Calls for Climate Reparations Reach Boiling Point in Glasgow
Mr. Huq, now 69, sat with a can of Irn-bru, the Scottish soda, in his hand under a giant inflated globe in a large auditorium known here as the Action Zone one day this week. A steady stream of people came to consult and talk. At one point, a 10-foot-tall puppet, named Little Amal, walked through the room, to which Mr. Huq appeared oblivious. This is what he likes to do at every summit — plant himself in one spot and have people pay him a visit, he said. He has come to each one since the first climate change convention was negotiated in Rio in 1992.
Loss and damage was first championed by countries in the Pacific Ocean, and then embraced by a widening group of developing world countries. All the while, the real losses and damages kept piling up. Storms washed away crops. Droughts turned farmland to desert. Scientists got better at pinpointing the role of the warming planet in extreme weather.
As negotiators met at the climate summit in 2013 in Warsaw, Super Typhoon Haiyan wiped away homes and farms and killed more than 6,000 people in Southeast Asia.
Loss and damage was acknowledged in the 2015 Paris accord, the agreement among nations to jointly work to limit global warming, but not before the United States included specific language ruling out the prospect of liability and compensation.
The United Nations commissioned reports. A glossary was written to define all the ways that countries were facing irreparable harms, like the loss of territory that requires people to pack up and move or the inundation of vast swaths of farmland that cannot be recovered.
A breakthrough came at the Madrid climate summit in 2019: an agreement to set up a technical assistance program. So far that consists of a website but no staff or funding. Yamide Dagnet, who follows climate negotiations at the World Resources Institute, called that “insufficient.”
A few months later, Mr. Huq’s country was pummeled by Cyclone Amphan. The country’s early warning system succeeded in getting millions of people out of harm’s way. But a year later, Mr. Huq said, researchers from the International Center for Climate Change & Development, where he is the director, found that thousands of people had migrated to Dhaka after the storm leveled their homes. “This is loss and damage to the livelihoods of the people,” he said.