India has said it backs loss and damage reparations but insists only countries historically responsible for planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions should foot the bill.
Sources from the Indian delegation at Cop27 told The Independent that the country was “aware of the importance of loss and damage” aid but stressed that it too was a “victim of the emissions of developed countries”.
“India is fully mindful of the threats faced by small island countries,” the official said. “That is why we are already working closely with the small island states to reduce their vulnerabilities from climate disasters.”
The country’s official position, according to the sources, is that “historical cumulative emissions should be the guiding principle of further negotiations/discussions and not the current emissions levels”.
India is the world’s third biggest polluter based on current carbon emissions but its historical emissions are minuscule compared with developed nations such as the US and the UK.
The South Asian nation has repeatedly stressed in the climate negotiations that the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) – a law establishing different degrees of responsibilities for nations based on their historical roles and capabilities – should apply when it comes to demanding climate action.
The country also said that as a victim of climate disasters itself it has been paying for its own losses and adaptation. India says it has suffered 1058 climate-related events between 1995 and 2020, with losses totalling about $87bn dollars.
The topic of loss and damage, which delegates at the conference agreed to add to the formal agenda for the first time, is the biggest talking point of this year’s summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.
While all developing and developed countries have backed the creation of a mechanism for climate compensation for the victims of disasters, the demands for financing it have so far remained focused on developed western nations.
Speaking on behalf of small island states on Tuesday, Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, called on India and China to also be made liable, sparking a debate.
“We all know that the People’s Republic of China, India — they are major polluters, and the polluter must pay. I don’t think there is any free pass for any country, and I don’t say this with any acrimony,” Mr Browne told The Independent.
China, the world’s biggest polluter, has also responded in line with India’s stance but extended an olive branch, stating that it was ready to make a contribution.
“We strongly support the claims from developing countries, especially the most vulnerable countries, for claiming loss and damage compensation because China is also a developing country and we also suffered a lot from extreme weather events,” China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua said.
“It [paying for loss and damage] is not the obligation of China but we are willing to make our contribution and make our effort,” he added.
This story was originally published on The Independent, with the support of Climate Tracker’s COP27 Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship.