India’s renewing its push for climate disaster compensation

Battered by record heat, widespread droughts and catastrophic flooding, India is working with other developing countries to renew a push for compensation when the world’s leaders gather in November for the UN’s annual climate summit.

The South Asian nation made a similar case ahead of last year’s COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, arguing that richer nations should pay for climate devastation suffered by poorer countries who have contributed less historically to heating the planet.

The issue was ultimately overshadowed by efforts to lock in further commitments to mitigate global warming but is likely to take center stage when discussions resume in COP27 host Egypt, an African country that’s itself struggling with rising sea levels and expanding deserts.

“Mitigation was the focus of the last COP talks because that’s what the UK focused on as hosts,” ​​​​​​Indian Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said in an interview on the sidelines of an event in New Delhi. “This had caused disappointment among the smaller countries over the lack of discussion on loss and damages.”

India is working with the grouping of least developed countries to keep the focus on compensation as worsening weather hurts their economies, Yadav said, citing the heat waves and floods that hammered parts of India and some of its neighbors this year.

Rich countries pledged at a climate conference back in 2009 to contribute $100 billion a year by 2020 to help their poorer counterparts transition to cleaner sources of energy and adapt to extreme weather. So far, wealthier nations have contributed only $20.1 billion toward adaptation.

Though the 2015 Paris climate agreement included language to address “loss and damage,” it left many questions unanswered. The overall idea is that countries that suffer from climate-fueled disasters such as floods can claim money back, but scientists have only recently begun the hard work of being able to calculate how much a warmer planet contributed to an extreme weather event.

Unlike most developing nations, India is also one of the major historic contributors to global warming. It committed last year to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2070 and has so far sought $1 trillion from wealthier industrialized nations to help it meet its goals. The government updated its voluntary climate commitments last month and has unveiled steps such as ordering the use of cleaner fuels and a carbon credits trading plan for its dirtiest industries. Nevertheless, it needs help both to reduce its own emissions and to adapt.

A Standard Chartered report published in April estimated that India would need investments worth $12.4 trillion, nearly half of U.S. GDP last year, from developed nations and investors to reach net-zero in 2060, a decade ahead of its target.
In his conversation with his Egyptian counterpart, Yadav said he discussed the need to push for commitments on adaptation, agriculture and land degradation in addition to compensation.

“Loss and damages is an important issue which must be discussed,” he said.

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