Climate change
COP28 climate conference will mark a milestone as the region grapples with the devastating effects of climate change Image Credit: Muhammad Nahas/Gulf News

The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) adopted the Sharm Al-Sheikh Implementation Plan “SHIP” as the main decision.

The ‘Plan’ has been scrutinised as both advancing some climate efforts from previous COPs, such as for loss and damage, while falling short in other areas such as fossil fuels and mitigation ambitions.

As the scene shifts to COP28, some of key issues that UAE presidency needs to work upon from now are listed here.

Loss and Damage Fund

The increasingly severe impacts of the climate crisis in 2022 have caught the attention of governments and people around the world. This year, countries — from Pakistan and the UK to Nigeria have experienced unprecedented flooding and severe heatwaves. In addition, the impacts of climate change exacerbate the global energy and food crises, and vice versa, particularly in developing countries.

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As a result, after a two-week marathon of negotiations and despite the difficulties and challenges of our times, the deviation of views and conflicting interests, countries managed to agree on a hard-fought deal to create a fund to help vulnerable countries suffering from climate related disasters.

Developing countries have been seeking financial assistance for loss and damage to rescue and rebuild the physical and social infrastructure of nations devastated by extreme weather events for nearly three decades. Achieving such an agreement is a major milestone. Creating a specific fund for “Loss and Damage” marks a significant point of progress, with the issue added to the official agenda and adopted for the first time at COP27.

Devil is in the details

But as they say: “The devil is in the details.” Setting up the fund will be a laborious task for the current climate COP presidency (Egypt) and the incoming climate COP presidency (UAE). There is no agreement yet on how the financing will be provided, who will oversee the fund, how the money will be dispersed, or who exactly will benefit from it.

Further, there is still no agreement on what should be classified as “loss or damage” from climate change — which could include damaged infrastructure and property, as well as invaluable things such as natural ecosystems or cultural assets.

According to the agreement, the fund would initially draw on contributions from developed countries and other private and public sources such as international financial institutions. Major emerging economies such as China (the second largest economy in the world) would not initially be required to contribute.

This option remains on the table and will be negotiated over the coming years. It is a key demand by the European Union and the United States, who argue that China and other large polluters currently classified as developing countries have the financial clout and thus responsibility, to pay their dues.

Transitional committee

Governments also agreed to establish a ‘transitional committee’ to make recommendations on how to operationalise both the new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 next year. The first meeting of the transitional committee is expected to take place before the end of March 2023. Nevertheless, it is likely that it will be several years before the fund exists.

The UAE, as a president of next COP28 has a huge responsibility in this regard. While the Loss and Damage fund was widely lauded as a triumph for responding to the devastating impact of global warming, many countries felt pressured to give up on tougher commitments for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (in order for the landmark deal on the loss and damage fund to go through).

Thus, COP28 has a lot to do in terms of emission reductions and pushing mitigation back on climate negotiations.

Cutting emissions

In addition, progress on cutting emissions and moving away from fossil fuels was proving hard to win in COP27. Last year in Glasgow, a commitment to phase down the use of coal was agreed upon. It marked the first time a resolution on fossil fuels had been included in the final text. This issue needs to be raised and addressed again in COP28.

The developed world still has not kept its 2009 pledge to raise $100 billion a year in other climate aid — designed to help impoverished nations develop green energy and adapt to future warming, which sparked serious concern at COP27. Additionally, multilateral development banks and international financial institutions were called upon to mobilise climate financing.

While COP27 managed to reach a breakthrough agreement on new “Loss and Damage” fund for vulnerable countries, all eyes are now going to be on COP28 on how to operationalise the new funding arrangement.

Dr. Mohamed Abdelraouf is an independent environment researcher