COP27 - Loss and Damage Panel: First Minister's speech - 8 November 2022

The First Minister's speech at a Loss and Damage Panel, held at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on 8 November 2022.

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Thank you very much indeed, Tim, and my thanks to Frances and Saleemul for joining us here today for a discussion that is of enormous importance and an issue that, rightly, if belatedly, is starting to really take its rightful place at the heart of deliberations at COP summits.

Obviously the importance of loss and damage has been known about for 30 years - small island states raised the issue more than 30 years ago, before the Rio Earth Summit took place. But it is a subject which is now more important and, without any doubt, more pressing than it has ever been before.

Over the last few months we’ve seen the catastrophic floods in Pakistan and in Nigeria; drought in the horn of Africa; wildfires around the world.

We are also increasingly seeing the longer-term damage caused by climate change – changes to ecosystems, and reductions in the vegetation available for livestock grazing.

And of course the nations that suffer the worst loss and damage, the nations that are experiencing loss and damage in the here and now, continue to be – overwhelmingly – those nations that have done least – in some cases, virtually nothing - to cause the problem of climate change in the first place.

That is a deep injustice, and it is an injustice that should not - and cannot – be ignored any longer. Meaningful action on loss and damage is overdue. It is significantly overdue. And it is an issue now that goes to the heart of faith in the multilateral global process around climate change.

Now that message about the importance of loss and damage is one that Scotland heard very clearly in the run-up to COP26 last year – which of course was hosted in my home city of Glasgow. And, having listened to that message, we took a very deliberate decision at the outset of COP26 to make a commitment to loss and damage. As a result, we became the first developed nation anywhere to set aside funding specifically for loss and damage.

And, while that funding – £2 million last year – is very, very small in the context of the overall challenge, and we recognise that. It’s not unimportant – that money is already supporting projects to deal with loss and damage in parts of the world. But it did more than just provide financial resource. It set a precedent, and Scotland’s funding has now been followed by commitments from Wallonia and Denmark, by philanthropies such as the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

So it began a momentum that is continuing, and I think is now accelerating here at COP27.

And at Glasgow, we also agreed to partner with others in campaigning for action on loss and damage.

Scotland – it’s something I’m proud of – is getting much praise for the action we’ve taken on loss and damage, but let me be very clear – that action has only built upon the efforts over three decades of campaigners like Saleemul and many of his colleagues. I want to pay tribute to them today.

And at Glasgow last year, we pledged to deepen the collaboration with those who have been campaigning on loss and damage for some time.

That is indeed why we hosted an international conference in Edinburgh last month, in order to explore the practical steps that need to be taken to address loss and damage. And today, as has been indicated, we are publishing a summary of those conference discussions.

And we have also, today, announced that we – the Scottish Government - will allocate a further £5 million of funding from our Climate Justice Fund specifically to address loss and damage.

That support - and this is important - it’s another example of turning rhetoric into action. That support will be allocated in accordance with the four key insights that were identified during last month’s conference.

So firstly, the money is being provided urgently. As I don’t need to tell anybody here - loss and damage is happening now, so it is essential that we provide funding now.

Secondly, our support is not instead of – it is in addition to the finance we are providing for mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation and adaptation haven’t become any less important – it’s just that loss and damage has to become equally important, so it’s not enough to take money from the first two to put to the third. We need to ensure proper funding for each.

And thirdly, we’re providing this funding in the form of grants not loans. People in the Global South are already paying the cost of climate change – they should not be made to pay yet again, in the form of greater indebtedness.

And finally, October’s conference recognised that many different types of support will be needed in order to address loss and damage.

Our funding, in the form of bilateral grants from government, is one of those kinds of support – although others, including insurance, are just as important.

The Scottish Government’s support also takes account of other points made at the conference.

For example, we recognise that there is currently a very significant shortfall in funding for non-economic loss and damage.

It’s not easy to put a price-tag on that, but it still has enormous value. That of course includes the displacement of people, the loss of cultural heritage, and harm to ecosystems.

The mental health impacts of the climate crisis are another example – again, very hard to measure in economic terms, but very significant, and they need to be addressed.

So, for all of these reasons, the Scottish Government’s funding will largely be targeted at non-economic loss and damage – including mental health.

And it will take account of the unequal impacts of climate change. There is clear evidence – again, raised at the summit – that climate change disproportionately affects women, the elderly, people with disabilities and indigenous groups.

Now, as I said at the outset, I am acutely aware that the funding Scotland has announced is small in terms of the overall scale of the loss and damage that developing countries are facing.

But I do hope it sends an important message and an important signal.

Apart from anything else, it demonstrates – as Denmark and Wallonia have also shown – that governments can act now on loss and damage if we want to. It is entirely our choice to make.

We don’t have to wait for a consensus decision at COP – although we fervently hope for one – but we don’t have to wait for that. We can start funding programmes straight away.

Now, as I said, I hope that we will make collective progress here in Egypt on loss and damage.

But if that doesn’t happen, let’s hope it does and let’s keep pushing for the remainder of this COP for that to happen, but more and more governments need to take action regardless of that. And my belief is if we do that, we will continue to accelerate the momentum for change that will feed into future COPs.

Now, the final point I want to highlight is that as we decide which projects and which communities we will provide funding to, we will work closely with partners on the ground.

We know that local communities have a much, much better idea than we do of the projects most likely to help, so we will work with them.

And as we deliver this funding, we will continue to reflect on what we can do better.

The second half of today’s session focuses on the lessons that have already been learned from previous Scottish Government grants.

And more generally, on everything we do on loss and damage, Scotland will try to ensure that we listen to international perspectives – especially those from the South.

After all, for more than 30 years - since the views of island states were first ignored – decisions at COP have been dominated by voices from the North.

That’s understandable to some extent – given the overwhelming need for developed countries to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions – but it is also regrettable.

So let’s all hope that this COP really does mark a genuine turning point – and that the views, the experiences and perspectives of the Global South assume a far greater role.

If that does happen, then I believe we are at a moment where we can see that real, tangible and meaningful progress on loss and damage - and that will go a significant way to achieving greater climate justice - because without action on loss and damage, there can be no climate justice, and that is not something that we should contemplate.

So thank you very much for your presence, thank you for your support, and let me end by pledging the continued support of Scotland to ensure that loss and damage is given the attention, the action and the funding that it desperately needs. Thank you very much.

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