At the same time, rising global temperatures have intensified deadly floods in places like Pakistan and Nigeria, as well as fueled record heat across Europe and Asia. In the Horn of Africa, a third year of severe drought has brought millions to the brink of famine.
Much of the focus over the past two weeks was on loss and damage.
Developing nations — largely from Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and South Pacific — fought first to place the debate over a loss and damage fund on the formal agenda of the two-week summit. And then they were relentless in their pressure campaign, arguing that it was a matter of justice, noting they did little to contribute to a crisis that threatens their existence. They made it clear that a summit held on the African continent that ended without addressing loss and damage would be seen as a moral failure.
As the summit neared its end, the European Union consented to the idea of a loss and damage fund, though it insisted that any aid should be primarily focused on the most vulnerable nations, and that aid might include a wide variety of options such as new insurance programs in addition to direct payments.
That left the United States, which has pumped more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any nation in history, as the last big holdout. By Saturday, as talks stretched into overtime, American officials said that they would accept a loss and damage fund, breaking the logjam.
Still, major hurdles remain.
There is no guarantee that wealthy countries will deposit money into the fund. A decade ago, the United States, the European Union and other wealthy emitters pledged to mobilize $100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020 to help poorer countries shift to clean energy and adapt to future climate risks through measures like building sea walls. They are still falling short by tens of billions of dollars annually.
And while American diplomats agreed to a fund, money must be appropriated by Congress. Last year, the Biden administration sought $2.5 billion in climate finance but secured just $1 billion, and that was when Democrats controlled both chambers. With Republicans set to take over the House in January, the prospects of Congress approving an entirely new pot of money for loss and damage appear dim.
“Sending U.S. taxpayer dollars to a U.N. sponsored green slush fund is completely misguided,” said Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming. “The Biden administration should focus on lowering spending at home, not shipping money to the U.N. for new climate deals. Innovation, not reparations, is key to fighting climate change.”