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U.N. chief calls on wealthier nations to pay for devastation caused by climate change

At the United Nations climate conference, COP27, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and some of the poorest nations called on wealthier nations, which are responsible for the most carbon dioxide pollution, to pay for the damages climate change has caused. 

While some European countries stepped up this week at the conference in Egypt, most others, including the United States, have resisted direct payments. The U.N. is calling these payments "loss and damage" – essentially, climate reparations.

"Loss and damage can no longer be swept under the rug. It is a moral imperative," Guterres said.

The world's top three carbon dioxide emitters are the U.S., which has created 25% of the world's CO2 emissions; the European Union, responsible for 22%; and China, responsible for 12.7%.

COP27 in Egypt
An activist holds a placard at a protest demanding aid to flood victims during the Finance Day during the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27. Gehad Hamdy/picture alliance via Getty Images

Bangladesh, on the other hand, emits less than 1% of the world's carbon dioxide, but has been battered by extreme climate events, including devastating cyclones and rising sea levels predicted to swamp its coast. 

"Already people are suffering," Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told CBS News. 

She said it is the "duty" of the top emitters to assist, "because they are responsible for it."

"We don't do any emissions, but we are suffering," she said. 

Many wealthy nations, including the U.S., are resisting payments to poor countries for climate damages, as they could be seen as an admission of liability. 

UNFCCC COP27 Climate Conference: Day Four
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the COP27 climate conference. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry recently defended U.S. opposition while saying he's open to discussions.

"How this works is trickier than meets the eye," he said.

But developed nations already failed to make good on a 2009 U.N. climate summit promise to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help vulnerable countries adapt to future climate impacts.

Hasina said wealthy countries can't just focus on the energy of the future without paying for their sins of the past.

"They have to take the responsibility," she said. "All these vulnerable people, those who are suffering because of the global warming, let them recover their losses and live in a better life."

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