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Xie Zhenhua, China's special envoy for climate change, delivers a national statement at the COP27 climate conference at the Sharm Al Sheikh International Convention Centre on Tuesday. Image Credit: Bloomberg

SHARM AL SHEIKH, Egypt: China would be willing to contribute to a mechanism for compensating poorer countries for losses and damage caused by climate change, its climate envoy Xie Zhenhua said on Wednesday at the United Nations COP27 climate summit in Egypt.

Xie said China had no obligation to participate, but stressed his solidarity with those calling for more action from wealthy nations on the issue, and outlined the damage China had suffered from climate-linked weather extremes.

“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,” Xie said, speaking through a translator.

“It is not the obligation of China but we are willing to make our contribution and make our effort.” China is designated by the World Trade Organization as a developing country, despite having the world’s second largest economy.

Last month, United States special envoy John Kerry told reporters China should contribute its own funds to loss and damage, “especially if they think they’re going to continue to go on to the next 30 years with increasing their emissions,” Politico reported.

Xie said that Kerry, “his friend for 25 years”, had not raised this issue with him during informal talks at the climate conference this week. He added that China already contributed billions of yuan to developing countries to help with their mitigation efforts.

Speaking at a separate event on Wednesday, Kerry said cooperation with China was key to keeping the rise in global temperatures capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7ADEGF) and reiterated the need to work with Beijing on reducing methane emmissions.

Xie on Wednesday said that visit had “hurt Chinese people’s feelings”, but noted that informal discussions and personal correspondence with US delegates continued.

“The door is absolutely closed by (the United States),” he said. “It is we, China, who are trying to open it.”

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during the COP27 climate summit . Image Credit: Reuters

On Tuesday, Pakistani premier told COP27 said climate change is outpacing the capacity of developing nations to cope with its devastating impacts.

“The world is burning up faster than our capacity for recovery,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif warned in his speech before the summit.

“The current financing gap is too high to sustain any real recovery needs of those on the frontlines of climate catastrophe.”

Sharif argued Pakistan exemplifies the extreme vulnerability of nations in the developing world struggling to grow their economies while confronting a perfect storm of inflation, soaring debt and energy shortages - all compounded by global warming.

Catastrophic floods in Pakistan in August coming on the heels of a crippling two-month heat wave earlier in the year upended the lives of 33 million people and inundated a third of the country, he said.

“Raging torrents” from melting glaciers in northern Pakistan ripped up thousands of kilometres (miles) of roads and railway tracks, Sharif added.

The floods, which also swamped vast areas of key farmland, incurred damages exceeding $30 billion, according to the World Bank.

‘Gigantic task’

Pakistan, already facing a cost-of-living crisis, a nose-diving rupee and dwindling foreign exchange reserves, saw inflation surge after the floods.

“We have redirected our meagre resources to meet basic needs of millions of households affected by these devastating floods,” Sharif said. “And this all happened despite our very low carbon footprint.”

Rich nations historically responsible for rising temperatures have fallen short on delivering climate finance on several fronts, the prime minister said.

A 12-year old pledge made at COP15 to provide $100 billion a year to poorer countries by 2020 has still not been met and is $17 billion short.

A lightening-rod issue at COP27 is whether or not wealthy nations should commit to a separate financial facility for unavoidable impacts - from storms, heat waves and sea level rise, for example - known as “loss and damage”.

“How on earth can one expect from us that we will undertake this gigantic task on our own?” Sharif said.

At a Monday meeting with Sharif, UN chief Antonio Guterres said the world needs to rethink the international financial system to provide debt relief to countries battered by climate impacts.

“Pakistan deserves massive support directly from the international community,” Guterres said.