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Rich Countries Set Low Bar for Climate Fund Contributions – Climate Activists React to Agreement on Loss and Damage at COP28

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Climate Change activists have welcomed the agreement on the loss and damage fund at the start of a two-week long COP28 UN summit in Dubai, but called on rich nations to do more to assist developing nations and communities to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis across the world.

While the deal is a win for poor countries which have for the past three decades been pushing rich nations and the world’s biggest polluters to contribute to a fund to facilitate interventions for managing or reducing the impact of the climate disaster on the global south whose people are more vulnerable to the crisis.

With the World Meteorological Organisation saying it was “virtually certain” 2023 will be hottest year on record, activists feel that the pledges point to a slow response to the climate crisis.

COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber described the deal as “unprecedented.” He said: “For those who have been involved in previous COPs, this is just unprecedented. The fact that we have been able to deliver what was promised in Sharm el Sheik, the fact that we have been able to activate, operationalise, and pass the threshold that have been associated with the establishment of this fund, is historic and is a unique, unprecedented achievement.”

Yet Al Jaber has in recent days been on the spot over claims that he has been riding on the opportunity of holding the climate summit to negotiate and seal oil deals with at least 15 countries. Although he denies the allegations, there are clear calls for the world to take a firm stance against fossil fuels.

Mr Al Jaber has recently faced criticism over accusations he’s using the summit to make oil and gas deals with 15 nations – accusations he has denied. Germany special climate envoy  Jennifer Morgan said “every fossil fuel CEO right now needs to decide which side of history he or she is on,” adding that “it’s very clear that we are in a climate crisis, that further development of fossil fuels according to the science is not in line with 1.5. They’re coming here, as the COP president said, to roll up their sleeves and find the answers.”

Germany joined this year’s climate summit, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in leading the pledges list, promising $100m in total, for the operationalization of the fund. German development minister Svenja Schulze urged “all countries that are willing and able to make contributions of their own to the new fund responding to loss and damage.”

At the moment, the contributions to the loss and damage fund stand at $429m. So far, besides Germany and the EU, other contributors include the UK ($75m), the US ($24.5m) and Japan ($10m).

What climate activists are saying

Andreas Sieber, Associate Director of Policy at 350.org, was unhappy “rich countries were quick in trying to marginalize the fund by setting a very low bar for contributions” yet “the needs of affected communities are in the hundreds of billions, not millions.”

Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International (CAN), said “rich countries, given their significantly higher historical responsibility, must do more on a scale commensurate with their impact on planet-heating emissions.”

Julie-Anne Richards, Strategy Lead, Loss and Damage Collaboration (L&DC), said the pledges do not meet the amount needed to deal with the scale of the current climate crisis.

“The Loss and Damage Fund – whilst not perfect – is a critical step towards climate justice. It must quickly start supporting developing countries and communities who are on the front line of worsening heat waves, droughts, storms, floods, rising seas and other climate impacts,” noted Richards.

“This will require developed countries – wealthy, historically high polluters – to fill the fund at scale. The pledges so far will allow the Fund to be set up, but are not at the scale needed. Not with money redirected from other climate priorities but new funds generated fairly, from big polluters.”

Liane Schalatek, Associate Director, Heinrich Böll Foundation, noted that approving the Fund at COP28 was “the first, but insufficient step.” Schaltek further described the meagre pledges as “a sad sign,” adding that what is available now “apparently cannot even be called a Loss and Damage Fund.”

Mattias Söderberg, the Global Climate Lead, DanChurchAid, said: “a fund without money will end up as a political stunt, with no effect for those facing loss and damage on the ground.”

Izzie McIntosh, climate campaign manager at Global Justice Now, took issue with placing the fund under the World Bank. “Whilst the world took a historic step agreeing to this vital fund, rich countries have weakened the commitment they made to climate justice by insisting on the World Bank as interim host,” McIntosh noted. “This decision risks both excluding countries due to its outdated rules and deepening the debt crisis if support is provided through loans, not grants. If loss and damage funding is to be truly impactful, it must be funded and designed adequately, or risk being all talk and no action.”

It should be remembered that climate activists were weeks ago left disappointed after the loss and damage fund was placed under the World Bank. (See Details Here).

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