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Rep. Jamaal Bowman and Rep. Ilhan Omar walk after a press conference.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) embraces Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) as they leave a news conference on Capitol Hill on November 30, 2021. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

'A Moral and a Strategic Responsibility': Bowman, Omar Lead Call for Loss and Damage Funding

"We have a momentous opportunity to bring other partner countries to the table and shape an equitable path forward."

Jessica Corbett

"As you know, the United States is the world's largest historical contributor to climate change."

"Our leadership in supporting loss and damage financing would pave the way for transformative improvements in the global response on climate."

That's how 13 progressive U.S. lawmakers began a Wednesday letter to John Kerry, President Joe Biden's climate envoy, about funding to help the countries that contributed the least to the climate emergency but are disproportionately enduring its impacts.

Loss and damage funding for the Global South is a significant topic at the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), which is set to wrap up in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh this week.

"As we've seen with the historic flooding in Pakistan, the fourth consecutive drought in the Horn of Africa, the painfully slow recovery from hurricane damage in Central America, among many other examples, it is the Global South that disproportionately suffers the harms," wrote the lawmakers, led by Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

They argued that "we have both a moral and a strategic responsibility to provide comprehensive support for countries facing climate disaster, including debt forgiveness and reparations. While we work toward those crucial goals, there are also smaller but no less important mechanisms we should be supporting."

"One specific step we urge you to take immediately is to throw the United States' support behind the establishment of a loss and damage finance facility under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for the purpose of channeling new, grant-based public finance from developed to developing countries to help them recover from climate catastrophes," the letter continues.

According to the U.S. lawmakers, "Ad hoc humanitarian assistance flows, insurance schemes, debt-based financing, and neglected existing funds under the UNFCCC are wholly insufficient to address the current reality in which countries are facing billions of dollars in loss and damage needs."

The letter stresses the need for "a collaborative international effort… to make more high-quality, accessible, and fit-for-purpose financing available," adding that it "must be supplementary to climate financing for mitigation and adaptation and should be unconditional public funding that does not deepen the debt crises faced by many vulnerable countries."

"We have a momentous opportunity to bring other partner countries to the table and shape an equitable path forward—as you know and have proven repeatedly in your own career, when the United States leads, others follow," they wrote to the former secretary of state, who played a key role in the 2015 Paris agreement. "Our leadership in supporting loss and damage financing would pave the way for transformative improvements in the global response on climate."

The letter was also signed by Democratic Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), André Carson (Ind.), Steve Cohen (Tenn), Jesús G. "Chuy" García (Ill.), Raúl M. Grijalva (Ariz.), Andy Levin (Mich.), Betty McCollum (Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.).

Their message to Kerry comes as leaders of top economies are under fire for ignoring pleas from activists and representatives from the Global South to swiftly establish an international mechanism for loss and damage financing.

Reuters on Tuesday obtained a draft proposal from the Group of 77 (G77) and China to create a loss and damage fund for countries impacted by climate disasters. Under their plan, the fund's principles and policies would be worked out by the 2023 climate talks in Dubai.

However, CNN reported from Sharm El-Sheik Wednesday that "the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom are united against establishing a new fund this year to help the world's developing nations."

According to that report:

An E.U. source directly involved in the negotiations at the summit told CNN on Tuesday that the bloc doesn't believe there should be a binding agreement on a new loss and damage fund before the details of how it would work are agreed on.

The source added that the E.U. believes the COP27 agreement could include an agreement that work needs to be done on the issue and a solution should be found by 2024.

Similarly, the U.K. government submitted a document to the conference saying it wants to establish a "process" that would lead to a concrete solution in 2024 at the latest.

U.S. senior administration officials have only committed to having a conversation about loss and damage but have not gone further to explain what kind of fund they would ultimately support. They, too, see 2024 as the deadline for an agreement on loss and damage, but do not support the proposals put forward so far, concerned it could open up developed nations to legal liability in the coming years.

Pressed on what kind of loss and damage fund the U.S. would be open to, officials have repeatedly declined to say. And they want to take the next two years to hammer those questions out, rather than come to an agreement this year.

The outlet noted that a spokesperson for Kerry did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Oxfam climate change policy lead Nafkote Dabi was quick to weigh in, saying Wednesday that as COP27 "enters the final crucial days, it is a shame that rich countries—especially the U.S.—continue to reject calls" for creating a loss and damage fund at the current conference.

"Oxfam is in full support of the G77's position and is saddened that the inclusion of loss and damage in the COP27 agenda remains a political game for developed countries, who may likely exit this summit with no agreement on the way forward," Dabi continued. "The principles that underpin the global climate discussion—responsibility, equity, justice, fairness—have left the conference room."

Pointing out that over 40 million people in the Horn of Africa are enduring climate-induced hunger crises while Pakistan faces $30 billion in damage from the floods, Dabi declared that "it is crucial that developing countries can access a formal fund to pay for the damages and losses they are already suffering today."

"Rich countries must meet their $100 billion annual goal for climate finance in addition to establishing a new loss and damage fund that is fit for purpose, accessible, and gender-responsive," she added. "It is long overdue."


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