Nations reached a landmark deal to compensate developing nations for climate harm. But some leaders said the summit didn’t go far enough in addressing the root causes of global warming.
SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt — Diplomats from nearly 200 countries concluded two weeks of climate talks on Sunday by agreeing to establish a fund that would help poor, vulnerable countries cope with climate disasters made worse by the greenhouse gases from wealthy nations.
The decision on payments for loss and damage caused by global warming represented a breakthrough on one of the most contentious issues at United Nations climate negotiations. For more than three decades, developing nations have pressed rich, industrialized countries to provide compensation for the costs of destructive storms, heat waves and droughts linked to rising temperatures.
But the United States and other wealthy countries had long blocked the idea, for fear that they could face unlimited liability for the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.
The loss and damage agreement hammered out in this Red Sea resort town makes clear that payments are not to be seen as an admission of liability. The deal calls for a committee with representatives from 24 countries to work over the next year to figure out exactly what form the fund should take, which countries and financial institutions should contribute, and where the money should go. Many of the other details are still to be determined.
Developing countries hailed the deal as a landmark victory.
“The announcement offers hope to vulnerable communities all over the world who are fighting for their survival from climate stress,” said Sherry Rehman, the climate minister of Pakistan, which suffered catastrophic flooding this summer that left one-third of the country underwater and caused $30 billion in damages. Scientists later found that global warming had worsened the deluges.
While the new climate agreement dealt with the damages from global warming, it did far less to address the greenhouse gas emissions that are the root cause of the crisis. Experts say it is crucial for all nations to slash their emissions much more rapidly in order to keep warming at relatively safe levels. But the deal did not go much beyond what countries agreed to last year at U.N. climate talks in Glasgow.
“The loss and damage deal agreed is a positive step, but it risks becoming a ‘fund for the end of the world’ if countries don’t move faster to slash emissions,” said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who presided over the United Nations summit in 2014 and is now the climate lead for the World Wide Fund for Nature. “We cannot afford to have another climate summit like this one.”