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COP27 delegates talk climate compensation, while Nile poses challenge for Africa

Delegates from nearly 200 countries kicked off the UN climate summit in Egypt on Sunday with an agreement to discuss compensating poor nations for mounting damage linked to global warming, placing the controversial topic on the agenda for the first time since climate talks began decades ago. At the same time, African countries bicker between themselves over access to the precious resource that is water, and nothing exemplifies this better than the case of the continent’s longest river, the Nile.

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The agreement set a constructive tone for the summit in the seaside resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where governments hope to keep alive a goal to avert the worst impacts of planetary warming even as a slew of crises – from a land war in Europe to rampant inflation – distract the international focus.

For more than a decade, wealthy nations have rejected official discussions on what is referred to as loss and damage, the term used to describe rich nations paying out funds to help poor countries cope with the consequences of global warming for which they bear little blame.

At COP26 last year in Glasgow, high-income nations, including the US and the EU blocked a proposal for a loss and damage financing body, instead supporting a three-year dialogue for funding discussions.

But pressure to address the issue has been increasing as weather calamities mount, including this year’s floods in Pakistan that caused economic losses of more than USD 30 billion and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

“The inclusion of this agenda reflects a sense of solidarity for the victims of climate disasters,” COP27 President Sameh Shoukry told the opening plenary.

He added the decision created “an institutionally stable space” for discussion of funding for loss and damage, and that the talks are intended to lead to a conclusive decision “no later than 2024.”

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The issue could ramp up diplomatic tensions already stretched by Russia’s war on Ukraine, a surge in energy prices and the risks of economic recession triggered by inflation.

Negotiations on Saturday night before the agenda’s adoption “were extremely challenging,” Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at the non-profit Climate Action Network International, said.

Bangladeshi-based environmental research body, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said it was “good news” that loss and damage was officially on the agenda.

“Now the real work begins to make finance a reality,” said Saleemul Huq, director of the centre who serves as an adviser to the Climate Vulnerable Forum group of 58 countries.

Africa’s largest river under strain

The life of millions of Africans depends on the Nile, the continent’s longest river, which runs from Uganda to Egypt, and whose water basin covers 10 percent of the continent. However, it is drying up due to a mix of climate change and excessive human use, which is making things worse for farmers who worry about low harvests and power outages.

Global warming and being overused by humans is putting the river under strain. As wrote, during the past 50 years, its flow has fallen from 3,000 cubic metres per second to 2,830. Moreover, according to UN forecasts, increased droughts and a lack of rainfall could lower it even more – by 70 percent by 2100.

The UN has estimated a loss of 75 percent of the water supply for each local resident.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Nile Delta is one of the three regions in the world that are most vulnerable to global warming because of how difficult it is for the river’s diminished flow to hold back the sea’s rising water levels. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, if temperatures continue to rise, the Mediterranean will move 100 metres closer to the Nile Delta every year.

Apart from rains, Lake Victoria is the Nile’s main source of water. However, the lake is currently in danger of disappearing due to evaporation, a lack of precipitation, and changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis.

At the same time, half of Ethiopia’s 110 million people live without access to power every day, despite the country’s rapid economic progress. The nation’s government is counting on a sizable dam, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), to solve this problem. This, however, has caused tensions with nations down the flow of the Nile, which fear that if the reservoir is filled up too quickly, they themselves will be denied access to water.

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