In 2019, heavy rains triggered floods and landslides in three Ugandan districts of Bundibugyo, Bududa and Sironko, killing at least 38 people and displacing 65,000 others. Four years later, on separate days in April and May 2023, torrential rains caused floods across Uganda, largely affecting the districts of Kasese, Bulambuli, Katakwi, Kanungu, Kisoro and Ntoroko.
Nearly 20 people lost their lives while over 13,000 were displaced. Between 2009 and 2019, floods and mudslides killed an estimated 1,000 people in Uganda’s Bugisu sub-region alone, translating in 100 per year. There have been more deaths in years beyond this reporting period in the country and there will continue to be people dying, properties destroyed and displacements if nothing is done. There must be action – quick action or the loss and damage from the climate crisis will continue.
From November 30 to December 12, 2023, UAE will host the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) UAE in Expo City Dubai. This year’s COP’s host sent nearly 1,100 delegates to the conference in the previous conference in Egypt (COP27). This number is almost equivalent to that of Ugandans killed by floods and mudslides in just one sub-region in the previous decade. Imagine an entire delegation from one country not returning home – forever!
As about 70,000 delegates gather in Dubai, the speed at which they make the right decisions regarding the Loss and Damage Fund will determine how quickly mitigation and adaptation measures are put in place – and how many senseless deaths are prevented. This is why the Loss and Damage Fund will be key at COP28.
Ahead of the conference, activists such as the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition (LDYC) temporarily lost the battle to have the Loss and Damage fund controlled by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Parties at the fifth meeting of the Transitional Committee (TC5) in Abu Dhabi placed management of this key climate financing package under the World Bank.
The LDYC had argued that “the World Bank is not a suitable host for the loss and damage fund because it cannot ensure the principles of justice and equity that the fund should embody.”
But in the end, TC5 on the operationalization of the new funding arrangements for responding to loss and damage made decisions that will be further debated during COP28.
According to Harjeet Singh, the Head of Global Political Strategy at Climate Action Network International (CAN), “rich countries, particularly the USA, have not only coerced developing nations into accepting the World Bank as the host of the L&D Fund but have also evaded their duty to lead in providing financial assistance to communities and countries most in need of support to recover from the impacts of climate change.”
The World Bank will be expected to allow all developing countries to directly access resources from the Fund, including through subnational, national and regional entities and through small grants funding for communities. The global lender will also be required to ensure that parties to the Convention and the Paris Agreement which are not members of the World Bank access the Fund without requiring decisions or waivers from the World Bank Board of Directors on individual funding decisions. The parties at TC5 also permitted the World Bank, in its role as a trustee, to invest contributions to the Fund on the capital markets to preserve capital and general investment income.
The language in the resolution by parties at the TC5 speaks volumes. Developed countries neither made binding commitments nor were they compelled to do so.
The parties urged developed countries “to continue to provide support, and encourage other Parties to provide, or continue to provide support on a voluntary basis for activities to address loss and damage.” They also invited “financial contributions with developed country Parties continuing to take the lead to provide financial resources for commencing the operationalization of the Fund.”
“It is a sombre day for climate justice, as rich countries turn their backs on vulnerable communities, allowing those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis to suffer its most severe consequences. The reluctance of wealthy nations to fulfill their financial responsibilities, in spite of historical obligations, has starkly revealed their true intentions and their indifference to the plight of the developing world,” noted CAN’s Singh.
“The current set of recommendations to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund falls short of providing vulnerable communities with adequate assurance that their financial needs for coping with climate impacts and rebuilding their lives will be met.”
Developed countries are expected to propose $500m for L&D Fund, a figure way lower than what is needed for the climate crisis that requires trillions of dollars for adaptation and mitigation. Obviously, a drop in the ocean, this money could even delay. But the disasters like those in Uganda’s Bugisu sub-region may not wait– and so will the developed countries activities responsible for this loss and damage.
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