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Tuesday, February 27, 2024  
16 Shaban 1445  

COP28 formally launches climate ‘loss and damage’ fund

Caretaker Prime Minister Kakar will head the Pakistan delegation
COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaks during the opening ceremony of the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on November 30, 2023. AFP
COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaks during the opening ceremony of the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on November 30, 2023. AFP

The launch of a climate “loss and damage” fund drew praise and hundreds of millions of dollars in pledges at the UN’s COP28 talks on Thursday but also warnings that much more is needed to help vulnerable nations.

“We have delivered history today,” the UAE’s COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber told delegates who stood and applauded after the decision’s adoption in Dubai.

COP28, the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, opened in the Expo City of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday.

The announcement was followed immediately by financial pledges, including 225 million euros ($246 million) from the European Union, $100 million from the United Arab Emirates, another $100 million from Germany, $40 million from Britain, $17.5 million from the United States and $10 million from Japan.

After years of dragging their feet on the issue, wealthy nations backed the fund in a landmark agreement at the COP27 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last year.

Its launch on the first day of COP28 follows fraught negotiations on the mechanics of the fund, which will be housed at the World Bank on an interim basis.

“This sends a positive signal of momentum to the world,” Jaber said.

He said it was “the first time a decision has been adopted on day one of any COP and the speed in which we have done so is also unique, phenomenal and historic”.

“This is evidence that we can deliver. COP28 can and will deliver,” he added.

Kakar will head Pakistan’s delegation

Caretaker Prime Minister Kakar will head the Pakistan delegation at the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28), and he will also attend the World Climate Action Summit on December 01-02.

COP “Conference of the Parties,” refers to signatories of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, an agreement which was signed by over 150 governments in 1992.

COP28 is the 28th annual summit which will bring leaders from around the globe. About 70,000 participants are expected to attend the event including various heads of state and government, climate envoys, experts, business leaders, indigenous groups, activists, diplomats, and others.

The conference will seek agreement on goals and strategies to address the climate crisis.

In the face of escalating climate challenges, Pakistan, a country contributing less than 1 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions, is confronting an outsized battle against climate adversities.

Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change is starkly evident. The World Bank notes that the country’s exposure to extreme weather events has risen dramatically, with the recent floods in Balochistan exemplifying this trend. These floods not only devastated communities but also highlighted the urgent need for climate-resilient strategies.

‘Work is far from over’

But the money pledged so far fall well short of the $100 billion that developing nations — which have historically been least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions — have said are needed to cover losses from natural disasters.

“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,” said Madeleine Diouf Sarr, chair of the Group of the 46 Least Developed Countries.

The Alliance of Small Island States — among the most impacted by rising seas and other effects of climate change — said “the work is far from over”.

“We cannot rest until this fund is adequately financed and starts to actually alleviate the burden of vulnerable communities,” it said.

“Success starts when the international community can properly support the victims of this climate crisis, with efficient, direct access to the finance they urgently need,” the group added.

Rachel Cleetus, policy director of the climate and energy programme at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the financial commitments should be “in the billions, not millions”.

“Millions would be an insult given what’s happening already around the world,” Cleetus told reporters.

“We want to hear the starting point is a conversation about billions and then a plan to scale it up by 2030 so that it meets the needs that are clearly rising,” she said.

‘Not satisfactory to all’

The fund will be housed in the World Bank for four years, a decision that developing nations begrudgingly accepted as the Washington-based institution is dominated by Western powers.

Its board members must now be appointed and represent wealthy and developing nations, and their first steps will be critical in building up its credibility.

A European diplomat said the first contributions will enable the financing of pilot projects and to test how the fund works before seeking more money “in a year or a year-and-a-half”.

Developed countries, the US chief among them, insisted that contributions be on a voluntary basis, and want richer emerging powers such as China and Saudi Arabia to open their wallets, too.

US climate envoy John Kerry said the government would work with Congress to provide the $17.5 million pledge and said the US expects the fund to “draw from a wide variety of sources”.

Richard Sherman, the South African co-chair of the committee that oversaw negotiations, acknowledged that “the outcome might not be satisfactory to all people.

“We certainly know that our colleagues in civil society have been shouting at us.,” he said.

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