COP27: Pacific activists will push for loss and damage fund for grassroots communities

Coastal homes in Tuvalu, Funafuti pictured on November 28, 2019. The low-lying South Pacific island nation of about 11,000 people has been classified as "extremely vulnerable" to climate change by the United Nations Development Programme due to rising sea levels. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Pacific climate change activists will be pushing for the establishment of a loss and damage funding facility at the UN’s annual climate change summit “to advance climate justice for grassroots communities” in the region.

With less than a month to go before the 27th Conference of Parties or COP27 in Egypt, civil society groups and other stakeholders met last week to solidify their plans to put pressure on the global community to act on the climate crisis.

Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) regional policy coordinator Lavetanalagi Seru said the two-day forum in Suva brought together key players to consolidate their priorities and “centred on the voice of the communities” facing the adverse impacts of the climate emergency.

“Climate-affected communities who are at the frontlines often do not get the platform at the regional level to highlight some of the real challenges they are experiencing,” Seru said.

The Pacific Climate Action Network's Lavetanalagi Seru.

Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) regional policy coordinator Lavetanalagi Seru Photo: Lavetanalagi Seru

He said the Pacific Climate Justice forum brought up “key themes of loss and damage, climate mobility, genuine social inclusion, oceans adaptation, and climate finance” as priority issues for the region.

PICAN has drawn key recommendations on how Pacific Islands governments can “effectively enhance climate justice for their local communities.”

“The recommendations that have come strongly [is] the call to establish a loss and damage finance facility which communities are in support of and also having loss and damage as a permanent standalone agenda item in future COP meetings.”

Loss and damage describes the ongoing damage caused by climate change, with vulnerable communities that are least responsible for the crisis having to bear the biggest economic costs on their own following major climatic events without any funding support from the international community.

This week, regional and global climate NGOs welcomed the news that loss and damage are now confirmed on the official COP27 agenda, calling it “a small victory in our continued struggle to ensure that COP27 agrees to a finance facility for loss and damage.”

PICAN has also welcomed the news but Seru has highlighted there is also a recognition within Pacific civil society that a lot of work that is done on the ground does not capture some of the impacts of climate-induced loss and damage in communities.

“Whether that is related to culture and traditions or even issues like mental health, which is a non-economic loss and damage. There have not been many efforts by our own governments to capture all that.”

He said setting up a financing mechanism for loss and damage will be “the litmus of COP27” and PICAN is hoping that the developed countries will commit to act.

“We cannot continue in circles of conversations and dialogues during every COP, we need to come up with some practical action.”

Access to climate finance is another issue identified as a challenge by civil society and local communities to roll out adaptation and resilience projects, Seru said.

Egypte, Sinaï, Sharm-el-Sheikh, Naama Bay (aerial view)


He said there was a need to address access, both at national and local levels, “and perhaps a reform in the larger public climate finance architecture so that we can further enhance the flexibility, the openness, and the speed of climate financing disbursement.”

“That is really one of the challenges that are limiting many grassroots communities and organisations from accessing climate finance,” he said, adding currently “it is just the nationally accredited entities that are accessing climate finance from the Green Climate Fund and other bigger multilateral banks and financial institutions.”

“It has not really been made open or flexible enough so that interested organisations can access even small grants so there is a need to reform that so that communities can directly apply for funding.”

He said “civil society groups are ready to support” their governments at the global climate negotiations to ensure the best outcome for people living on the frontlines of a worsening climate.

“We have already begun to reach out to some of the Pacific Island governments to explore how best we can support their work at COP 27.”

COP27 will be held in Sharm El Sheikh from November 6 to 18.