Category Archives: For the World

It’s Time to Stand and Deliver

By Professor Derek Walker

COP27 has reached its final day and the VLGS student delegation is getting a birds-eye view of the wide chasm between developed and developing country parties that may prevent the talks from ending on time or without a satisfactory conclusion—or both.  The differences are especially acute on the issue of who pays for the range of impacts climate change has and will likely cause, known within the walls of the COP complex as “loss and damage” and adaptation.

(COP27 Week Two Delegation)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres returned to Sharm el-Sheikh late yesterday and immediately took parties to task for failing to converge on concrete outcomes for the COP and demanded they “stand and deliver…the kind of meaningful climate action people and the planet so desperately need.”

VLGS students, in their roles as members of the party delegation of the Republic of Palau, are collaborating with counterparts in the Palauan government to attend technical meetings, daily strategy sessions, and consultations among countries with common agendas, including the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).  They have witnessed passionate pleas for unity among vulnerable countries, along with obstruction and name calling that Guterres summarized as “a breakdown in trust between North and South, and between developed and emerging economies.”

(Becky Kimmel consults with Palau Negotiator Marli Klass)

Student Delegate Hope McLellan-Brandt participated in a three hour “huddle” of parties across the geographic and development spectrum trying to come to terms on an approach for climate finance; the United States and Saudi Arabia were among the small group of countries preventing an agreement from emerging.  Student Delegate Megna Murali was in the room for one of the few positive steps taken thus far in Sharm el-Sheikh:  the approval of the Santiago Network, which is designed to coordinate technical assistance for loss and damage, particularly among developing countries.

(Hope McLellan-Brandt engaging with NAACP leaders at an event highlighting the Jackson water crisis)

Loss and damage is the top priority for virtually every developing country.  Developed parties are, at best, agreeing to a partial step that would push a decision on funding mechanisms to next year if not 2024.  “I don’t want to leave COP27 empty handed,” Shauna Aminath, the Maldives’ minister of environment said at an event earlier this week. “Agreeing to work on something that will be established in 2024 is leaving empty handed,” she added.

The slow pace of progress clearly won’t work for the Maldives, Palau, and countless other climate-vulnerable countries.  Against this stark, existential backdrop, the sniping between parties and failure to bring real commitments forward is particularly disheartening.  As Guterres said on Thursday, “the blame game is a recipe for mutually assured destruction.”

(Visit with White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) chair Brenda Mallory)

Biden Says the U.S. is Back—Others Not as Sure

By Professor Derek Walker

The Curtain came down on COP27’s first week after a whirlwind visit from President Biden and growing signs that many major issues will be punted to the COP28 meeting next year in Dubai.  The President seized the mantle of climate leadership for the U.S., in part on the strength of this summer’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act, a $370 billion climate investment that Biden Administration officials and Capitol Hill allies have been eager to tout in Sharm el-Sheikh.

(U.S. President Joe Biden’s COP27 Special Address)

Biden’s message was also laced with demands that other countries do their part, a longstanding point of contention with developing countries that point, correctly, to their much smaller role in catalyzing the climate crisis of today.  The U.S. has produced 20% of emissions during the industrial era, twice as much as China, and rich developed countries are responsible for half of global emissions in the past 170 years while constituting only 12% of the world’s population.  The battle lines are clear.

“The United States is acting. Everyone has to act,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s a duty and responsibility of global leadership. Countries that are in a position to help should be supporting developing countries so they can make decisive climate decisions.”

(VLGS student delegate Katie Bernhardt and Palau delegate Marli Klass)

VLGS student delegate Katie Bernhardt came out of closed-door negotiating sessions with a clear understanding of how tensions can play out.  She described a standoff between the U.S. and a host of countries, from India to Indonesia to China, that are resisting American efforts to reach a deal that assigns responsibilities to “high emitters,” which would imply new obligations on them.

Biden apologized to fellow leaders for his predecessor’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, but parties are looking to the U.S. to offer considerably more than words. Ghanian Minister Henry Kokofu, who leads the Climate Vulnerable Forum, an alliance of countries facing the most extreme impacts from climate change, said, “we expect the US President to show more leadership in committing dedicated new funds for loss and damage and putting in place mechanisms to deliver it. Another empty bank account will not do as a COP outcome.”

(VLGS student delegate Logan Keen and Dr. Beverly Wright, founder and executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice)

Elsewhere during week one, countries vied for attention to new green initiatives designed to transform the power and agriculture sectors, industry, and transport.  VLGS student delegate Logan Keen heard from the Swedish company H2 Green Steel which is looking to dramatically slash pollution from steel production by using “green” hydrogen.  As with virtually all prospective climate solutions, green hydrogen is not a panacea, as my colleagues at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have powerfully illustrated through groundbreaking scientific research into the risks posed by leakage, which could have catastrophic climate impacts.

(COP27 Week One Delegates)

The first five VLGS delegates departed Sharm el-Sheikh Saturday, and five students arrived Sunday for the second week of COP27, providing critical negotiating support to the Republic of Palau.  The negotiations this week may help reveal whether the existential threats faced by Palauan and billions of other climate vulnerable people are translating into concrete financial support rather than merely empathic proclamations of concern.

We are on the Highway to Climate Hell—Time to Hit the Brakes

By Professor Derek Walker

Wednesday is the fourth full day of fast-paced activity here at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.  This beautiful seaside city is a perfect backdrop for discussions about how to protect the world’s vulnerable communities and fragile ecosystems from intensifying climate change impacts.

(VLGS COP27 Week One Delegation)

The past two days featured the High-Level SummitUN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told a gathering of over 100 heads of state that the world is on the highway to climate hell, and that we still have our feet on the accelerator.  Guterres has been a particularly strong advocate for increasing the ambition of national commitments and the strength of cooperation.

The voices of Africans leaders are particularly powerful, and their warnings especially stark, as Egypt hosts the first African COP since 2016.  Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu told her colleagues that “our part of the world has to choose between life and death,” and Central African Republic President Faustin Archange Touadera declared that “Africa should not pay for crimes they have not committed.”

Members of the VLGS student delegation are getting an inside look into the priorities and experiences of a critically climate-vulnerable country as collaborators with the negotiating team of the Republic of Palau.  VLGS delegates are also tracking the unfolding discussions on key COP27 issues including finance, loss and damage, adaptation, and mitigation.

(VLGS Professor Walker and Delegates with President Surangel Whipps Jr. of the Republic of Palau)

“It was a busy, non-stop meeting, but I was really pleased to see so many people talking about the environment, the country’s responsibilities and contributions, and our future. It’s a great way to see the real reactions of country representatives and whether they really care or need more attention,” said VLGS delegate JiaYu Deng.  “What impressed me most was that the representatives from small island countries spoke at the New Collective Quantitative Goals meeting. They seemed to be the leaders of the discussion and contributed strong ideas,” Deng added.

We will provide further updates as developments occur.  Please contact Professor Derek Walker at if you have any questions about COP27 or the International Climate Change Law course at VLGS.

Gender Justice, LGBTQ+ Justice, and Climate Justice: How Climate Change Impacts Marginalized Communities

By Student Delegate Hope McLellan-Brandt

Climate change disproportionately affects populations that “are most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods and/or who have the least capacity to respond to natural hazards, such as droughts, landslides, floods and hurricanes.”[1] This blog post will discuss how women and LGBTQ+ community members are uniquely affected by climate change as historically burdened groups, and how climate plans can be more inclusive of these underrepresented communities.

Globally, women are more likely to live in poverty and less likely to be a part of important decision-making that would allow them to “[contribute] to climate-related planning, policy-making and implementation.”[2] Women, moreover, are less equipped to adapt to the climate crisis because they have unequal access to important tools, such as land (only 15% of landholders in the world are women[3]) and natural resources.[4] These factors limit the ability of women to protect themselves from climate disasters and participate in the political process. And yet, the active participation and voices of women are essential to the fight for climate justice. Climate justice and gender equality, like many other facets of the fight for equality and justice, are interrelated. Since the Paris Agreement in 2015, there has been a call for women to be more central to the decision-making on climate change because women often have specialized knowledge regarding “resource management and/or leading sustainable practices at the household and community level.”[5]

LGBTQ+ individuals are also likely to be disproportionately affected by climate change. Particularly, LGBTQ+ individuals aged 18–25 face a 2.2 times greater risk of homelessness than non-LGBTQ+ persons.[6] Transgender individuals are more likely to be unsheltered due to discrimination at shelters.[7] And, in the face of disaster, LGBTQ+ people are less likely to receive aid due to discrimination, which is still prohibited in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.[8] Much like women, LGBTQ+ voices are stifled in the climate change debate, despite the hurdles that inevitably affect the LGBTQ+ community in unique ways.[9] LGBTQ+ voices are necessary now more than ever to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change on the LGBTQ+ community, and to help ensure that no individual is denied life-saving climate relief due to their identity.

This summer, there was an outcry by environmental justice activist and White House advisor Jerome Foster and his partner Elijah Mckenzie-Jackson regarding the choice of Egypt to host COP27.[10] Egypt has not explicitly banned same-sex relationships, but according to an article from the Guardian, Egypt has “used laws designed to protect against public debauchery to harass, arrest, imprison and even torture LGBTQ people.”[11] Other individuals have reported that Egyptian security forces drag people from the streets based on their gender expression and entrap individuals on dating apps and social media.[12] This raises concerns about the ability of LGBTQ+ voices to be safely heard at COP27, and the safety of LGBTQ+ persons in Egypt at large. Their letter to the United Nations can be found here.

Overall, women and LGBTQ+ individuals have significant stake in climate negotiations but remain largely unrepresented due to discrimination and lack of access to important decision-making. COP27 stands in a position to alleviate those burdens, but the voices of women and LGBTQ+ persons, particularly those belonging to other marginalized communities, need to be amplified to enact change. Liberation and inclusion of gender-marginalized individuals has the capacity to create rich and effective resolutions that actually go to the heart of what the community needs, creating a more just and equitable fight for climate change.

[1] United Nations: Climate Change, Introduction to Gender and Climate Change, UNFCCC, (last visited Oct. 16, 2022).

[2] Id.

[3] Sima Bahous, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations, Global Land Forum: Women’s Land Rights are Intrinsically and Vitally Linked to Gender Equality (May 24, 2022).

[4] Fabiano De Andrade Correa, Gender Equality: A Cornerstone for Environmental and Climate Justice, UNDP (Mar. 29, 2022), (last visited Oct. 16, 2022).

[5] United Nations: Climate Change, supra note 1.

[6] Mikyla Reta, How Environmental and Climate Injustice Affects the LGBTQI+ Community, CAP (June 16, 2022), (last visited Oct. 16, 2022).

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] See Anuj Behal, How Climate Change is Affecting the LGBTQIA+ Community, DownToEarth (Jan. 11, 2021), (last visited Oct. 27, 2022) (discussing the disproportionate effects of climate change on the LGBTQIA+ community, stating “LGBTQIA+ individuals are uniquely vulnerable to exclusion, violence and exploitation because of the cumulative impacts of social stigma, discrimination and hatred. The social stigma around the LGBTQIA+ community also makes several social opportunities and infrastructure unavailable to them.”).

[10] Oliver Milman, UN Urged to Move COP From Egypt over ‘LGBTQ+ Torture’, Guardian (July 15, 2022), (last visited Oct. 16, 2022).

[11] Id.

[12] Human Rights Watch, Egypt: Security Forces Abuse, Torture LGBT People, HRW (Oct. 1, 2020, 12:00 AM), (last visited Oct. 16, 2022).

Climate Change and Intergenerational Equity

By Student Delegate Katie Bernhardt

As early as 1979, countries met at the First World Climate Conference to discuss potential effects of conservation on future generations. Since then, meetings like the Conference of the Parties (COP) have focused on how to best approach this synchronic versus diachronic balancing act. Synchronic concerns refer to “concerns relating to… how resources are distributed between living generations,” and diachronic equity refers to “saving resources for future generations.” It’s important to recognize the bigger picture and discuss why countries even address the issue of a balancing act: the simple fact is, it is important to weigh synchronic concerns against diachronic equity because there simply are not enough resources to sustain life. It is imperative that countries balance resource distribution because while some countries have access to numerous natural resources, not all are living in abundance. Some countries have the luxury of choosing whether they spend their resources now, or save them for future generations, while other countries must make the hard decision to use what little resources they have now and effectively starve future generations. This is why intergenerational equity is crucial to the climate discussion.

Intergenerational equity, in a climate change context, refers to the idea that current generations must tailor how they interact with Earth’s natural resources to accommodate future generations. UNICEF describes intergenerational equity as the notion “that present generations have certain duties towards future generations.” It’s all about balance. The United Nations is a prime example of a governing body that recognizes intergenerational equity as a climate concern. The United Nations describes the goal of intergenerational equity as a need to “protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind.” The goal is not to underuse natural resources, starving their people of a decent quality of life in order to leave ample resources for future generations; rather, the goal is to not overuse natural resources, leaving future generations to fend for themselves so we could overindulge and live in abundance. No one country should over- or under-use natural resources, but rather use what is necessary to sustain a population’s life, while safeguarding natural resources for future generations. However, it is important to remember that climate change makes this balance a bit more difficult to achieve.

Climate change has a detrimental effect on natural resources writ large, so simply sequestering natural resources for future generations’ use becomes a lot more difficult when these resources are being reduced in the present day due to climate impacts. As an abstract example, even if a country does its best to stay away from biofuels by not cutting down trees, particularly violent tropical storms brought about by climate change might still knock those trees down, decimating forests. Thus, even though the people were responsible by not reaping the natural resources, they still lost out on that particular resource because the effects of climate change ruined that opportunity for them. Therefore, intergenerational equity is about more than just safeguarding resources: it is about safeguarding them human-driven overuse, and from the effects of climate change.

This balancing idea was further developed by Dr. Edith Brown Weiss, a professor at Georgetown Law and author of Climate Change, Intergenerational Equity, and International Law. Dr. Weiss divided intergenerational equity into three interlocking parts: options, quality, and access.

The first principle—options—refers to how current generations should use just enough natural resources to ensure future generations have options in which resources they can use. However, the question of what counts as “just enough” is a lot harder to understand. “Just enough” means different things to different countries. For one country, “just enough” means “use what we have to maintain our quality of life.” For others, “just enough” means “use what we have to allow plenty of room for future generations, while conceding to a lower quality of life today.” To put it in simple, quantifiable terms, if present generations have access to, say, ten natural resources, but then completely deplete six of them, we have left the next generation with only four natural resources to harness, thus robbing those future generations of their options.

The second principle—quality—refers to preserving Earth’s resources as they are passed from one generation to the next. If, for example, current generations do not deplete the number of bodies of water, but do pollute them to the point where those waters are no longer able to sustain life, then we have robbed future generations of the quality of their natural resources. However, what makes this even more difficult is the fact that resource utilization does not account for the net impact humans have on the environment beyond what is utilized. Even if future generations had all the water past generations had, that water may have become unpotable and toxic to marine life.

Finally, the third principle—access—refers to factors like economic gatekeeping. Put simply, what is best for the economy might not be what is best for individuals writ large. It benefits one country to be able to have sole ownership of one resource and be able to profit from selling those resources, or access to resources, to others, but that then puts those other countries at a significant disadvantage. What use is having an abundance of oil fields if only the top one percent of producer countries can afford to drill them? If it is profitable for one country to own all the potable water in a region, and they charge high rates for others to access that drinking water, then that defeats the purpose of equitable access to resources.

While the three principles are important to consider in how people interact with global changes, I believe one stands out as the linchpin that makes the other two possible: options. If current generations do not have options in which natural resources they can benefit from, and they do nothing to revive those options, then future generations will have even fewer options  For instance, future generations cannot compare the quality of their rainforests to past generations’ rainforests if all the rainforests are gone. Similarly, if current generations do not leave an ample supply of Earth’s resources, the question of who gets access to those resources will not matter if prior generations depleted them all. Ensuring future generations have all the opportunities (i.e., “options”) we had will lay the groundwork for equity. However, some studies suggest getting others to care about the first tenant of intergenerational equity will pose a challenge.

Researchers Diprose et al conducted a survey on urban peoples’ opinions on conservation. The researchers found that people living in Nanjing, China, and Sheffield, UK, were more inclined to contemplate how natural resources could benefit them, their kids, and their grandkids, but were hesitant to look any further. Those surveyed did not think it their responsibility to project that far into the future.

Intergenerational equity is not merely a talking point: it is a lens through which all climate responses and decisions should be evaluated. Even though Dr. Weiss refers to the second tenant of intergenerational equity as “options,” when read aloud, the definition of options sounds strikingly similar to the definition of a word most people are much more familiar with: “conservation.” We need to create a path forward where global communities, living and future, are considered through a lens of conservation. We must be cognizant of the effect humans have on when, how, and how much we take from the environment, as well as be cognizant of the irreparable harm we have already done. This, of course, starts by ensuring present and future generations have Weiss’ second tenant of intergenerational equity: “options.” Future generations need as many options at their fingertips as possible, allowing them the opportunity to tailor those options to their specific needs. Without options, communities face suboptimal paths forward, much to their and everyone else’s detriment. Without diversified options, communities will continue to use up what little resources they have left, leading to a drained future where people attempt to make a living on a depleted planet.

More, Better, Faster: Climate Finance at COP27 and Beyond

By Student Delegate Logan Keen

The uncertainties surrounding climate finance—who pays for the impacts of climate change, how much they ought to pay, and what that money ought to be used for—remain among the most important questions on the table as the world approaches the COP27 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. In a key decision accompanying the momentous 2015 Paris Agreement, parties committed to answering these questions by determining a new collective quantified goal (NCQG) for climate finance before 2025 that considers the “needs and priorities of developing countries,” and with a “floor of USD 100 billion per year.” Conceptually, the NCQG must be both collective and quantified, meaning that all parties must agree on the terms and that those terms be finite and tangible.

At COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, delegates formed an ad hoc work program to kick-start deliberations on the NCQG, to run until COP29 in 2024. The program includes four technical expert dialogues per year and is led by one chair from a developed country and one from a developing country, both of whom will collaborate annually to produce a report on the program’s progress. Paragraph 15 of the decision declares the aim of the NCQG is to accelerate the achievement of Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, and paragraph 16 states that development of the NCQG shall take into account the needs and priorities of developing countries, in line with the Paris Agreement and decision 14/CMA.1.

As part of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, developed countries committed to “mobiliz[ing]” $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries improve their sustainability in anticipation of worsening climate change effects. At the time, the U.S. wanted India and China—two fast-growing countries with increasing emissions but hundreds of millions of people still living in poverty—to join the $100B pledge, but the two nations balked at the idea of joining what they viewed as a pact among rich nations. Since that promise, donor countries have collectively failed to meet that target, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s most recent estimate for contributions adds up to USD $83 billion.

With these commitments in the background, the goals of developed countries during the ad hoc work program will likely prioritize avoiding direct accountability for loss and damage. Based on the United States’ and other developed nations’ collective refusal at COP26 to support a proposed financing mechanism for loss and damage, however, the future of climate finance under the NCQG remains murky. One concern was that the proposal would mandate de facto climate reparations from historically significant contributors to emissions, as opposed to all the current major emitters, such as China; another was that it would open up developed countries to binding obligations or never-ending streams of litigation.

Holding China, India, South Africa, and Brazil—collectively the ‘BASIC’ negotiating bloc—equally accountable for their ongoing emissions remains another priority for developed nations. The U.S. and other rich nations likely considered the Paris Agreement’s abandonment of the bifurcated UNFCCC Annexation model (“developed” and “developing”) to be a win, but in many senses, there remains a dichotomy between historically wealthy countries like the US and emerging ones like China and India. Expanding the “donor base,” though, would relieve developed countries of at least some of their expected contributions. The issue of how to sort countries into those who pay and those who do not, then, seems certain to play a major role in climate finance discussions at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Another sticking point may well be the structure of the NCQG itself, including whether to set separate goals for financing in various areas such as mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage. The Glasgow Pact includes a commitment to double adaptation finance for developing countries by 2025, reflecting a recognition of the need to accelerate adaptation. To date, climate finance has primarily supported mitigation efforts—aimed at lessening the severity of climate change by reducing GHG emissions—rather than on adaptation financing aimed at preparing for the unavoidable effects of climate change.

Determining which types of financial commitments qualify as climate finance under the NCQG will also be a key issue, raising the question of whether all climate finance should be considered equally or whether there should be a meaningful distinction between grants and loans. For developed countries, there is obvious incentive to count all forms of aid as climate finance; it makes it easier to reach the current $100B goal, along with any future mandates, if loans count the same as grants. Developing countries, many of whom suffer from high debt burdens already, are often reluctant to take on more debt, and thus overwhelmingly prefer grants to loans. Thus, a top priority for them will be to distinguish loans from grants when actually defining climate finance.

Meanwhile, the tangible repercussions of the failure by developed countries to help developing countries adapt become more prominent each year, exemplified by the devastating floods in Pakistan earlier this year; thus, the debate intensifies. It remains to be seen whether and how the wealthy nations will accept responsibility for the effects of having produced the lion’s share of historical emissions. What is certain is that the central issues of climate finance—who pays, how much, and for what?—promise to be points of contention at COP27 and potentially beyond.

Key Priorities and Perspectives of Developing Countries as Parties Work to Establish a NCQG for the Climate Finance

By Student Delegate Jiayu Deng 

What is NCQG?

At COP21 in Paris, Parties decided to set a new collective quantified goal (NCQG) before 2025. Taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries, this new NCQC has a floor of $100 billion per year. Parties implemented an ad hoc work program from 2022 to 2024, to be facilitated by two co-chairs: one from a developed country, and one from a developing country. To inform the work program, the co-chairs must maintain regular consultations with the constituted bodies (the Standing Committee on Finance in particular), as well as United Nations agencies, climate finance experts, academia, and private sector and civil society actors.

NCQG, also known as the “post 2025 climate financing goal,” promotes consensus by holding four technical expert dialogues every year. The third technical expert dialogue, which was held in September 2022, focused on the needs and priorities of developing countries and the roles of public and private actors in the NCQG, as well as sources and instruments. NCQG discussion and consensus-building is meant to promote the Paris Agreement’s long-term goals and rebuild the confidence of all parties on the effectiveness and utility of negotiations on climate finance.

Why does NCQG matter

Climate finance is an important ingredient in meeting the climate goals of the Paris Agreement for both developed and developing countries, even though their needs and priorities are different. Some developing countries are projected to grow their population, economy, and energy demand significantly, and will face the challenge of seeking to reduce emissions while bringing electricity and improved quality of life to a growing population. If they can achieve clean development, developing countries can help curb climate change. But if they cannot, they may greatly accelerate climate change. To promote efficient, equitable, and efficient climate finance, it is necessary and important to take the needs and priorities of developing countries into account in the agenda and implementation of NCQG.

An October 2021 report issued by the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) shows that by 2030, developing countries will need almost $6 trillion to fund the actions listed in their National Determined Contributions (NDCs). This is the first report that attempts to quantify the needs of developing country Parties related to implementing the Convention and the Paris Agreement.

Four key priorities

Investment in the following areas is crucial for developing countries and requires strong financial support, although relative demand varies from country to country:

  • Investment related to supporting energy structure transformation and sustainable development. Developing countries, such as Brazil, South Africa, India and China, are expected to continue rapid growth in population, economic and energy demand. Maintaining healthy and sustainable development remains the most important priority for many developing countries. However, if growth follows the “old path” of developed countries, the climate will suffer immensely. Low-carbon and sustainable development is crucial to future global emissions. If developing countries can go on a clean road, they can increase the momentum for achieving the 1.5-Degree goal of the Paris Agreement.
  • Increased investment in climate change adaptation and resilience, and reduced damage particularly for Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The current investment in climate change disproportionately favors mitigation efforts over adaptation. In SIDS, geographical proximity of human settlements to the ocean makes them extremely vulnerable to climate change-related disasters, such as sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and tropical cyclones. According to a recent report, 15% of the primary income from SIDS go to debt-servicing. Climate change and climate disasters will devastate the debt sustainability and credit ratings of SIDS. Scale economies favored by large international investors are difficult to achieve in Whether such countries can develop further is not as pressing a concern as how they can survive in their homeland given the adverse effects of climate change. Therefore, it is necessary to seek economic, technical, and capacity-building support and grants for SIDS.
  • Increased investment in natural capital and biodiversity restoration. Beyond low-carbon industrial transformation and enhanced climate adaptation, stronger climate resilience and biodiversity protection remain a strong path to achieving climate goals. By reforming land management practices (e.g., agriculture and forestry) we can protect global food security, improve landscape productivity and increase natural carbon storage capacity. Countries with rich natural resources have great potential to contribute should be given support to increase the global carbon storage capacity.
  • Quantifying current needs and priorities. Due to the lack of data and limited capacity, many countries have been unable to provide a precise estimate of climate finance needs. So, the overall figures of actual funding requirements may greatly exceed current estimates. Estimating the financial requirements for climate adaptation is also a big challenge given that different accounting methods may lead to different results. It is necessary to reach a consensus on the calculation method so as to provide sufficient information for NCQG’s deliberations and negotiations.

In order for an NCQG framework to actually work for developing countries, there are also some thorny issues that require developing countries’ attention. They focus more on the implementation level, such as:

  • How to mobilize adequate funds after an agreement is made at COP? The next question is where does the money come from? In 2020, developed countries only committed $80 billion of the $100 billion promised to developing countries each year. Roughly $20 billion was provided to Africa in the entire 2016–2019 period, a far cry from the African Negotiators’ Group request for $1.3 trillion a year in climate finance to be made available from 2025, using the solution of debt-for-climate to tackle Africa’s debt constraints.
  • How to ensure developing countries can access climate finance funding? This question concerns fair distribution of funds. Different climate funds have different application requirements, and some application documents, processes and payment operations are highly complex. Methods that simplify procedures and speed up the flow of funds would be helpful. Such methods could include permitting reasonable access to complex reviews, simplifying the access model for small-scale activities, and supporting the capacity development of bank guaranteed projects.
  • How to assess whether funds are adequate for the needs and priorities of developing countries? The needs and priorities of developing countries will change over time. How does the NCQG framework effectively respond to regular and dynamic adjustment of the demand? And how to embed a reasonable evaluation mechanism given the reality of dynamic adjustment?
  • How to comply with the important principles of the Paris Agreement and promote inclusiveness in the process of climate financing? The core of this issue is how NCQG enables governments at all levels, local communities, indigenous people, and non-state entities to access climate finance in an equitable way.

Although developing countries share a common goal, they have varying priorities, which embody their current needs and the major challenges they face in coping with climate change. To meet these challenges, developing countries must promote domestic resource mobilization and international support to provide funds for the required “transformation.” Otherwise, developing countries will struggle to achieve the objectives of their NDCs, further risking achievement of the 1.5Degree target.

Loss and Damage: The Critical Next Step in Global Climate Action

By Student Delegate Rebecca Kimmel

The United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP) brings together the countries of the world to discuss and implement goals for global climate action. Gathering over 200 country representatives in the same room, though, consistently proves easier than uniting them in mindset.

Annual agenda items include adaptation and mitigation measures, as well as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs, put forward by each country outlining their individual climate commitments. A new addition to COP conversations is the concept of loss and damage.

COP19 was the first to introduce this notion in the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage. The concept highlights the loss and damage arising from the adverse effects of climate change, from extreme weather events to rising sea levels and temperatures, particularly for countries most vulnerable to climate impacts.

As we watch the global environment continue to unravel around us, loss and damage becomes an increasingly necessary addition to the COP’s formal agenda. Egypt, the host country for this year’s COP, has stated its planned efforts to “include compensation for economic losses due to climate catastrophes on the formal agenda.”

As loss and damage dialogue has evolved, the spotlight has turned towards the wealthy and developed countries, who are also historically the highest emitters. In a show of resolve based in necessity, developing and small island nations are directing that spotlight.

“We deserve to live without the looming fear of debt and destruction. Our islands are bearing the heaviest burden of a crisis we did not cause,” said Walton Webson, ambassador to the UN and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States negotiating bloc, ahead of a recent UN General Assembly meeting.

A recent IIED report found that the world’s 46 least developed countries are most at risk of climate-related loss and damage, with Burundi, Somalia and Mozambique in the lead. Lower GDP correlates with higher risk of climate impact. This is why these countries, historically among the lowest emitters, are victims of a crisis they didn’t create. And as such, those countries are demanding compensation from the world’s richest nations, the U.S. among them.

A group of vulnerable nations prepared a paper for discussion at the most recent UN General Assembly demanding urgent financial assistance for loss and damage.

The financial aid these countries propose would come from what they call a “climate-related and justice-based” global tax, whose revenue would flow to the developing world. The options for just what this tax might look like are as varied as they are creative: a global carbon tax, a tax on airline travel, a levy on fuels used by ships, fossil fuel extraction taxes, or a tax on financial transactions. This aid could fund things like infrastructure replacement, construction, and mitigation efforts to help stem future climate impacts.

At first blush, loss and damage may seem economically driven, but one need not look too hard to realize this issue is teeming with human-centered losses, too. One urgent example is displacement. The United Nations Human Rights Committee recently acknowledged the legal protection of “people seeking refuge due to the adverse effects of climate change,” those known as climate refugees.

Island nation dwellers are burdened by the fear that they may be one natural disaster away from becoming climate refugees themselves, forced to leave home in search of safer lands. And where would they go? This is another question the Alliance of Small Island States believes developed countries must answer.

At COP26, just last year, wealthy countries did agree that a framework for loss and damage should exist. This agreement, though, came absent any plan for how it would be funded or who would contribute and was never included in the final agreement produced – the Glasgow Climate Pact.

And look how much has changed in a year: a world very energy-dependent on a volatile political situation in Russia now fears for a winter without energy enough to heat the homes of its people.

What were once non-committal but at least amenable developed countries may reappear at COP27 as self-motivated nations in crisis, looking to meet their domestic needs first.

Climate change, though, pays no mind to the game of international politics or the antics of current events. Seas will continue reclaiming the coasts of island nations and natural disasters will keep leaving developing countries in upheaval. It’s time for developed countries to open not only their wallets but also their borders to the communities most vulnerable to the chaos they have overwhelmingly created.

So, though loss and damage should be permanently added to the COP agenda, the road to get there is inevitably detoured by many looming questions.

Will the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its effect on energy security influence what is expected to be an otherwise uneventful COP?

Will the ongoing devastation from climate disasters – like the flooding in Pakistan and heatwaves experienced by countries in all corners of the world – affect the urgency of the small island nations’ negotiations?

Will another year, full of all the climate change consequences scientists have been warning us about, influence the way developed countries consider their role in loss and damage solutions?

With the parties to COP convening on a continent so vulnerable to climate impacts, there seems no more fitting a time to establish concrete measures to address loss and damage.

Is Climate Justice Possible in the COP Process?

By Student Delegate Megna Murali

Deep-rooted, systemic discrimination, in addition to climate change displacement, has rendered several countries vulnerable to disproportionate burdens. [1] Countries that have historically contributed significantly to global emission levels do not generally experience the destructive impacts that more vulnerable countries face. As the severity of the global climate crisis increases, a movement for climate justice is emerging at the intersection of civil rights and ecological equity. Distributive justice is a recurring challenge during negotiations due to the inequitable distribution of historical emissions, climate vulnerability, adaptation, mitigation, and emergency response capacity.

In discussions about climate change, decision makers often measure loss and damage at the international and national level even when losses are felt more acutely locally. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction defines disaster as any “serious disruption of the functioning of a community or society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope with using its own resources. [2] Responding to climate change requires a collaborative effort to support these communities that are unable to independently respond to the increasing frequency and intensity of climate change impacts.

Hybrid Approach

The Paris Agreement reflects a “hybrid” approach, blending bottom-up flexibility with top-down rules. This bottom-up flexibility provides a temperature metric to assess “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), promotes accountability, and encourages participation. The NDCs provide extensive reporting and monitoring to verify whether countries are reaching their commitments. These commitments are not contractual or obligated and are simply voluntary technical agreements to create more interaction and collaboration between countries.  The partnerships encourage collaborative accountability in terms of transparency, monitoring mechanisms, and representation of stakeholders.

The hybrid approach does not, however, create any sort of enforcement structure if these commitments are not met. Without any specific enforcement measures, it is difficult to push countries to achieve their commitments. The Paris Agreement allows parties to determine their ‘fair share’ contribution and commitments. While the partnerships may encourage accountability, transparency, and participation, the hybrid approach does not necessarily address the obstacles that more vulnerable countries endure. Certain countries are not able to set such commitments due to their limited resources yet experience the most intense impacts of climate change and require more support. Developed countries have been responsible for a higher level of emissions yet often do not experience the intense climate-related impacts more vulnerable countries do, There is a global inequality between countries in terms of exposure to climate change impacts and emission contribution.

While the hybrid approach provides a quantified global goal, reaching this goal relies on how countries approach equitably distributing responsibility. Countries follow different equity approaches applied under different thresholds, and the absence of an agreement might excuse such inaction. While the impacts of climate change continue to grow more severe and unpredictable, the hybrid approach does not address the immediate challenges that more vulnerable countries face.

Loss and Damage

Loss is felt most acutely, and damage is most destabilizing, at the community and individual level, as survivors seek to bring together a fragmented community or find meaning in the absence of loved ones.  The fragmentation of the international community has resulted in global risks of food security, safety, and community resilience. To address concerns of loss and damage, the Paris Agreement reaffirmed the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage to avert, minimize, and address loss and damage associated with climate change effects, including extreme weather events and slow onset events.[2]  This mechanism created an institutionalized policy space to address the adverse consequences of climate change: slow onset events; non-economic losses; displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change; and comprehensive risk management and transformational approaches.

Identification of non-economic losses that are valuable, and vulnerable to climate change, such as life, health, societal and cultural identity was instrumental in determining effective solutions to addressing the losses communities experience due to climate change. By expanding the term losses to include non-economic losses, the mechanism introduces qualitative criteria such as the value system of communities. This provides a holistic evaluation of community loss beyond economic metrics alone and would promote equity. This mechanism can be used to avoid limiting the adaptation and mitigation efforts based on the dollar value of loss and damage by developing cost effectiveness methods. Cost effectiveness methods would compare the costs of alternative means of achieving the same stream of benefits when reaching a given objective. This introduction of qualitative metrics can be used effectively with quantitative metrics (economic losses) to determine whether a disaster response method will mitigate risk and create long-term non-monetary benefits.

The Paris Agreement introduces effective financial mechanisms that allow parties to create commitments, collaborative solutions to address climate change impacts, and increase participation of parties to take action. Due to various global disruptions, parties have become even more impatient to rapidly switch to renewable energy sources and reduce dependency on import-based fossil fuels. These steps together would promote climate justice and the collective responsibility to meet the goals set to reduce climate change impacts.

[1] United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. Press Releases. UN expert says contemporary forms of slavery affecting minority communities, urges action to end discrimination. September 15, 2022. Available at:

[2] United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Disaster Risk Reduction Terminology. Available at:



The Global Goal on Adaptation: A Paris Agreement Feature That Tells a Broader Story

By Student Delegate Emily Davis

I. What is the Global Goal on Adaptation?

The Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) is a novel feature and aspiration included in the Paris Agreement. Article 2 of the Agreement identifies “increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change” as one of three actions that will “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.”[1] Adaptation—along with mitigation and transparency—is a bedrock goal of the Paris Agreement.[2]

Indeed, all of Article 7 of the Paris Agreement is devoted to the GGA. Paragraph 1 provides that the “Parties hereby establish the global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development . . . .”[3] The remaining fourteen paragraphs elaborate on how the Parties should proceed with their adaptation efforts.

Currently, the GGA is a recognized pillar in the foundation of the Paris Agreement. But it should not be taken for granted; adaptation support was not always accepted or appreciated by all Parties. Adaptation as presented in the Paris Agreement—that is, on equal footing with mitigation and transparency—is an innovation that developing countries negotiated for.

II. Why is the Global Goal on Adaptation important?

While the GGA is important because it is essential for achieving climate resilience, its mere presence in the Paris Agreement merits attention. Understanding the GGA’s pathway to prominence in the Paris Agreement sheds light on at least two important dynamics between negotiating Parties. The GGA (1) represents a shift away from the mitigation-focused interests of developed counties, and (2) exemplifies the duality of local actions and collective goals.

  A. Adaptation is a significant shift away from the developed countries’      emphasis on mitigation.

First, the GGA departs from a historic emphasis on mitigation efforts (such as reducing greenhouse gas concentrations) that developed countries championed for years.[4] By contrast, adaptation efforts (such as adjusting domestic behaviors to limit harm) were central to the negotiating positions of developing countries.[5] The emphasis on adaptation in the Paris Agreement marked a change from historic patterns that favored wealthier nations.

The original 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) emphasized mitigation. The “ultimate objective” was to achieve “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.”[6] Adaptation, however, was mentioned only once in the UNFCCC. Paragraph 1 (e) of Article 4 required the Parties to “[c]ooperate in preparing for adaptation to the impacts of climate change.”[7] Adopted in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol continued to emphasize mitigation. The main outcome of the Kyoto Protocol was that Annex I Parties must “ensure that their aggregate anthropogenic carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of the greenhouse gases listed . . . do not exceed their assigned amounts.”[8] Adaptation was not mentioned at all.

But cracks in the mitigation wall began to form at COP16 in 2010, when Parties established the Cancun Adaptation Framework and the Adaptation Committee.[9] The momentum for adaptation continued until COP20 in Lima, Peru, which exposed the mitigation/adaptation dichotomy between the developed and developing countries.[10] Developed countries wanted their “nationally determined commitments” to focus only on mitigation.[11] Developing countries advocated to include adaptation in those commitments. The developing countries eventually prevailed at COP20; the final decision invited the Parties to share their adaptation plans, or “consider including an adaptation component in their intended nationally determined contributions.”[12]

As the Parties prepared for COP21, they agreed that the new legal instrument they were planning—the Paris Agreement—would “address adaptation and mitigation ‘in a balanced manner.’”[13] Ultimately, the Paris Agreement delivered on that promise. It elevated and formalized the role of adaptation efforts through the GGA provisions in Article 7.

So, the GGA is important because it memorialized a departure from mitigation-focused agreements of the past. This change validates the interests of developing countries in climate negotiations.

B. Adaption efforts marry bottom-up local procedures with top-down collective goals.

Second, the GGA embodies the duality of local action and collective goals. Article 7, Paragraph 2 of the Paris Agreement states that the “Parties recognize that adaptation is a global challenge faced by all with local, subnational, national, regional and international dimensions.”[14]

In essence, adaptation by its very nature relies on a bottom-up, country-driven process. Countries have different vulnerabilities to climate change, as well as different abilities to respond to those vulnerabilities. Accordingly, adaptation actions are inextricably linked to the idiosyncrasies of place and local context.

This is distinct from the top-down nature of mitigation efforts, wherein negotiating Parties agree on collective goals. Mitigation efforts have clear metrics. Parties can define emissions standards or target concentrations of greenhouse gases.[15] Those standards are then imposed upon the Parties, and progress can be tracked quantifiably.

This local and collective dichotomy underlies many other provisions of the Paris Agreement and can be a tension between negotiating Parties. For instance, one of the guiding principles is “equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.”[16] How do the Parties achieve common adaptation goals in light of their different national circumstances and capabilities? A challenge for the GGA moving forward will be achieving global progress on adaptation, when much of the work is done on the local level.

III. Are Parties Making Progress?

The World Resources Institute reports that “[p]rogress on defining the GGA has been slow.”[17] Progress is frustrated by attempts to account for the many peculiarities and complexities related to adaptation efforts (which are by nature context-specific). Progress is also limited by the need to understand and incorporate the diversity of local experiences without adding a reporting burden to resource-limited countries.[18]

However, recent efforts may be accelerating progress. At COP26 in Glasgow, the Parties established the two-year Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh work program on the Global Goal on Adaptation (GlaSS).[19] The program’s objective is to support adaptation action through developing country-driven processes. Citing the Paris Agreement, GlaSS observes that “adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems . . . .”[20] This quote shows the complex, multi-faceted, local, and idiosyncratic nature of adaptation action. Understandably, tracking adaptation progress is a dizzying task.

As the Parties prepare for COP27 at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, one task will be to determine how Parties define and track progress on the GGA, given its ambiguous and multi-dimensional nature.

[1] Paris Agreement to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Dec. 12, 2015, T.I.A.S. No. 16-1104, art. 2 [hereinafter Paris Agreement].

[2] Bonnie Smith, Adapting the Paris Agreement, NYU Env’t L. J. (Apr. 15, 2016),

[3] Paris Agreement, supra note 1, art. 7.

[4] Adapting the Paris Agreement, supra note 2.

[5] Id.

[6] U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, May 9, 1992, S. Treaty Doc No. 102-38, art. 2.

[7] Id. art. 4(e).

[8] Kyoto Protocol to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Dec. 11, 1997, 2303 U.N.T.S. 162, art. 3, para 1.

[9] Chronology – Adaptation Committee, U.N. Climate Change, (last visited Sept. 28, 2022).

[10] Outcomes of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima, Ctr. For Climate and Energy Solutions 2 (Dec. 2014)

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Adapting the Paris Agreement, supra note 2.

[14] Paris Agreement, supra note 1, art. 7.

[15] Kiyomi de Zoysa, Tamara Coger, & Nisha Krishnan, Can the Global Goal on Adaptation Be Locally Led?, World Res. Inst. (July 22, 2022)

[16] Paris Agreement, supra note 1, preamble.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Glasgow–Sharm el-Sheikh Work Programme on the Global Goal on Adaptation, UNFCC, (last visited Sept. 28, 2022).

[20] Id.