COP27 is turning out to be a depressingly low-key affair. What should be the world’s alarm call and annual reminder of the climate-change emergency facing us all has been relegated to specialist sections of news websites. The first two days of open sessions, which consisted mainly of platitudinous speeches from world leaders, passed with little record. Yesterday, the closed sessions began, from which even less can be gleaned by those with only a passing interest in the proceedings.

Behind the scenes, negotiations about ‘loss and damage’ – or climate reparations – are taking place. Richer, more polluting, countries are determining how much they should pay poorer countries in the developing world to adapt to the challenges that climate change will bring. The process of development means producing and consuming more energy; if that energy comes from fossil fuels, the speed of climate change will only increase. Are poorer nations doomed to remain poor then? If not, who is to ensure that their development will unfold in a climate-friendly manner?

Yesterday, the UK said it would allow some debt-payment deferrals from countries in the developing world, while Austria and New Zealand have both offered funding for loss and damage. China has hinted that it may contribute to a UN loss-and-damage fund. Clearly, more commitments from more rich countries are needed.

Financing is key, but so is having a strategy in place. Comparing Pakistan – which saw a third of its land area under water this summer – to Bangladesh, which has already had more than its share of devastating floods, is useful. With 75% of Bangladesh lying just 10 metres or less above sea-level, and with 80% of the country situated in the flood plains of rivers, it seems far more vulnerable than geographically diverse Pakistan with its deserts and mountains. Yet because of its experience, Bangladesh is better prepared. Its death toll in this year’s floods was three times lower than Pakistan’s. Preparing for floods requires much planning and forethought – and finance. Someone must pay for the engineers who calculate how to divert water-courses away from centres of population, and how to do that without knock-on side effects that serve to increase greenhouse-gas emissions (such as producing concrete to build drainage ditches on a large scale).

Droughts and famines will be the other consequence of climate change that will disproportionately hit the developing world. Food security, preparation for emergency relief, is something the UN takes seriously, but this will need to be taken up to a level higher as climate change starts to bite. The alternative to rich countries shoring up poorer ones is mass climate-driven migration. People will start leaving lands where 50C temperatures in summer make agriculture impossible; they will migrate north and south, away from the Equator, to countries that not only enjoy a more habitable climate, but are also more prosperous.

The question for rich countries today then is – do they pay now to help poorer countries adapt to the coming climate crisis – or await a potentially indigestible stream of climate refugees to turn up at their doorsteps?

Ironically, the same people who are most anti-migrant in their outlook tend to overlap with those who are also against foreign aid and spending money to mitigate the effects of climate change. Populist rhetoric in the developed world is directed against both.