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COP28 talks open in Dubai with breakthrough deal on loss and damage fund

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30 Nov 2023
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COP28 talks open in Dubai with breakthrough deal on loss and damage fund

SOURCE: UN NEWS: Global perspective Human stories

Climate and Environment

 

COP28 talks open in Dubai with breakthrough deal on loss and damage fund

 

Delegates meeting in Dubai agreed Thursday on the operationalization of a fund that would help compensate vulnerable countries coping with loss and damage caused by climate change, a major breakthrough on the first day of this year’s UN climate conference.

 

“Today’s news on loss and damage gives this UN climate conference a running start. All governments and negotiators must use this momentum to deliver ambitious outcomes here in Dubai,” said UN climate chief Simon Stiell during a press conference at which the announcement was made.

On X (formerly Twitter), UN Secretary-General António Guterres also welcomed the agreement to operationalize the fund calling it an essential tool to deliver climate justice. He urged leaders to support the fund and get COP28 off to a strong start. 

The fund has been a long-standing demand of developing nations on the frontlines of climate change coping with the cost of the devastation caused by ever-increasing extreme weather events such as drought, floods, and rising seas.

Following several years of intense negotiations at annual UN climate meetings, developed nations extended their support for the need to set up the fund last year during COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Reportedly, Sultan al-Jaber, the President of the COP28 climate conference, has said that his country, the United Arab Emirates, would commit $100 million to the fund.  

Germany has also reportedly pledged a contribution of $100 million to the fund. The United States and Japan have also announced contributions to the fund. 

The 28th annual meeting known as ‘COP’ after the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Cli​mate Change (UNFCCC), opened today and is scheduled to run through to 12 December. 

The action is taking place at the sprawling campus of Expo City, which has been decorated with trees and foliage. It is located on the outskirts of Dubai and is expected to host over 70,000 delegates, climate negotiators and other participants coming together to shape a better future for the planet. 

 

Loss and damage?

For a reminder of how central the loss and damage issue is to past COPs and efforts to stay on track with the Paris Agreement, here's our story from last year in Egypt when the dramatic agreement was announced in the final hours of COP27, and you can check out this explainer from our colleagues at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

In short, nations contributing least to greenhouse gas emissions are least equipped to deal with droughts, sea-level rise and other climate-related destruction. Lives, livelihoods and cultures could be massively altered by extreme weather events. As the climate crisis unfolds, these events will occur more frequently, and the consequences will become more severe. 

The draft agreement to operationalize the long-awaited ‘loss and damage’ fund aims to help compensate vulnerable nations for the impact of climate change, by, citing just one possible example, ensuring that vital infrastructure can be rebuilt or replaced with more sustainable versions.

 

‘Bold action, now’

Speaking earlier on Thursday at the opening of the conference, Mr. Stiell, who is the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, issued a warning that the world is taking “baby steps” in the face of a terrifying planetary climate crisis that requires bold action now. 

We are taking baby steps and stepping far too slowly to work out the best responses to the complex climate impacts we are faced with,” he told delegates gathered for COP28. 

The UN climate chief’s warning came just hours after the UN weather agency, known as WMO, issued a provisional report saying that this has “shattered” climate records accompanied by extreme weather which has left a trail of devastation and despair.

 

What’s at stake?

Mr Stiell then outlined what’s at stake. “This has been the hottest year ever for humanity. So many terrifying records were broken,” he said, adding: We are paying with people’s lives and livelihoods.” 
 
“Science tells us we have around six years before we exhaust the planet’s ability to cope with our emissions. Before we blow through the 1.5-degree limit,” he warned, referring to one of the keystone targets under the landmark Paris Agreement. 
 
Ominously, a steady stream of reports published in the lead up to COP28 have shown that the world is way off-track in achieving climate goals. and in the absence of ambitious action, we are heading towards a temperature increase of 3 degrees by the end of this century. 
 
Against this backdrop, Mr. Stiell called on countries to deliver ambitious new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), or national climate action plans where every single commitment in 2025 – on finance, adaptation, and mitigation – must be in line with a 1.5-degree world.

 
UN News managed to speak in Dubai on Thursday with the head of the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Petteri Taalas, who told us that limit was on the brink of being breached:

United Nations News · World getting ever closer to 1.5°C limit, warns WMO chief

Progress on Paris Goals

The Dubai COP will mark the culmination of a process known as the ‘Global Stocktake’ – an evaluation of the progress so far on achieving key provisions of the Paris accord: namely curbing greenhouse gas emissions, building climate resilience and mobilizing financial support for vulnerable countries. 

As such, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary said delegations at COP28 face two options: The first would be to note the lack of progress, tweak current best practices “and encourage ourselves to do more ‘at some other point in time’.”

Or the conference could decide at what point it will have made everyone on the planet safe and resilient; to fund this transition properly including the response to loss and damage; and decide to commit to a new energy system.  

Indeed, he warned: “If we do not signal the terminal decline of the fossil fuel era as we know it, we welcome our own terminal decline. And we choose to pay with people’s lives. If this transition isn’t just, we won’t transition at all. That means justice within and between countries.” 

He also emphasized his focus on ensuring accountability for climate promises. 

“Yes, this is the biggest COP yet – but attending a COP does not tick the climate box for the year. The badges around your necks make you responsible for delivering climate action here and at home.” 

“I am committing the UNFCCC to track all announcements made and initiatives launched. So that long after the cameras have gone, we can ensure our promises continue to serve the planet,” Mr. Stiell added. 

Thursday’s events marked the meeting’s procedural opening, but the conference will begin in earnest on Friday with a ‘climate action summit’ featuring the UN Secretary General alongside world leaders who will present national statements on what their governments are doing to address the global climate crisis. 

 

COP27: A call we heeded together

Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of COP27 Sameh Shoukry reminded delegates that despite global challenges such as COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, COP27 turned out to be a moment for effective and global climate action, and succeeded in delivering a number of long-awaited elements of the global climate action agenda. 

He recalled that the ‘loss and damage’ funding arrangement had been established, the so-named ‘Just Transition’ work programme had been launched, and parties had also agreed on a pathway to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, providing a boost to climate action during this critical decade.

He underscored that Together for Implementation had not just been a slogan for COP27, but rather a timely call to move from setting rules, frameworks and commitments to a clear focus on the tangible implementation these commitments on the ground.

World at a crossroads:

Addressing the opening plenary, Sultan al-Jaber, the President of the COP28 said: “We feel, as you feel, the urgency of the work, and we see, as you see, that the world has reached a crossroads.” 

“The science has spoken. It has confirmed that the moment is now to find a new road, wide enough for all of us. That new road starts with a decision on the global stocktake.”

He expressed his commitment to ensuring an inclusive and transparent process, one that encourages free and open discussion between all parties.

 

Want to know more? Check out our special events page, where you can find all our coverage of the COP28 climate conference, including stories and videos, explainers and our newsletter.

SOURCE: UN NEWS: Global perspective Human stories

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