Rich nations accused of ‘treason’ in Bonn talks

A woman uses a fan to cool a child during the recent heat wave in India

Climate talks in Bonn headed to their final day with rich nations accused of betraying the developing world.

The poorest countries say they were promised at COP26 that their key demand on loss and damage would be met this year.

They believed that a new financial mechanism would be established to pay for the impacts of climate change to which they cannot adapt.

But in Bonn, they say the issue has been sidelined by the US and Europe.

For many participants, loss and damage has become the key issue in global climate negotiations.

Participants from developing countries say climate impacts in their countries are more severe than in richer nations and that they have less financial capacity to cope.

“We are already living with loss and damage for the last 25 years,” said Adriana Vásquez Rodríguez of Asociación La Ruta del Clima, a Costa Rican environmental group.

“We have families that have lost their houses, their crops, their lives, and no one is paying for it, we are running out of resources and, at the same time, we are depending on the debt.”

Developing nations argue that the climate change they are experiencing has been caused by historical carbon emissions that originated in richer countries. They say that Europe and the US now have a responsibility to pay for this loss and damage.

The United States and Europe disagree. They fear that if they pay for historic emissions, they could put their countries at risk for billions of dollars for decades or even centuries to come.

The issue came to a head at COP26 in Glasgow, where what has been called a “delicate compromise” was reached.

Island states and developing countries would agree to the Glasgow climate pact with a heavy focus on carbon reduction, if richer nations finally put in place a process that would finance loss and damage.

“The commitment was based on the understanding that countries would be willing to start talking and making decisions about how to get that funding for loss and damage flowing,” said Alex Scott of E3G, an environmental think tank.

“And we haven’t seen that come to fruition here. Instead, we’ve seen a workshop set up to talk about how we can fix some of the issues.”


Firefighters in Spain

The engagement involved the creation of the Glasgow Dialogue on Loss and Damage, which had its first workshop meeting here in Bonn.

Poorer nations had hoped this mainly technical meeting would formally put loss and damage on the agenda of political leaders meeting at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh in November.

But, so far, that has not happened as several countries oppose it.

If no progress is made, many participants say this would be a significant blow to unity ahead of COP27.

“It would be tragic,” said Ambassador Conrod Hunte, chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

“What has been achieved here? Not much, I would say, there is still much more to be achieved. Am I happy? No, I am not happy.”

Climate activists went much further than diplomats.

“Vulnerable nations are being betrayed by rich countries. The EU, US and others have been blocking progress on loss and damage financing,” CAN International’s Tasneem Essop tweeted.

“We are extremely disappointed by what is happening in the negotiations in Bonn.”

Some took aim at US climate envoy John Kerry, who told the BBC at the start of this meeting that the world was “cooked” if carbon emissions were not cut quickly.

“Countries in the global south are doing everything they can to make the US, the largest emitter in history, pay for the damage they have caused,” said Rachel Rose Jackson of Corporate Accountability.

“Meanwhile, the United States cooks up delay after delay to avoid taking any responsibility or action on the climate crisis. It is not the United States that is ‘cooking’. They are cooking”.

With a day of talks to go, there is some hope that a compromise can be reached to include loss and damage on the agenda of the COP in Egypt.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattmcgrathbbc.

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