Three months late, Asian developing states settle on loss and damage council reps

“Very strong views” meant the standoff was resolved less than two weeks before a global meeting to flesh out details for the climate fund. South Korea and Saudi Arabia are among wealthy nations sharing APAC’s “developing country” seats.

climate protest COP27
An activist calling for climate finance at the COP27 summit in Egypt in November 2022. Image: Eco-Business/ Liang Lei.

Six Asian nations – China, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and South Korea – will share two seats on a global panel tasked to write rules for a fund for helping vulnerable countries recover from climate disasters.

The decision ends a months-long standoff among developing Asia Pacific countries over who should represent the region, at the forefront of climate risks, on the committee. It was made public in an update on a United Nations website on Thursday (16 March).

Countries globally had agreed to set up a “loss and damage” fund at last year’s COP27 climate conference in Egypt, for developing countries to get money from richer states, which have emitted more Earth-heating gases historically, to recover from climate-related calamities such as droughts and hurricanes.

A “Transitional Committee” was set up at COP27 and tasked to operationalise the funding arrangements, with a deadline for COP28 at the end of this year. Twenty-four seats were allocated based on region and development status, with developing Asia Pacific states getting two places. A third is already reserved for COP28 host United Arab Emirates.

The Asian seating arrangement appears to be the best way to get as many nations involved as possible, across the three meetings that the committee is expected to hold. Officials from China and India will attend the first session in less than two weeks’ time. Representatives from the Philippines and South Korea will attend the next one; Pakistan and Saudi Arabia personnel the following session.

Who’s writing the loss and damage funding rules?

African developing countries
- Egypt (COP27 host)
- South Africa
- Sudan

Asia Pacific developing countries
- United Arab Emirates (COP28 host)
- India, the Philippines & Saudi Arabia (sharing seats)
- China, South Korea & Pakistan (sharing seats)

Latin America, Caribbean developing countries
- Chile & Colombia (sharing seats)
- Dominican Republic & Brazil (sharing seats)
- Venezuela & Barbados (sharing seats)

Small island developing states
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Maldives

Least developed countries
- Timor-Leste
- Bhutan

Other developing countries
- Armenia

Developed countries
- Norway
- United States of America
- France
- Australia
- Finland
- Canada
- Denmark & Netherlands (sharing seats)
- United Kingdom
- Ireland & Germany (sharing seats)
- Japan

None of the other seats were split three-ways. Some are shared between two countries – such as between Brazil and Dominican republic in the Latin American region, and Denmark and Netherlands for a developed country spot.

The nominations were supposed to be in by December 2022, though few countries globally met the deadline. The last two Asia Pacific places took weeks more to settle after the rest had been filled up.

In a press briefing earlier this month, Mohamed Nasr, lead climate negotiator for Egypt, the host of last year’s COP27 summit, had said that the holdup was because some parties had “very strong views” they wanted to bring to the table.

“This shows that everybody really wants to discuss loss and damage and they are committed. But the other side to that is…the process getting delayed,” Nasr said.

Hafiz Jawad Sohail, a climate activist from Pakistan, said the country “is at the forefront of vulnerability [caused] by the global climate crisis, and can realistically present the position of vulnerable countries” regarding loss and damage funding. Pakistan experienced severe back-to-back heatwaves and record floods last summer that killed thousands.

He noted that Pakistan last year had also chaired the G77+China bloc of developing countries, which was one of the key players in negotiating the loss and damage deal at COP27.

Sohail said there should also have been a greater focus on vulnerability rather than geographical spread. That means countries like Afghanistan and Bangladesh in Asia, along with Burundi and Somalia in Africa, and Caribbean nation Haiti, should have been part of the committee, he added.

Ines Benomar, a researcher at United Kingdom-based think tank E3G, said the Asia Pacific seats are more politically representative of the Asian region rather than the Pacific.

Benomar said it was good that Pakistan is represented, but “discouraging” that more small island developing states are not.

“Many of the [small island developing states] of the region have been at the forefront of the loss and damage discussion, trying to bring attention to the issue and push the agenda forward since its early days. This seems again like a missed opportunity to put vulnerable voices at the centre of the conversation,” she said.

Four such small island countries are in the Transitional Committee. Two reserved seats went to Asia’s Maldives, and Caribbean nation Antigua and Barbuda. Neighbour Barbados has a Latin America seat. Timor-Leste, in Southeast Asia, has a place under the “least developed countries” category.

Wealthy developing countries

Saudi Arabia and South Korea stand out among the latest six APAC members of the Transitional Committee for their relative wealth, although they are still classified as developing countries in international climate fora. So is COP28 host United Arab Emirates, which also occupies a developing country spot.

At COP27, there were divergent views on whether such countries should be payers or eligible recipients for loss and damage funds. A consensus was not reached.

Benomar said the issue presents a “real risk of conflict of interest”, since high-emitting fossil fuel producers and wealthy countries are involved. It could result in a “very tricky discussion regarding where the finance comes from”, she said.

Nasr said the focus of the committee discussions should focus on funding arrangements that work and can get money to vulnerable communities quickly.

“Should they wait until we fix this discussion on who to pay, or should we respond to them as soon as possible…this is the way we see it. We should respond as soon as possible,” he said.

Sohail said the developing country seats should have been allocated to “deserving parties”, and that Saudi Arabia and South Korea could have been shifted to the developed nations list. Both countries rely heavily on fossil fuels for income and energy.

The Transitional Committee provided for 10 seats for developed countries, which are generally expected to be required to pay into the loss and damage fund. Japan and Australia feature as APAC members of that category.

Benomar noted that Australia’s inclusion could allow it to represent the needs of the region, which includes many Pacific island states.

The Transitional Committee is due to meet for three days in Egypt at the end of March. The committee needs to show how it plans to establish the fund and identify where the money will come from then, without getting stuck in bureaucracy, Benomar said.

Most popular

Featured Events

Publish your event
leaf background pattern

Transforming Innovation for Sustainability Join the Ecosystem →