‘There is an obligation’: Nicola Sturgeon urges climate loss and damage compensation at Cop27

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said there is an “obligation” to provide funding to vulnerable countries suffering loss and damage from the climate crisis.

The Scottish leader was speaking to The Independent in Sharm el-Sheikh at the Cop27 global climate summit which got underway this weekend.

“Loss and damage” refers to the irreparable devastation that a country suffers from the impact of the climate crisis.

Poorer countries, largely in the Global South which are already experiencing devastating extremes, have been driving demands for richer countries, that built their economies on fossil fuels, to pay compensation for the impacts of their carbon footprint.

On Sunday, loss and damage was officially added to the Cop agenda for the first time.

The issue remains highly contentious with the United States and European Union long hesitating to engage in loss and damage discussions, fearing the possibility of legal liability and compensation.

“I think what’s important here [at Cop27] is that we find the common ground and make the progress towards serious financing,” Ms Sturgeon told The Independent, noting that countries that have done the least to cause climate change also can least afford to deal with the impacts.

“Countries in the Global North that have caused climate change and have the greatest access to resources have an obligation to step up,” she said.

Follow The Independent’s live blog on Cop27 here.

“There’s a lot of sensitivity around the language of liability and obligation. My view is that there is an obligation.

“But if we can, in a sense, push that to one side and just focus on the substantive issue of what now needs to be done.”

The Scottish leader is set to make a further financial commitment to loss and damage at Cop27. At Cop26, hosted in Glasgow by the UK government, Scotland was the first country to commit money to loss and damage, £2million ($2.1m), with Sturgeon acknowledging Scotland’s role in the climate crisis.

“We made a deliberate decision to champion that during the Glasgow Cop,” she said.

“We made a funding commitment of our own, small in the global context, but symbolically important, and we’ve seen others follow since.

“I think it is arguable that it wouldn’t be on the [Cop27] agenda here in a formal sense had we not really pushed it up the agenda at Glasgow. It’s on the agenda here, big step forward.

“And I think it’s really important now that that opportunity is taken. There’s lots of strongly held views on the issue and that’s important.”

The pledge sparked more giving with a loss and damage fund now approaching $20m.

But that is a drop in the ocean to what will be needed. Losses are incalculable but by 2030 they are estimated to cost developing countries between $290bn and $580bn annually, rising to $132–741bn by 2050.

MS Sturgeon also said that she welcomed Rishi Sunak’s U-turn on attending Cop27. “I think it’s the right decision. I welcome the comments he’s made coming into this Cop, and I want to work with him to try to make sure that the UK as a whole is stepping up and playing its part.”

At the summit on Monday, Mr Sunak said: “The world came together in Glasgow with one last chance to create a plan that would limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. The question today is: can we summon the collective will to deliver on those promises?

“I believe we can. By honouring the pledges we made in Glasgow, we can turn our struggle against climate change into a global mission for new jobs and clean growth.

“And we can bequeath our children a greener planet and a more prosperous future. That’s a legacy we could be proud of.”

Mr Sunak’s visit comes after the embarrassing U-turn which saw him at first plan to skip Cop27 – to concentrate on “domestic” priorities – and after No 10 banned King Charles from attending.

He has also sent Alok Sharma, the respected Cop26 president, into exile, sacking him from both his cabinet and government.

And the UK’s plans to expand North Sea oil and gas production dramatically are in the firing line, with Joe Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, warning against new licences.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I think there is a bit of confusion in terms of the UK’s positioning on climate change, which is regrettable after Glasgow and the very good job that Alok Sharma has done. I’m a big admirer of what he has done during the UK [Cop] presidency.

“I think there is a need for Rishi Sunak to really re-focus the UK’s agenda, vision and policies. It’s right to be talking about the UK as a green superpower. That’s certainly my ambition for Scotland.”