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‘Loss-and-damage’ fund for hardest-hit nations agreed on first day of COP28

01 December 2023


The King in an opening address at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai on Friday, calling for “transformational action” from world leaders and climate delegates to combat climate change

The King in an opening address at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai on Friday, calling for “transformational action” from world leaders and climate del...

THE COP28 climate summit got off to a rapid start, with a new fund to compensate victims of climate change agreed on the opening day. The “loss-and-damage” fund was agreed in principle last year at COP27, in Egypt (News, 25 November 2022), and rules were hammered out during meetings throughout 2023.

The fund is a victory for developing countries who have fought hard for it over the past decade. Christian development charities welcomed the move, but warned that nearly all of the initial tranche of money committed to it by rich nations, including £60 million from the UK, was not new but had already been announced in climate-finance pledges.

CAFOD’s climate-change policy lead, Liz Cronin, said: “Whilst this is a great start to COP, the fund now needs filling up with new and additional climate finance that isn’t just moved from existing climate-finance commitments. CAFOD are calling on the UK and all developed countries going forward to step up and contribute their fair share to the fund.”

Another concern raised was that the fund would be administered by the World Bank. Christian Aid’s global advocacy lead, Mariana Paoli, said: “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.”

President Biden, President Xi of China, and Pope Francis all pulled out of the summit; so it was left to the King to open the high-level segment of the meeting with his keynote address on Friday. He warned delegates: “We are carrying out a vast, frightening experiment of changing every ecological condition, all at once, at a pace that far outstrips nature’s ability to cope.

“As we work towards a zero-carbon future, we must work equally towards being nature-positive. With what we are witnessing, our choice now is a starker — and darker — one: how dangerous are we actually prepared to make our world?”

He concluded by telling world leaders: “In your hands is an unmissable opportunity to keep our common hope alive. I can only urge you to meet it with ambition, imagination, and a true sense of the emergency we face, and together with a commitment to the practical action upon which our shared future depends.”

The leaders then took it in turn to give speeches throughout the day, including Rishi Sunak, who announced a £1.6-billion investment in “renewable energy, green innovation, and forests”.

He argued: “We’ve made real progress — including at the Glasgow summit. But the climate science and mounting evidence of climate-related disasters show we’re not moving quickly or effectively enough. So I’m calling on major emitters to dramatically accelerate delivery on what they’ve already promised. Everyone can do more. And let’s be very clear — the UK is leading the charge.”

Observers noted that his words clashed with the fact his Government has approved more than 100 new licences for drilling oil and gas in the North Sea this year. Laura Young, a Scottish environmental scientist and ambassador for Tearfund, said: “I’m not fully sold on Rishi’s repurposing of the same old riches. Half the money the Prime Minister has committed today is finance that was pledged years ago.

“Words and good intentions are not enough, if repeated promises are not kept. The road to the flourishing world we all want to see is paved with hard work and justice. We need more new money and accountability, not creative accounting.

“If the Prime Minister really wants to ‘lead the charge’ and ‘leave no one behind’, it’s time to phase out all fossil fuels at home as well as abroad, and genuinely deliver the scale of finance needed for people on the frontline of the climate crisis.”

The impact of the climate breakdown on children is being particularly emphasised by Christian groups this year. World Vision UK has called for children to be formally categorised as a “vulnerable” group at COP28, saying that only 2.4 per cent of multilateral climate-finance goes to specifically support children.

Joining their delegation at the summit this year is 15-year-old Abdulwahil, from Iraq. He said: “Because of climate change, it’s getting warmer, and the temperature is reaching 55°C. The crops are catching fire every day; this affects us, and we have lost our source of livelihood. I wish the world leaders would pay more attention to climate change. As young people, we are ready to fight climate change.”

This was echoed by Athena Peralta, the World Council of Churches (WCC) programme executive for economic and ecological justice, who described children as being “at the front line of the climate emergency”. She said: “At this COP, we will for the first time have a child with a disability in the WCC delegation. She will bring focus on how climate change disproportionately affects children and persons with disability, but also on how children and persons with disability are actively building solutions to climate change.”

The high-level portion of the summit continues through the weekend, with speeches from world leaders concluding on Saturday. Country negotiators then take over, with talks on a range of issues ramping up next week, including discussion of setting a date for the global phase-out of fossil fuels.

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