Read, Debate: Engage.

What will Loss and Damage fund mean for Africa's most vulnerable?

November 30, 2022
topic:Good Governance
tags:#COP27, #loss and damage, #Africa, #climate colonialism, #climate finance
by:Cyril Zenda
COP27 concluded with a breakthrough agreement on a Loss and Damage Fund for the low-emitting countries hit hardest by the climate emergency. But will Africa’s most vulnerable communities benefit?

The rainy season started in earnest in Zimbabwe in mid-November. For Jotham Mashopani, a 66-year old smallholder farmer from the Chikombedzi area of Chiredzi district in the southern-most part of the country, this is the most difficult time of year.

"Unlike in the past, farming in this part of the country is now a big gamble," Mashopani told FairPlanet. "These days, whether you plant something or you don’t, hunger will still be there because chances of harvesting anything are getting very slim."

His community is among those feeling the worst effects of climate change.

The Global Climate Risk Index ranked Zimbabwe among the top 20 countries in the world most affected by the climate crisis between 2000 and 2019.

The Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA) has established that the country’s climate has changed so dramatically since the 1980s – principally via a reduction in rainfall and an increase in average and maximum temperatures – that it became necessary to redraw its agro-ecological zone (AEZ) classification system.

The most worrisome of these changes is the identification of a new zone in this southern part of the country, which is so dry that it is unsuitable for the cultivation of even the best-adapted crops.

"Not only does an average annual rainfall tend toward below 450mm, but the risk of maize harvest failure is projected at 60 per cent," researchers pointed out. "Even with hardier traditional crops such as sorghum, millet and rapoko (finger millet), the risk is put at between 20–55 per cent."

Africa Suffers Disproportionately

African nations are buffeted by vairous combinations of the effects of climate change, ranging from droughts and cyclones to floods and locust invasions, among others. All of these result from the relentless release of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

The United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed out that although Africa is responsible only for four percent of global emissions - compared to China’s 23 percent, the United States’ 19 percent and the European Union’s 13 percent - it is among those suffering the worst devastations of climate change.

It for this reason that African governments’ climate negotiators and climate justice activists were united in their demand for compensation when they attended the 27th session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) that ran from 6-18 November in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

'Climate Justice Resonates Loudly For Africa'

Dr Jessica Thorn, a Sustainable Development lecturer at St Andrews University in Scotland, said COP27 was crucial for Africa. 

"It was an opportunity to highlight the importance of adaptation and the severe consequences for marginalised populations on the continent if we don’t meet the 1.5-degree Celsius temperature increase target," Dr Thorn told FairPlanet.

"The topic of climate justice resonates loudly particularly considering Africa contributes only to 4 percent of global carbon emissions.," she added. "Discussions related to loss and damage, access and benefit sharing and scaling of financing were key."

According to Dr Thorn, a Namibian who is also a fellow in the Department of Environmental Sciences at University of Namibia, climate change severely affects smallholder livelihoods, most of which are almost entirely dependent on rain-fed agriculture.

"In recent years, farmers across Africa have experienced shortened growing seasons with more intense downpours, late arrival of rainfall and extended dry seasons," she said.

"The productivity of maize, wheat, and rice is declining with higher temperatures, and crops are more susceptible to disease and pest infestations with increasing spatial and temporal variation of precipitation."

'A Ground-Breaking Decision'

After three decades of haggling, the creation a specific fund for loss and damage therefore marked significant progress, with the issue added to the official agenda and adopted for the first time at COP27.

Governments took the ground-breaking decision to establish new funding arrangements and a dedicated fund to assist developing countries in responding to loss and damage. The governments also agreed to establish a 'transitional committee' to make recommendations on how to execute both the new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 next year.

The first meeting of the transitional committee is expected to take place before the end of March 2023.

Climate finance is intended to help developing countries cut greenhouse gases and protect their people from the consequences of climate breakdown, and forms a core part of the Paris Agreement.

Widely considered as grudge payments, the flow of climate finance is very difficult to follow and measure. More than ten years ago, wealthy countries pledged to provide USD $100 billion annually to the poor by 2020, but these commitments were never met.

Throughout the protracted negotiations at COP27, there had been a vigorous pushback by high-emitting nations about paying for loss and damages, with most of them wielding the excuse that poorer countries do not use climate finance as intended.

Fresh Concerns Over Accountability

While remains to be seen whether high-emitting countries will honour their latest climate finance pledge, jubilation over the breakthrough agreement on a Loss and Damage Fund is giving way to anxiety over whether the money will ever reach the most vulnerable communities in recipient countries.

Research concluded that people in some of the world’s poorest countries are receiving as little as $1 each a year to help them cope with the impacts of the climate crisis, despite rich countries’ promises to provide assistance.

An analysis of climate finance by the charity WaterAid also suggested existing climate finance is not reaching the poorest and most vulnerable, who are likely to be worst affected by the climate crisis. The charity’s report found that half of all countries receive less than $5 per person per year in climate finance.

Yemen received about $1.17 for each of its people per year on average between 2010 and 2017, WaterAid’s analysis found, despite the country being ranked the world’s 29th most vulnerable nation to the impacts of climate breakdown.

The figure for Sudan was $1.33, despite it being the seventh most vulnerable country in the world. Angola, also among the 50 most vulnerable, received $1.58 per person per year over the period, and the Central African Republic – 16th in the most vulnerable ranking – received $1.61 per person per year. 

'Transparency, Accountability And Monitoring Framework are Key'

Frank Mpahlo , director of the Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust, told FairPlanet that while most African countries were already struggling to access climate finance, there is a need to ensure that whenever they do access it, it is used to improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable demographics.

"The Loss and Damage Fund, which is a key outcome of the COP 27 process, is yet another climate finance mechanism which climate prone countries and their communities should access to improve their adaptive capacity to climate change," Mpahlo wrote to FairPlanet. "In that regard, the principles of climate finance governance should apply to ensure that the funds are accessed and utilised equitably."

He added that governments with weak public institutions, which happen to be the most vulnerable to climate catastrophes, are disadvantaged, as they usually fail to meet the conditions tied to accessing climate finances such as the Loss and Damage Fund.

In fact, most African governments fall under this category, as they typically scoree very low on corruption indices

"In instances where they get support, they usually divert those funds towards pressing national issues at the expense of their most vulnerable populace," Mpahlo added.

"Therefore, a transparency, accountability and monitoring framework should be tied to the L&D fund in order to promote trackable impact of the grants for countries that will access them and also safeguard the misuse of the funding facilities by countries that have weak financial management systems."

Image by Tim Mossholder.

Article written by:
CZ Photo
Cyril Zenda
Embed from Getty Images
“Unlike in the past, farming in this part of the country is now a big gamble.”
Embed from Getty Images
Global Climate Risk Index ranked Zimbabwe among the top 20 countries most affected by climate change between 2000 and 2019.
Embed from Getty Images
Jubilation over the breakthrough agreement on a Loss and Damage Fund is giving way to anxiety over whether the money will ever reach the most vulnerable communities in recipient countries.