By Avit Ndayiziga
COP28 has kicked off with a groundbreaking agreement to operationalize the loss and damage fund of $420 million. This fund from polluters or rich nations, aims to provide crucial assistance to developing nations that face heightened vulnerability due to the adverse effects of climate change.
It is a Thursday morning, November 30, 2023. The day that the world has been waiting for has finally arrived. Over 193 flags are flapping in the wind over the skies. You may wrongly guess it is the United Nations headquarters in New York City, USA. But this is not the case. It is instead the Expo City Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. A venue that hosts COP28, known as the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC.
Over 95000 participants from diverse backgrounds, including 167heads of state, civil society activists, government representatives, media personalities, private sector, technical communities, UN staff, host country staff, volunteers, international youth delegates, children and women, indigenous communities and environmental organizations around the world are excited to attend this exceptional climate change conference, as evident from their facial expressions.
Since the United Nations manages the conference venue, especially the Blue Zone, security precautions are in place. Stepping into the conference venue requires a badge. Before getting it, you pass through a scanner. You put off and aside your belt and other digital devices, such as laptops, cameras, and phones. You wait for the scanner to give you the go-ahead.
As you take a few steps forward, gorgeous ladies and handsome boys are waiting to hand you your badge with endless smiles on their faces.
On this kickoff day, the most awaited session is the official Cop 28 opening ceremony.
In his poignant and heart-moving remark, COP 28 president – and UAE state oil company boss – Sultan al-Jaber urged thousands of participants to rise above their differences. The world had “reached a crossroads”, he declared.
He, therefore, reminded delegates that “a key success factor across the climate agenda is finance,” he emphasized.
However, he pointed out that “for too long climate finance has never been available, accessible, or affordable.” At this point, he promised that his presidency is committed to unlocking finance to ensure that “the global south does not have to choose between development and climate action.” Participants applauded as he took a sip from the cup of water.
He also emphasized that what began in Sharm el Sheikh(COP 27, Egypt) must be delivered and actionned now.
And then, hot on the heels of the COP 28 president’s speech, came an unexpected, actual announcement of a Loss and Damage fund, with a remarkable pot of money of over $420 million. This swift action showcases the united political determination to provide support to those who are most susceptible to the impacts of climate change.
In line with this commitment, the UAE has committed $100 million for financial assistance to countries at extreme risk from climate change, mitigation, and recovery. While other countries including Germany, committed $ 100 million, the UK, £ 40 million for the Fund, and £ 20 million for other arrangements, Japan, $ 10 million, and the U.S., $ 17.5 million.
The establishment of the fund received praise from climate experts and advocacy groups. However, international youth climate delegates criticized the US for contributing a small amount of money that they considered “humiliating.” The US contribution is less than a fifth of the United Arab Emirates and 14 times less than the European Union’s.
Calling it a day, Jaber named it a “unique, unprecedented achievement” and a “very good stepping stone. Despite first day milestone , developing countries and small island states have been pressing for these types of funds since the early 1990s.