UAE: COP28 in Dubai makes history, agrees on loss and damage fund on day 1

‘We have no time to waste,’ COP28 president Al Jaber tells the world

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Waheed Abbas

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Photo: Neeraj Murali/Khaleej Times
Photo: Neeraj Murali/Khaleej Times

Published: Thu 30 Nov 2023, 6:49 PM

Last updated: Thu 30 Nov 2023, 10:42 PM

History was made in Dubai on Thursday at COP28 when the loss and damage fund for the vulnerable countries was agreed on the first day of the UN climate conference with a total commitment of over $420 million.

The UAE and Germany took the lead contributing $100 million each to the fund.

“We’ve delivered history today. The first time a decision has been adopted on day 1 of any COP. And the speed at which we have done so is also historic. Getting this done demonstrates the hard work of so many, particularly members of the transitional committee who worked tirelessly to get us to this point. This is evidence that we can deliver. COP28 can deliver,” said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, president, COP28.

He said that the threshold today was to establish and operationalise a $200 million fund. “We reached north of $420 million and over the next couple of days, many more pledges are going to be made. I thank Germany, the UK, the EU, the US and Japan for their pledges earlier today,” he said.

Stay tuned to Khaleej Times for the latest on COP28.

The UK committed £40 million for the Fund and £20 million for other arrangements, Japan contributed $10 million and the US committed $17.5million.

The fund was first agreed upon during COP27, held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and became operational on Thursday following the agreement reached by parties during 5 transitional committee meetings.

He said the COP28 team approached this task in a completely different and unconventional way.

“The fact that we have been able to achieve such a significant milestone on the first day of this COP is unprecedented. This is historic. The fact that we were able to get the agenda voted and agreed on without any delay is unprecedented. We have been able to deliver what was promised in Sharm al Sheikh and activate and operationalise and pass the threshold have been associated with this fund is historic.”

He said that the next two weeks are not going to be easy for COP28 and the UN teams yet he is confident that they will deliver unprecedented results.

More countries to announce pledges

Simon Stiell, executive secretary for climate change at the UN, said some countries will announce pledges during the course of the week on a grander stage by the countries' leaders.

He said the loss and damage fund has been a priority of the UN climate effort and all parties left sufficiently happy. “Discussion which concluded in Sharm al Sheikh with the historic decision to set up fund and fund in the arrangement. But the challenge was how in one year period to iron out details not just how to operationalise it but start seed capital for it.”

“Today's news on loss and damage gives COP28 a running start… When going gets tough, I urged negotiating teams to go beyond their positions to find pathways forward. We still have a lot of work ahead of us. Loss and damage is just one of the negotiation tracks,” said Stiell.

Ghiwa Nakat, executive director of Greenpeace Mena, praised the UAE and said rich developed countries must step up with major contributions to the new Fund, and polluting industries must also be made to pay. “If the COP Presidency can build on this with a consensus agreement on a just phasing out of fossil fuels, COP28 will indeed be a historic event!” she added.

‘We have no time to waste’

Dr Al Jaber earlier delivered an opening address at the COP28 summit, where he stressed that the world must ensure that this COP delivers the most ambitious global stock take possible and wastes no time.

“Let us work efficiently and agree on the agenda and on the text quickly. Please, we have no time to waste,” the COP28 president said during the opening address of the COP28 in Dubai on Thursday.

“We know, and you know, the gravity of this moment. We feel, as you feel, the urgency of this work and we see as you see that the world has reached a crossroads. Since the Paris Agreement, we have made some progress. but we also know that the road we have been on will not get us to our destinations in time,” he told the delegates who have gathered from around the world for the mega event till December 12 at Expo City Dubai.

He asked the governments to be flexible and warned that the world has no choice but to go the very unconventional way. “I ask you all to work together, be flexible, find common ground, come forward with a solution and achieve consensus.”

He asked delegates and officials to use the next two weeks wisely.

“Take a no-nonsense approach with no delays. This will restore faith. Let us bring back multilateralism and deliver some good news to the world. Let us rise above our differences for future generations. I am calling you all to unite, act and deliver,” he said.

“The next two weeks will not be easy. Let's remember our task is not only about negotiating text or putting words on paper. It is about improving lives. It is about people.”

Fossil fuel inclusion

He stressed that it is essential that no issue is left off the table during the negotiations.

“I have been saying we must look for ways and ensure the inclusion of the role of fossil fuels. I know there are strong views about the idea of including language on fossil fuels and renewable in the negotiating text.

“We collectively have the power to do something unprecedented. In fact, we have no choice but to go the very unconventional way. I ask you all to work together, be flexible, find common ground, come forward with solutions and achieve consensus.”

Finance

He noted that a key success factor across the climate agenda is finance which has not been available, accessible and affordable.

“This presidency is committed to unlocking finance to ensure that the global south doesn’t have to choose between development and climate action. Let this be the year that climate finance meets the magnitude of the moment. Let this be the cop where we deliver on our promises from the $100 billion to loss and damage. I know how important this issue is to the parties, particularly the most vulnerable,” he said in his opening speech.

“We must bridge the finance gap and agree on a robust framework for the global goal. Let's put nature, lives and livelihoods at the core of our national plans. Let's finally face the issues that are critical to adaptation, like water, food, agriculture, and health,” he added.

Engaging energy firms

The COP28 president added that this presidency has made a bold choice to proactively engage with oil and gas companies.

“We had many hard discussions. That wasn't easy. But today, many of these companies are committing to zero methane emissions by 2030 for the first time. And now many national oil companies have adopted net zero 2050 targets for the first time. They have stepped up to join this game-changing journey. And I must say, it is not enough. And I know that they can do much more. They can lead the way.”

He called on all industries to engage, innovate, modernise and invest in clean technologies.

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