At the opening plenary of the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai (COP28) on Thursday, November 30, the Loss and Damage Fund was operationalised with new pledges of about $400 million announced in financial support.
COP28 President, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, gaveled the first major milestone of COP28, delivering a historic agreement to operationalise the Fund which is aimed at assisting developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to adverse effects of climate change.
“The hard work of many people over many years, has been delivered in Dubai.” Dr. Al Jaber said, saying “the speed at which the world came together, to get this fund operationalised within one year since Parties agreed to it in Sharm El Sheikh is unprecedented.”
The Fund was agreed upon at COP27 held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and became operational on Thursday following the agreement reached by parties. The modalities for the operationalisation were discussed and agreed by the Transitional Committee (TC) which was constituted. The TC held five meetings to resolve the issues and produce a draft decision report that has been adopted, effectively operatioalising the fund.
That meeting generated recommendations on implementing the Fund, including the provision of essential grant-based support to countries especially impacted by climate losses and damages.
Loss and Damage is essential even if the world meets climate mitigation goals because a “locked-in” level of warming already impacts particularly vulnerable communities being hit by extreme weather events, such as storms and floods, reduced agricultural productivity, and rising sea levels among others.
Immediately after the historic decision was adopted, the UAE announced a commitment of $100 million to the Fund, which aims to provide financial assistance to countries at extreme risk from climate change, to support climate change mitigation and recovery.
Other countries that announced notable commitments included Germany, which committed $100 million; the UK, which committed £40 million for the Fund and £20 million for other arrangements; Japan, which contributed $10million; the U.S., which committed $17.5 million; and the European Union, committing $145.6 million to bring total commitments to over $400 million.
Reacting to the decision, Zambia, as Chair of the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change (AGN), hailed the adoption and urged other developed countries to commit more resources as the fund requires colossal sums of money to adequately support developing countries.
Zambia’s Minister of Green Economy and Environment, Collins Nzovu, said: “Within 20 minutes of your Presidency, you have not only operationalised the fund but also capitalised it by getting pledges, unprecedented and shows COP28 Presidency mean business. This development will help to start rebuilding trust between developed and developing parties. We therefore call upon other developed countries to commit more money as the fund has to be established at scale.”
Meanwhile, the AGN has insisted that adaptation remains a key priority for the continent and a critical component in the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
According to observers, the success of COP28 will ultimately be judged on addressing root cause of the climate crisis – fossil fuels.
The Climate Action Network (CAN) said on Thursday that the climate conference would be judged on whether it agrees to a plan for an equitable phase out fossil fuels, delivers the finance for a just transition and gets the Loss and Damage Fund up and running.
Harjeet Singh, Head of Global Political Strategy, Climate Action Network International said: “In a commendable move, the host of the COP28 climate conference pledged $100 million to the Loss and Damage Fund, followed by several affluent nations announcing their financial support. While these funds are valuable in initiating the Fund’s activities, it is important to recognise that the costs of rebuilding from the devastating effects of climate disasters run into hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Rich countries, given their significantly higher historical responsibility, must do more on a scale commensurate with their impact on planet-heating emissions.”
Tasneem Essop, Executive Director, Climate Action Network, said: “A key issue to be addressed head on at this COP is that it delivers an outcome that deals with the need to justly and equitably phase out fossil fuels. We have had a record breaking year of global climate impacts and a number of alarming reports telling us that we are going in the wrong direction. We come into the COP understanding what the challenges are and what we need so the ambition levels must increase five fold to put us back on track to address the climate crisis.”
Teresa Anderson, Global Lead on Climate Justice, ActionAid International, commented that COP needs to reach for the stars and call for a full phase out of fossil fuels that is fair and funded with particular attention paid to agriculture.
She said: “We need real commitments to move away from industrialised agriculture which is the second largest cause of greenhouse gas emissions. The fossil fuel and fertiliser industries are working hand in hand and the world food systems have become complicit in their own destruction. The COP28 food systems initiative will only be useful if it leads to real commitments to move away from industrialised agriculture and to scale up the adoption of real solutions.”
Romain Ioualalen, Global Policy Manager at Oil Change International, said: “This COP must address the root cause of the climate crisis: fossil fuels. Countries must come to an agreement to immediately end fossil fuel expansion and build a just and equitable phase out of all fossil fuels, enabled by rich countries redirecting trillions in fossil industry handouts to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency. We have had enough delays – and this must happen now to secure a livable future.”
Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Programme at the Union of Concerned Scientists, highlighted that we are in the midst of a climate crisis falling disproportionately on marginalised and disadvantaged people.
She said: “The consensus recommendations for operationalising the Loss and Damage Fund are far from perfect yet are an important step forward and should be quickly adopted at COP28. Richer nations – including the United States – must also live up to their responsibility and provide robust resources for the Fund. The needs are immense and crushing for low- and middle-income nations already reeling from billions of dollars of damages and an immense human toll from extreme climate impacts. Moving this agreement forward expeditiously will also create the space for addressing other pressing issues, including the phase out of fossil fuels which are the root cause of climate change and loss and damage.”
Madeleine Diouf Sarr, Chair of the Group of the 46 Least Developed Countries, sets out her expectations, saying: “COP28 is a moment to take stock of progress towards achieving the goals we all set in Paris. But we know since then, emissions have kept increasing and the impacts of climate change have intensified. The world is not on track with efforts needed to adequately address this climate crisis and the window of opportunity for limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C is rapidly closing.
“In Dubai we are faced with the critical question: what comes next? The global stocktake must be a moment for course correction. A meaningful decision is needed at COP28 that provides a clear path forward for deep emissions reductions and scaled up finance, which governments are held accountable to.”
On loss and damage, Ms Sarr added: “The progress we’ve made in establishing a loss and damage fund is hugely significant for climate justice, but an empty fund can’t help our people. We expect significant pledges of new and additional finance to be made at COP28 to ensure the loss and damage fund can start delivering support as soon as possible.”
On adaptation, Ms Sarr stated “The time to treat adaptation as a priority is overdue. The gap in adaptation finance is stark – there’s an immediate need for increased and accessible funds. At COP28, we demand clarity on the progress of the doubling of adaptation finance as well as agreeing clear and ambitious targets to achieve the global goal on adaptation.”
COP28 is mandated to complete the work undertaken for the past two years under the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), and the launch of the framework.
“The outcome on the GGA is the most important outcome for Africa at COP28,” said Nzovu. “At the heart of the framework is the development of qualitative and quantitative dimensional and thematic science-based targets that are measurable and time-bound to help us achieve the objective of the goal on adaptation. Further, the means of implementation, including finance, capacity building and technology transfer will be a critical component of the GGA framework.”
The Adaptation Gap Report has revealed widening adaptation finance gap, reaching an estimated $366 billion per year. The report further notes that climate finance to developing countries decreased by 15% in 2021.