As cost of climate change rises, UN urges compensation

From drought to floods and sea level rise, the cost of damage caused by climate change will only get higher as the world warms, sparking concerns from both top officials and activists about how to pay for it.

“Loss and damage from the climate crisis is not a future event. It is happening now, all around us,” said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on a visit to Pakistan, which recently suffered from devastating floods that displaced hundreds of thousands of people and left over a thousand dead.

“Developed countries must step up and provide Pakistan and other countries on the frontlines with the financial and technical resources they need to survive extreme weather events like these deadly floods,” he said.

“I urge governments to address this issue at COP 27 with the seriousness it deserves,” Guterres added, referring to the United Nations climate summit in November which will be held in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el Sheikh.

Pakistan, along with dozens of other developing countries around the world, are scrambling to adapt to the effects of climate change, with many of them calling on richer, high-emitting nations to help foot the bill.

Guterres' comments come a day after the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization warned that Africa's islands and coastal states — and the 116 million people that inhabit them — will be heavily exposed to rising seas and will spend about $50 billion in damages by 2050.

It added that drought over the last 50 years in the Horn and southern Africa, exacerbated by climate change, has claimed the lives of over half a million people, with losses estimated at $70 billion. Over 1,000 floods in the same time period claimed over 20,000 lives, it said.

The report's findings stirred renewed calls for compensation for the continent by many who believe rich nations that emit far more planet-warming gases into the atmosphere should pay for climate catastrophes, known as “loss and damage” in climate negotiations.

“As a continent we feel that the issue of loss and damage needs to be addressed," said Harsen Nyambe, the director of sustainable environment at the African Union. “It is a controversial issue and developed countries are afraid because it has serious financial implications.”

Loss and damage negotiations were a sticking point at last year’s U.N. climate conference and are expected to feature prominently again this year at the climate summit in November.

Developing nations in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific have banded together under the Climate Vulnerable Forum to tackle the issue of loss and damage and seek compensation.

The bloc, currently chaired by Ghana, was formed in 2009 and brings together 48 of the world’s most climate susceptible developing countries who have a combined population of 1.2 billion but a collective share of global emissions of just 5%.

Speaking to The Associated Press, Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti warned about “loss of lives and livelihoods, and damage to our lands and communities" as a result of climate change.

“Vulnerable countries do not have the financial capacity to adapt to these intensifying climate impacts, which makes climate finance a matter of global justice,” she added.

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