Egypt is camel country so it is appropriate that the long awaited camel’s nose of the great green loss and damage dream should finally appear. We are talking about potentially untold trillions of dollars flowing from developed to developing countries. A breathtaking prospect.

For those who missed it here is my quick summary of UN-speak “loss and damage” from my introductory article:

“Loss and damage is the 9,000 pound gorilla. It means America and the rest of the developed countries will compensate the developing countries for all the bad things climate change does to them. Loss refers to things that cannot be fixed, like death or a destroyed crop, while damage is stuff that can be rebuilt, like a flattened town.

Since all bad weather is now attributed to climate change we would be paying for all of it. I am not making this up. Coverage includes short term events like hurricanes or floods, plus slow stuff like droughts. Non-weather events like pestilence, pandemics and wildfires are probably also included.”

To set the stage here is a recent Bloomberg headline: US Supports Climate Reparations Talks at UN Summit in Egypt.

Bloomberg is very green so this is wildly overstated in several important ways, but it gets the gist. First of all, “US” in this case means the Biden Administration, not Congress and certainly not America. Second we are talking about compensation not reparations, at least for now. Reparations would be for past damage, presumably going back to the beginning of the supposed human caused warming and the industrial revolution. Paying for progress.

Moreover, loss and damage has been COP talk for some time now. COP19 in 2013 established the grandly named “Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts“, known simply as the WIM. (But much more than a whim.) Its job was to talk about loss and damage, which talking has happened a lot in the subsequent nine years, with no serious action.

What is new now and very dangerous is the topic of the talk. It is what UN-speak calls a “Facility”. A Facility is a mechanism where developed countries put money in and developing countries take it out. This is called “Finance”.

There are already Facilities for Mitigation (especially reducing emissions) and Adaptation (to climate change). What is now proposed and apparently to be actually negotiated about is a Loss and Damage Facility. If this happens the issue on the table would be whether or not to create such a Facility? The Biden people have agreed to at least talk about it and that is new.

The camel’s nose aspect is that creating this Facility officially certifies that America and the other developed countries are in fact responsible for harmful climate change impacts in developing countries. The developed countries have never unanimously admitted this responsibility and COP decisions must be unanimous.

Even if no money is committed at this time the camel is entering the tent. And as the metaphor suggests, the camel is much bigger then the tent and will destroy it. I have seen estimates of loss and damage over time that exceed the combined GDP of the developed countries. In principle it could bankrupt us.

More realistically, establishing a Loss and Damage Facility immediately raises monster questions like these:

A. What did each developing countries suffer last year from climate change?

B. What is the cost, including lives lost?

C. How much of that are the developed countries going to pay?

Note that there is already a full blown (supposed) science called “attribution” that claims to be able to answer the first question.

So it is not just another whimsical green dream of riches that is on the table at COP27. The ability to officially ask these preposterous questions is up for decision. Such a decision in favor of Loss and Damage could also lead to a great deal of litigation against the developed countries.

Will the developed country teams jointly admit to causing the world’s bad weather? Unimaginable liability looms.

Stay tuned to CFACT.