The annual United Nations climate conference, informally known as COP28, concluded on Dec 13 this year.
The ten-day conference was held in Dubai in the Middle East under the leadership of UAE Special Envoy and COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber. More than 100,000 delegates attended the event in person and remotely, making it the largest COP ever.
With 2023 slated to be the hottest year in recorded history, expectations were high. On the opening day, Sultan al-Jaber announced a new climate fund that will help regions devastated by climate-related disasters.
Let’s first understand loss and damage and why it is so important.
What is Loss and Damage?
In essence, the term "loss and damage" refers to the impacts countries face from climate-related events.
Specifically, the United Nations refers to it as climate change impacts extending beyond what people can adapt to. These losses can be both economic and non-economic - the loss of family members, destruction of cultures, and disruptions to business.
Historically, governments have directed money to reduce emissions. But no funds have ever been directed to rehabilitating areas facing increasingly devastating storms or droughts. Typically, poorer countries are less responsible for emissions but are more likely to face harmful impacts.
Climate change results in over $500 billion in losses and nearly 30 million people entering poverty. Poorer countries require a bill that can support their climate needs to allow for both economic and environmental growth.
What Have Policymakers Decided?
In 2022, after nearly three decades of debate, participating countries at COP27 in Egypt agreed to initiate a fund.
Though it seemed like the problem was solved for good, countries disputed over the rules: the location of the fund, who should pay, and how much each country should pay.
Weeks before arriving in Dubai for COP28, the countries reached a short-term agreement, but it was expected that there would be further negotiations and a deal would only be finalized at the end of COP. However, on opening day, an agreement was finalized and countries like Germany and the United Arab Emirates immediately agreed to pitch in over $100 million.
The United States and the United Kingdom together pledged an amount just short of $100 million, certifying their commitment to COP. While some climate experts viewed this as an encouraging step, they also revealed concerns about wealthier countries not aiding enough.
The new loss and damage fund has garnered a total of $650 million. Some projections state that funds for vulnerable countries will soon reach trillions of dollars by the end of this decade. While welcomed the UN’s commitment to climate justice but revealed that much more needs to be done for communities to cope with climate impacts.
Although a target for the fund has not been set, environmentalists indicated that the loss and damage fund is a much-needed change in climate policy. However, they called for a “close scrutiny” and “transparency” in ensuring that the World Bank, the temporary host of the fund, offers easy access to developing countries and vulnerable communities.
Sources: Al Jazeera, The Guardian, BBC, US Global Leadership Coalition