Why the COP28 Loss and Damage Decision Is Historic

Why the COP28 Loss and Injury Determination Is Historic

Mélody Braun
|December 20, 2023

Picture: Mélody Braun

From an outsider’s perspective, the worldwide local weather negotiations often called COP can look like a circus. It may be exhausting to see progress amid the rising variety of fossil gas representatives in attendance. But earlier than passing judgment, it’s vital to grasp the complete extent of the seen and less-visible work that occurs on the convention. An amazing quantity of labor goes into pushing for extra honest, bold, equitable, inclusive and science-based outcomes in help of probably the most susceptible populations. Credit score should go partially to the relentless work of activists, scientists, practitioners, researchers, Indigenous folks, youth, and so on., who deserve much more consideration than do the fossil-fuel representatives.

What higher instance of this than the historic COP28 loss and damage determination, as an example each the significance and the constraints of the annual convention?

The time period loss and injury (L&D) refers to local weather impacts that transcend what communities within the World South will have the ability to adapt to over the approaching many years. Creating international locations, with the help of many civil society organizations, have been pushing for the popularity of L&D and the creation of a help mechanism for over 30 years, primarily based on the truth that those that have contributed least to world emissions face the best local weather impacts, whereas historic emitters proceed to spend money on and profit from the fossil gas business. Industrialized international locations, particularly the US, have traditionally pushed again on L&D, fearing it could open the door to infinite authorized claims and monetary reparations.

The primary win from growing international locations was the inclusion of loss and injury as a definite article within the Paris Settlement—although with caveats imposed by the US within the closing hours of COP21, excluding compensation or legal responsibility from the dialogue. The second win happened at COP27, when all international locations agreed to create a fund devoted to addressing L&D, although with out settlement on how the fund would perform. A transitional committee was subsequently shaped to supply suggestions concerning the place the funds ought to come from, who would have entry to them and which group ought to host the funds. The third win, on the primary day of COP28, was the adoption of these suggestions, adopted by monetary commitments from a number of international locations accounting for a complete of $700 million up to now.

A Historic Win, Although Severe Issues Linger

The victory on day one in all COP28 is a symbolic step towards local weather justice. However many extremely contentious points stay.

First, developed international locations selected the World Financial institution because the interim group to handle the funds, regardless of critical considerations from the World South and civil society.

As well as, there is no such thing as a readability on how the fund will probably be financed or replenished. The present dedication of $700 million lags far behind an estimated want of $400 billion a yr. Mitigation and adaptation finance lengthy promised by the World North to the World South—to succeed in $100 billion a yr by 2020—by no means absolutely materialized. In accordance with the Climate Policy Initiative, 90% of the funds disbursed in 2022 focused on mitigation only, and mostly as market-rate loans or debt-financing instruments.

Loss and damage finance needs to be new and additional (in other words, not derived or double counted from mitigation, adaptation or development aid), predictable (to support effective planning), and adequate. It should be accessible to all developing countries and should prioritize access to most marginalized and vulnerable groups. Developing countries are calling for an obligation of historic emitters to contribute to the fund in proportion to their role in the climate crisis, rather than a simple encouragement, and for the adoption of complementary mechanisms such as air and maritime levies and taxation of the fossil fuel industry. One recent study estimates that European governments misplaced out on €34.2 billion from poor taxation on aviation in 2022, whereas the 5 largest oil corporations (TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell) made a profit of $153.5 billion that very same yr. They too must be held accountable. The financial burden should be on wealthy polluters, not ordinary people.

Although the fund has been officially operationalized, it is critical to ensure that those issues are adequately reflected in other important COP agenda items, especially related to finance, technology and implementation.

To Those Who Say Nothing Ever Happens at COP

At the end of the day, the COP process relies on consensus and can only go as far as the ambition of the governments taking part in it. This has been the case since the beginning: Kyoto was too legally binding to embark enough countries; Copenhagen was too weak; Paris is the result of two decades of negotiations, with its unavoidable compromises. COP is far from perfect, but it’s keeping climate on the global agenda by bringing every country together once a year, and pushing for more ambition and accountability in policy, investments and implementation at national level—which surely is better than not, even (especially?) with governments that are clearly not rising to the challenge.

COP is also providing the biggest convening and organizing platform for the climate community, and the chance to amplify marginalized voices. Although the power of coalitions is widely under-documented, the constant pressure and advocacy by civil society and the Global South over the years have led to (insufficient but) notable improvements in areas such as youth inclusion, gender responsiveness, human rights, indigenous communities, nature-based solutions, and more generally, equity and climate justice.

Those directly inform the direction of the research, projects, policy being developed and implemented all around the world with more direct and tangible impacts on the ground.

The COP process provides a framework, not a magic bullet. It is not sufficient, but it is necessary, because addressing the crisis will require everything we’ve got.


Saleemul Huq

Credit: International Research Institute for Climate and Society

The L&D fund partly owes its existence to the tireless work and advocacy of Saleemul Huq, one of the crucial persistent advocates for L&D and climate-vulnerable communities, who died unexpectedly on October 27th. Huq suggested delegations from the World South, challenged leaders from the World North, and skilled an entire era of local weather justice specialists and advocates. COP was his again yard, and it’ll by no means be the identical with out him. Might he relaxation in energy.

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