Kerry’s Promise of ‘Millions’ for Climate Damages Criticized by Activists

(Bloomberg) -- A US offer of several million dollars to address losses and damages caused by global warming is raising the ire of activists as some nations contend with flooding and other consequences of climate change.

Most Read from Bloomberg

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry made the offer at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore last week, promising — without specifics — that the US would contribute to the new Loss and Damage Fund at the upcoming COP28 summit in Dubai.

The formal decision to create that initiative was seen as a significant victory for climate-vulnerable countries at last year’s summit in Egypt, but it’s proved tricky to set up, with lingering questions over who will pay into it, as well as the nature and scale of that support.

Civil-society groups and activists in developing nations called Kerry’s pledge far from adequate — especially coming from the country responsible for so much of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today.

It’s “almost an insult,” said Brandon Wu, director of policy and campaigns at ActionAid USA. If the US responsibility for about a quarter of historical greenhouse gas emissions were equated with a fair share of loss-and-damage finance “that would mean the US should be providing $70 billion per year” by 2030, he added.

“Several million dollars is better than nothing, but it’s an order of magnitude short of being truly meaningful,” Wu said.

Developing countries have requested about $100 billion annually to counter already mounting losses tied to climate change. Last year’s floods in Pakistan caused an estimated $30 billion in damage alone.

Though projections of future climate-related damages vary widely, they generally reach hundreds of billions of dollars per year by 2030 — and trillions by mid-century.

Kerry’s commitment “falls short of the urgent and substantial action required,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International. It’s especially concerning because the US “has consistently shirked its responsibilities” to combat climate change and has a history defaulting on prior climate-finance commitments.

Read More: What Is COP28 and Why Is It Important

The US is seen as one of the biggest offenders in the failure of rich nations to collectively marshal a promised $100 billion in climate finance for developing countries annually by 2020. The nation also has yet to provide the final $1 billion installment of its 2014 pledge to supply $3 billion to the UN Green Climate Fund, and President Joe Biden’s vow to deliver $11.4 billion in annual climate finance by 2024 has met opposition on Capitol Hill.

The US “has a lot of ground to make up in terms of meeting its past climate-finance commitments,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ climate-and-energy program. “Low- and middle-income countries that have contributed the least to the climate crisis are already bearing billions of dollars of economic losses and a catastrophic human toll from rapidly worsening climate impacts.”

The European Union also is preparing to deliver an infusion into the new Loss and Damage Fund.

Those promised contributions could help fulfill requirements to establish the initiative as a financial-intermediary fund under the World Bank, said Liane Schalatek, associate director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Three contributors must collectively provide $200 million for the World Bank to even start establishing the program, she said.

The fund “could be set up and still be a largely empty shell,” Schalatek said. “It will take the United States to step up to their historic responsibility and provide tens if not hundreds of billions — not millions.”

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.