A long-awaited "loss and damage" fund to help those countries vulnerable to climate change was approved on Sunday at the end of the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
"I welcome the decision to establish a loss and damage fund and to operationalize it in the coming period," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement, noting that the two-week conference held in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh "has taken an important step towards justice."
However, Guterres said that the fund will not be enough but is "a much-needed political signal to rebuild broken trust."
This photo shows the closing plenary of the COP27 climate change conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Nov. 20, 2022. (Xinhua/Sui Xiankai)
"A fund for loss and damage is essential, but it's not an answer if the climate crisis washes a small island state off the map, or turns an entire African country to desert," said the UN chief.
Guterres also stressed that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is a "red line" that the world must not cross.
The idea of establishing a fund for loss and damage suffered by developing and poor nations due to climate change had always been shunned by developed countries due to their concerns that the fund could expose them to legal liabilities and lawsuits from the affected countries.
"Today, here in Sharm El-Sheikh, we established the first-ever dedicated fund for loss and damage -- a fund that has been so long in the making," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who is also president of the COP27, at the closing session.
"Millions around the globe can now sense a glimmer of hope that their suffering will finally be addressed swiftly and appropriately," he said.
Attended by representatives of nearly 200 nations, the COP27 was extended for more than a day till the proposed agenda was finished.
Shoukry said that the achievements of COP27 deliver a message to the world "that multilateral diplomacy still works" and that, despite the difficulties and challenges, "we remain committed to the fight against climate change."
Sameh Shoukry (C), Egyptian foreign minister and COP27 president, speaks at the closing plenary of the COP27 climate change conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Nov. 20, 2022. (Xinhua/Sui Xiankai)
For his part, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said that the outcome of the COP27, which wasn't easy to accomplish, was "historic" as it benefits the most vulnerable people around the world.
Zhao Yingmin, head of the Chinese delegation to the COP27 and vice minister of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, told Xinhua that the COP27 made progress on adaptation, finance and "loss and damage," which are issues of great concern to developing countries.
In addition to the establishment of the "loss and damage" fund, the conference also decided to establish a global adaptation framework, he noted.
However, at this year's conference, developed countries took a passive attitude towards issues such as providing financial and technical support to developing countries, said Zhao.
Developed countries have neither delivered on the 100 billion U.S. dollars in annual climate finance commitment, nor made a clear funding arrangement for doubling adaptation finance, he added.
Zhao said he hoped that developed countries would work together with the international community towards building a shared future of sustainable climate.
Participants are seen near an earth model at the venue of the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Nov. 15, 2022. (Xinhua/Sui Xiankai)
Egyptian veteran ecologist Magdy Allam, secretary-general of the Arab Federation for Environmental Experts affiliated with the Cairo-based Arab League, considered the COP27 "a great triumph."
"Including the 'loss and damage' fund on the COP27 agenda is a great victory. It has been completely rejected at all former COP summits," Allam told Xinhua.
"It's a big progress that developed and major industrial countries admitted the damages they have caused to the environment," he said, adding that it is the first COP that underlines implementation and shows commitment.