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UN negotiators agree to pay climate reparations to poor nations

Representatives and negotiators from nearly 200 countries have reached a historic agreement to pay reparations to poor countries said to be victimized by climate change, though proponents say more is needed to scale back fossil fuels. 

The deal, gaveled around dawn in the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, established a fund for what negotiators call “loss and damage.”

It was a big win for poorer nations that have long called for money — sometimes viewed as “reparations” — because they are often the victims of floods, droughts, heat waves, famines and storms despite having contributed little to the pollution that heats up the globe.

While the fund would be largely aimed at the most vulnerable nations, there would be room for middle-income countries severely battered by climate disasters to get aid.

Details of the fun have yet to be worked out. It will likely be a major topic at next year’s climate conference in the United Arab Emirates in 2023. So far, only a few nations have made significant pledges for payments. 

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The fund would initially draw on contributions from developed countries and other private and public sources, such as international financial institutions. While major emerging economies such as China – the second-largest economy in the world and the top emitter – wouldn’t automatically have to contribute, that option remains on the table. This was a key demand by the European Union and the United States. They argue that China and other large polluters currently classified as developing countries have the financial clout and responsibility to pay their way.

Environment officials in developing nations hailed Sunday’s development as an investment in the future and a “win for our entire world.” Others, particularly EU officials, expressed disappointment that attendees failed to make more robust commitments to scaling back fossil fuels and cutting emissions. 

While the new agreement doesn’t ratchet up calls for reducing emissions, it does retain language to keep alive the global goal of limiting warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Next year’s talks will also see further negotiations to work out details of the new loss and damage fund, as well as review the world’s efforts to meet the goals of the Paris accord.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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