At the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, more than 200 governments reached a last minute deal to create a “loss and damages” fund that is expected to funnel billions from wealthy countries to the developing countries most impacted by climate change. The new fund, which will be developed over the coming year, will also focus on climate adaptation.
A 134-country coalition led by Pakistan argued that countries with the highest historic emissions, which include the U.S. and Europe, have an obligation to support developing countries experiencing increasingly severe climate flooding, drought, and heat impacts. This past summer in Pakistan, flooding exacerbated by climate change impacted more than a third of the country, affecting 33 million people and causing the loss of 1,700 lives and more than $40 billion in damages.
At COP27, two landscape architects representing ASLA and the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) — Kotchakorn Voraakhom, International ASLA, founder of Landprocess, and Pamela Conrad, ASLA, founder of Climate Positive Design — also called for more equitable investment in nature-based adaptation solutions and a greater commitment to the 2040 vision and goals of the ASLA Climate Action Plan.
“While attending the conference, I heard how developing countries are not only struggling with the effects of climate change but also with making ends meet. The U.S. has historically contributed the most global emissions, yet countries that have only emitted a mere fraction of this are being impacted the most,” said Conrad, who is chair of the ASLA Climate Action Plan Task Force.
“As a landscape architect from the global south, I don’t want nature-based solutions to become the buzzwords we all use, but then we really just continue with our business-as-usual solutions. We landscape architects are established professionals and know how nature-based solutions work. We can tackle climate change with nature-centric design,” said Voraakhom.
The deal brokered at the UNFCCC calls for 24 countries to form a committee to determine how the fund will be formed, which countries will contribute, and how the funds will be distributed.
But there are still concerns that wealthy countries may fail to meet these future commitments, whatever amount is agreed to. Ten years ago, the United States, Europe, and other wealthy countries agreed to mobilize $100 billion in public and private climate finance, mostly for mitigation efforts, each year. According to The New York Times, that number still falls short by tens of billions every year.
The Biden administration sought $2.5 billion in climate support for developing countries, but only $1 billion was recently approved by a Democratic Congress. The European Union has committed another $300 million, which would also support access to insurance for countries like Pakistan, but that is much less than what is needed to achieve equitable climate action.
“We still aren’t achieving equity and justice. Loss and damage have been an important focus at this COP, but commitments for adaptation funds aren’t there yet,” said Voraakhom.
Other significant causes of concern at COP27: Countries failed to reach consensus on phasing out fossil fuels. In Glasgow, Scotland at COP26, more than 20 countries agreed to phase out coal use by 2030. However, notably, China and India, which are still heavily rely on coal power, didn’t join the pledge.
And this means the 1.5°C temperature increase limit is increasingly at risk: A recent report from the United Nations found the latest commitments from the 193 countries that signed on to the Paris Climate Accord in 2015 put the world on track to warm by 2.1 to 2.9°C by the end of the century.
Landscape architects are calling for more equitable finance and support for developing countries, which can improve access to renewable energy and resilience through ecosystem-based adaptation.
“To create a more fair and just world, we must support those that have done the least to cause these problems. I still remain hopeful that once all countries are supported equitably, we can collectively reduce emissions to stave off the devastating effects of a 1.5° C (2.7° F) increase,” Conrad said.
Explore the recently released ASLA Climate Action plan, which puts equity at the center of all climate planning and design efforts.