SCOTLAND played a "key role" in securing a fund for communities hardest hit by climate change by being the first developed country to pay up and "break the taboo", campaigners have said. 

The United Nations summit, held this year in Sharm-el Sheikh, Egypt, ended in discord despite celebrations from poor countries that, in a historic move, richer nations agreed to establish a fund to tackle loss and damage.

Previously, developed countries had been reluctant to commit to paying up compensation for the damage already caused to countries in the Global South. 

However, the joy was short-lived as commitments to end dependence on fossil fuels and greater cuts to greenhouse gas emissions were once again watered down in the final agreement.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED - How is Scotland helping the cause of 'loss and damage' and what is it?

The cause of loss and damage was championed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at COP26 in Glasgow, and again at this year’s climate conference where she announced £5 million in funding to encourage others to contribute to the scheme.

The First Minister said the inclusion of a loss and damage fund in the agreement, finalised on Sunday with support of almost 200 countries, was “groundbreaking” and testament to 30 years of campaigning, particularly from the Global South.

She said: “I am pleased that Scotland, in being the first developed country ever to make a financial contribution, has been able to play a small part in that journey working with others over the last twelve months to build the momentum that has led to the decision.

“There remains a lot of detail to be worked out over the next year ahead of COP28, but from the inclusion of loss and damage on the agenda, to the agreement to establish a fund, this COP has delivered a real breakthrough for vulnerable and developing countries.”

Pakistan’s climate minister Sherry Rehman described the fund as “an investment in climate justice”. The country is still recovering from damage caused by catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, estimated to have cost $40 billion.

Anne Callaghan, policy officer at the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), said that the FM played a “key role” in breaking the taboo over a loss and damage fund with its initial £2 million contribution at COP27.

She said: “The First Minister equally importantly highlighted that this was a 'debt we owe' to those countries at the frontline of the climate crisis.

“Despite not being a state party to the UNFCCC, this call reverberated around the discussion halls, and gave a shot in the arm to the long-term global fight for Loss and Damage finance.

“But Scotland's contribution pales in comparison to the fight on Loss and Damage led by Global South governments and campaigners for decades, and today is their day.”

Mike Robinson, chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said that campaigners who lobbied the Scottish Government to pay up for loss and damage should be proud as the country showed “much-needed moral leadership” by being the first to commit funds to the cause.

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He added: “However, with failure to make any progress on phasing out all fossil fuels since the talks in Glasgow last year, the debt owed for Loss and Damage will continue to increase, and the lack of commitment to doing everything possible to keep temperature increases below 1.5 degrees is incredibly worrying.

“It means the world remains on track for catastrophic warming of 2.8C.”

There was support voiced for fossil fuel phase-out by the UK, US, and EU at the closing plenary of the summit, Robinson added, but this must be followed by action – including cancelling over 100 new licenses for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.

The commitment to phase out all fossil fuels, driven by dozens of countries, fell after resistance from oil-rich nations including Saudi Arabia and Russia. 

The final agreement was rewritten at the last possible moment to include the need for "low emission" energy, which would allow for fossil fuels to continue if used in conjunction with carbon capture technology. 

Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland, said that the “hypocrisy” from rich historically polluting countries was “staggering” over the refusal to phase out fossil fuels.

She said: “There is nothing to stop countries from phasing out fossil fuels, and yet the UK and the US, in particular, are doing the opposite with their vast expansion plans.

“Alok Sharma must take his table-thumping on fossil fuel phase-out back home and demand the UK Government overturn their climate trashing plans for North Sea oil and gas expansion and to reject the new coal mine planned in Cumbria.”

Campaigners also called on the Scottish Government to take drastic action to reduce emissions and reach existing net zero targets.

The Scottish Greens said that the failure of COP27 to take urgent action on fossil fuels shows the need for all governments to go “further and faster”.

Mark Ruskell MSP said that the UK must halt all new oil and gas exploration licenses and focus instead on a just transition for workers in the industry, funded by a “meaningful” windfall tax.

He added: "That can't happen as long as the so-called windfall tax includes a climate wrecking incentive for oil and gas giants to do even more drilling. It’s climate vandalism disguised as a levy.

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“This isn't just about closing a loophole, it was designed that way on purpose and is fundamental to the tax. If the UK Government is to have any kind of climate credibility then it must end the hypocrisy and take the action that is so badly needed.

“The 100-plus new oil and gas exploration licenses that Downing Street has committed to won’t do anything to lower household bills. But they will help to fuel the crisis that we are living through.”

The First Minister said it was “deeply disappointing” that the action on loss and damage was not matched with commitments to reduce emissions and stop global warming from getting worse.

She added: “It is simply not good enough that countries failed to make progress on that agenda, and that there has been such a strong pushback on action we all know is needed if 1.5 is to remain truly within reach.

“It is vitally important that countries recommit themselves to doing everything they can to ensure we keep 1.5 alive and to building a coalition ahead of COP28 that protects and drives progress against any further pushback.”