‘The hard work starts now’: Climate leaders highlight remaining loopholes in Loss & Damage agreement

Image: ActionAid International

The agreement on the fund was struck as COP28 began in Dubai on Wednesday (30 November).

Developing, climate-affected nations have long been pressing for a dedicated global fund through which wealthier neighbours can help them pay costs relating to physical climate impacts like flash floods and droughts.

COP27 saw wealthy nations U-turn on their historic opposition to the creation of this fund, but discussions intended to nail down the specifics of the fund’s operations this year proved challenging. Ultimately, a last-minute agreement on some of the basics was struck in the UAE earlier this month, paving the way for this to be formalised today.

Building on edie’s initial coverage of this announcement, we’ve pulled together this collection of reaction insights from green economy and climate justice leaders.

The general consensus is that while this sends a strong message on the direction of travel, the journey ahead is likely to be the more complex and challenging part of the work.

Ambassador Pa’olelei Luteru, chair, Alliance of Small Island States:

“The work is far from over. After the gavel drops at COP28, we cannot rest until this fund is adequately financed and starts to actually alleviate the burden of vulnerable communities. 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.”

Dr Fatima Denton, member of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group and director of the United Nations University’s Institute for Natural Resources in Africa:

“While many in the Global South will welcome the commitment to a Loss & Damage Fund, today’s announcement does not go far enough to help deliver the support that vulnerable countries urgently need.

“Many of us are still waiting for action on loss and damage that we were promised during COP27. Until we commit to a framework that demands contributions from developed nations, the COP process is at risk of remaining a beauty contest – with nations putting on their best attires and pledging to new funds, even before the ink dries on previous ones.”

Ani Dasgupta, president and chief executive, World Resources Institute (WRI):

“While the overall signal from today’s pledges is positive, it is disappointing that the United States and the Japan chipped in so little. Given the size of their economies, there is simply no excuse for their contributions to be far eclipsed by others.

“It is particularly notable that the United Arab Emirates matched Germany with a pledge of $100m each. UAE’s contribution broadens the nations providing climate finance.

“The funding announced at COP28 will be just a down payment to the far greater resources to help people reeling from losses and damage from climate change. Over the coming year, countries need to step forward with much larger pledges as well as mobilize innovative sources of funding such as taxes on fossil fuels and shipping.”

Tanya Steele, chief executive, WWF UK:

“Committing funding for loss and damage is a positive first step from the UK Government, but wealthy nations need to deliver billions, not millions in new funding to help communities and countries most affected by devastating heatwaves, droughts and wildfires caused by the climate crisis.”

Laura Young, ambassador, Tearfund:

The UK Government’s pledge is a positive step that recognises the importance of providing finance for climate impacts that can’t be avoided.

“However, this is repurposed funding. With climate costs escalating around the world – stretching an already-inadequate pot further isn’t the answer, and does not deliver justice for millions of vulnerable people around the world. To truly show integrity and deliver on its obligations to climate-vulnerable communities, the UK must commit new and additional finance for loss and damage.”

Zahra Hdidou, senior climate and resilience advisor, ActionAid UK:

“Rishi Sunak’s pledge to the new Loss and Damage fund is a paltry, derisory offer to millions of people facing climate catastrophe. While [his Government’s] intent on stealing the headlines at COP with a shiny new financial package, what the UK is pledging today is not the new or additional funding needed to help millions on the frontline of climate catastrophe but a cynical accounting trick.

“UK claims that it is more ambitious on climate than any other major economy, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. As it issues licenses for over 100 new oil and gas fields and fails to provide a proper roadmap on how it will deliver £11.6bn in loss and damage finance to climate-stricken countries, the UK’s decisions today will continue to cause environmental catastrophe well into the future and cause immense harm to women and girls disproportionately affected by climate breakdown.

“With announcements being made so early into the summit, we’re urging the UK not to pull up the draw bridge on further commitments, but to commit to drastically scaling up Loss and Damage funding to meet the sheer scale of the climate crisis.”

Mariana Paoli, global advocacy lead, Christian Aid:

This time last year, at the start of COP27 in Egypt, the Loss and Damage Fund was not even on the agenda for that meeting.  So it’s a testament to the determination of developing country negotiators that we now already have the fund agreed and established.

“It’s now vital we see the fund filled.  People who have contributed the least to the climate crisis are already suffering climate losses and damages.  The longer they are forced to wait for financial support to cover these costs, the greater the injustice.  At COP28 we need to see significant new and additional pledges of money to the Loss and Damage Fund, and not just repackaged climate finance that has already been committed.

“[Additionally,] the fact the World Bank is to be the interim host of the fund is a worry for developing countries. It needs to be closely scrutinised to ensure vulnerable communities are able to get easy and direct access to funds and the whole operation is run with far more transparency than the World Bank normally operates on. These were the conditions agreed by countries and if they are not kept to, a separate arrangement will be needed.”

Fanny Petitbon, head of advocacy, CARE France:

“Today is a landmark day for climate justice, but clearly not the end of the fight. We hope the agreement will result in rapid delivery of support for communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. However, it has many shortcomings. It enables historical emitters to evade their responsibility. It also fails to establish the scale of finance needed and ensure that the Fund is anchored in human rights principles.

“The Loss and Damage Fund must not remain an empty promise. We urgently call on all governments who are most responsible for the climate emergency and have the capacity to contribute to announce significant pledges in the form of grants. Historical emitters must lead the way. Financial commitments must not be about robbing Peter to pay Paul: funding must be new and additional.”

Mohamed Adow, director, Power Shift Africa:

“It’s great to see the Loss and Damage Fund established.  At the start of COP27 in Egypt last year many people said it wouldn’t even be agreed, let alone created within 12 months. That just shows how this UN process can act quickly when countries work together.

“The initial funding pledges are clearly inadequate and will be a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of the need they are to address.  In particular, the amount announced by the US is embarrassing for President Biden and John Kerry. It just shows how this must be just the start.

“Although rules have been agreed regarding how the fund will operate there are no hard deadlines, no targets and countries are not obligated to pay into it, despite the whole point being for rich, high polluting nations to support vulnerable communities who have suffered from climate impacts.”

Debbie Hiller, climate advocate, Mercy Corps:

“Recognising the urgency posed by the climate crisis, the agreement on the fund today, and the funding committed, marks an important first step. However, the agreement has numerous shortcomings and does not address climate justice.

The agreement lacks a reference to the core fundamental principle of UNFCCC – that of common but differentiated responsibilities. Instead, the text refers to ‘voluntary contributions’ which means that high-polluting countries are not obligated to pay into the fund. What should be responsibilities are perceived as donations, putting the burden on those least responsible for climate change.”

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