FOR the first time, nations across the world have decided to help pay for the climate damage being inflicted on poorer countries as marathon talks came to a close on Sunday. 

The deal, gavelled around dawn in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, establishes a fund for what negotiators call loss and damage

Poorer nations have long called for cash to help them because they are often the victims of climate-worsened floods, droughts, heat waves, famines and storms despite having contributed far less to the pollution that heats up the globe. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the inclusion of loss and damage in the fund having already pledged £5 million to it during her trip to Egypt this year. 

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

Pakistan’s environment minister, Sherry Rehman, said the establishment of the fund “is not about dispensing charity”. 

Speaking for a coalition of the world’s poorest nations, she said: “It is clearly a down payment on the longer investment in our joint futures.”

Antigua and Barbuda’s Molwyn Joseph, who chairs the organisation of small island states, described the agreement as a “win for our entire world”. 

He added: “We have shown those who have felt neglected that we hear you, we see you, and we are giving you the respect and care you deserve.”

The coming months will see an assessment of which countries pay the money and which will receive it. 

However, some feel the root causes of climate disaster, such as the burning of fossil fuels, were not properly addressed. 

“What we have in front of us is not enough of a step forward for people and plane”, executive vice president of the EU Frans Timmermans told negotiators. 

He continued: “We have all fallen short in actions to avoid and minimise loss and damage. We should have done much more.”

The agreement includes a veiled reference to the benefits of natural gas as low emission energy, despite many nations calling for a phase down of natural gas, which does contribute to climate change.

While the new agreement does not ratchet up calls for reducing emissions, it does retain language to keep alive the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Nor does the deal expand on last year’s call to phase down global use of “unabated coal” even though India and other countries pushed to include oil and natural gas in language from Glasgow. That too was the subject of last-minute debate, especially upsetting Europeans.

Last year’s climate talks president chided the summit leadership for knocking down his efforts to do more to cut emissions with a forceful listing of what was not done.

“Clear follow through on the phase down of coal. Not in this text. A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels. Not in this text. And the energy text weakened in the final minutes,” the United Kingdom’s Alok Sharma said.

And in his remarks to negotiators, UN climate chief Simon Stiell, who hails from Grenada, called on the world “to move away from fossil fuels, including coal oil and gas”.

However, that fight was overshadowed by the historic compensation fund.

“Quite a few positives to celebrate amidst the gloom and doom” of not cutting emissions fast enough to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, said climate scientist Maarten van Aalst of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, which responds to climate disasters.

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, which scientists say are slipping out of reach.

According to the agreement, the fund would initially draw on contributions from developed countries and other private and public sources such as international financial institutions.

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While major emerging economies such as China would not automatically have to contribute, that option remains on the table. This is a key demand by the European Union and the United States, who argue that China and other large polluters currently classified as developing countries have the financial clout and responsibility to pay their way.

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

Martin Kaiser, the head of Greenpeace Germany, described the agreement on a loss and damage as a “small plaster on a huge, gaping wound”.

“It’s a scandal that the Egyptian Cop presidency gave petrostates such as Saudi Arabia space to torpedo effective climate protection,” he said.

Many climate campaigners are concerned that pushing for strong action to end fossil fuel use will be even harder at next year’s meeting, which will be hosted in Dubai, located in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.