Delivering on loss and damage fund ‘litmus test’ for COP28

Jee Y. Geronimo

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Delivering on loss and damage fund ‘litmus test’ for COP28

COP28. 'COP28 UAE' logo is displayed on the screen during the opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) under the theme of 'United on Climate Action Toward COP28', in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on January 16, 2023.

Rula Rouhana/Reuters

Climate experts raise concerns about trends they are seeing in climate finance, including the 'unfulfilled' promise of doubling adaptation finance by 2025

MANILA, Philippines – With less than two weeks to go before the start of the annual United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference or COP28, climate experts said its success would rest on its ability to get the finance flowing to vulnerable countries.

On Thursday, November 16, partner experts from the Allied for Climate Transformation By 2025 (ACT2025) consortium voiced some of the climate-vulnerable countries’ expectations for COP28, including a “scaling up” of climate finance that is “embedded into the most important negotiation items,” among them loss and damage.

Loss and damage – one of the most contentious issues at climate talks – refers to adverse impacts that cannot be or have not been avoided through mitigation and adaptation, although there remains no internationally agreed definition of the term.

“This would be the litmus test: to see if the COP will be able to deliver on the call from developing countries, vulnerable developing countries, for financing for loss and damage,” said Preety Bhandari, a senior adviser in the Global Climate Program and Finance Center of the World Resources Institute.

Bhandari, the former chief for climate change and disaster risk management at the Asian Development Bank, said they were “cautiously optimistic” about the operationalization of the loss and damage fund, with lots of expectations riding on this particular outcome at COP28.

“So it is now up to the negotiators at the COP to come up or to endorse the recommendations that have been made related to the hosting arrangements for the fund, related to what the fund would look like, related to what the funding arrangements could deliver,” she added.

Earlier this month, a transitional committee made recommendations for the fund that would be put to governments for approval at COP28. Among those recommendations was to make the World Bank host of the loss and damage fund, despite reservations of developing countries.

“I think arriving at, you know, decisions that helps us actually deal with the mitigation gap, the adaptation gap, the loss and damage gap, and the financing gap, is what the world expects,” said Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa.

Tony La Viña, the associate director for climate policy and international relations at the Philippines’ Manila Observatory, said it is important for loss and damage to be “its own distinct issue.”

In the wake of a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report that said rich countries may have met their $100-billion climate goal in 2022, the ACT2025 experts raised concerns about trends they were seeing in climate finance, including the “unfulfilled” promise of doubling adaptation finance by 2025 or two years from now.

“We see loans continuing to be the main source or the main instrument available for developing countries to access finance, which increases the levels of indebtedness, which decreases the fiscal space that countries have to actually address climate change, mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage,” said Maria Laura Rojas Vallejo, executive director of Transforma in Colombia.

She added, “So, this $100-billion goal makes us discuss a lot about that number when we actually know that the needs for developing countries to address climate change is in the order of trillions.”

Global stocktake, just energy transition

The experts on Thursday also called on countries to ensure a truthful global stocktake as well as a just and equitable energy transition.

This year’s COP28 features the first-ever global stocktake, a process for governments and other stakeholders to track and evaluate their progress toward meeting the goals of the historic Paris Agreement.

Meanwhile, the decision texts of the last two COPs failed to commit to anything more than the “phasedown of unabated coal power and phaseout of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

“We have the best available science in climate change, the latest IPCC report, which already states that currently, nationally determined contributions or the NDCs of countries are clearly insufficient to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of 1.5ºC. And this is the truth upon which the COP should anchor the stocktake and from which we can make good decisions,” La Viña said as he called for a stocktake that is “truthful to our successes and failures.”

Mark Bynoe, assistant executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize, said a just energy transition must ensure that as countries seek to move toward the “ultimate goal” of phasing out fossil fuels, developing countries must not be disadvantaged in the process.

“The question that I would ask is, have we been seeing a phasing down toward the consumption of fossil fuel? Because here you have…countries are opening up new areas, they are putting more money into fossil fuel subsidies, they are continuing to pursue this goal of fossil fuel exploitation. So, even with regards to the phasing down, I am not certain that we have seen that is commensurate with the degree of emissions that we are experiencing. So, in large measure, yes, I do believe that we need to speak to the phasing out, but first, we need to phase down,” he added.

For Adow, the success of COP28 will be judged on whether it will secure a deal that delivers a “comprehensive energy package” that ensures not only a just energy transition but also a tripling of renewable energy and doubling of energy efficiency. He said all three objectives require a scaling up of climate finance.

Bynoe agreed: “These are achievable. These are not pipe dreams. You see, the monies are there. We have been giving $7 trillion to the fossil fuel industry for them to continue to make the investments in things that will destroy our world. It’s not a case that the monies aren’t there. It’s a case [of], is the will there?” –

This story was produced as part of the 2023 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.