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CLIMATE CRISIS

Millions pledged to new climate damage fund amid warning 2023 to break 'cacophony' of weather records

A long-awaited loss and damage fund has been officially signed off at COP28 in Dubai.

THE FIRST PLEDGES to a new Loss and Damage Fund freshly agreed at COP28 have been announced as countries reached a long-awaited agreement.

COP28, a UN climate conference bringing together countries to make decisions on climate action that could make or break the world’s chances of keeping temperatures within manageable levels, opened in Dubai this afternoon.

One of the first decisions to emerge is the adoption of an agreement on the new fund, which will be used to help vulnerable countries recover from losses and damages caused by climate change.

The United Arab Emirates, the host of this year’s conference, pledged $100 million, with Germany also pledging $100 million.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that he will announce a contribution from Ireland this weekend.

“Agreement to proceed with the Loss and Damage fund is an important step to help the countries which are suffering most from climate change, but which have the greatest difficulty getting access to the finance and resources they need to manage it,” he said.

The Taoiseach landed in the UAE today and is due to attend COP28 tomorrow along with around 160 other world leaders, who will be delivering national statements to the conference tomorrow and on Saturday.

The agreement on the new fund has been welcomed by campaigners but with disappointment at some key aspects of how the fund will operate.

Ross Fitzpatrick, Christian Aid Ireland’s Policy and Advocacy officer, said that the “hard-fought for agreement on a Loss and Damage Fund is an important and welcome step, but there is still huge work to be done to ensure it’s adequately resourced and effective”.

“The final text agreed at COP28 leaves a lot open. The fund is voluntary with no clear obligation to pay, no specific targets on the amount of finance required, and no clear deadlines,” he said.

It does not make explicit reference to the historical responsibility of the wealthiest, high-polluting countries to take the lead on providing finance, which has long been a key principle of climate justice.

He added the “crucial test” for the fund will be “whether wealthy, high-polluting countries, including Ireland, take the lead with significant financial pledges to fill it, instead of just repackaging existing commitments, and whether key promises around access and oversight are met”.

Siobhan Curran, Trócaire’s Head of Policy and Advocacy, said the charity is “highly sceptical of the World Bank as an interim host”.

“It will be crucial that the fund operates in a way that is accessible to communities who need it in a timely manner,” Curran said.

She said the fund must deliver for communities facing the worst impacts of climate change, pointing to Somalia, which experienced its worst drought in 40 years and is now facing excessive rainfall and flooding, swinging from one extreme to another.

It is estimated that Ireland produces nearly 54 times higher emissions than Somalia, yet communities in Somalia are paying the price for climate inaction.

“In addition to grant-based funding, polluting corporations must pay into this fund – fossil fuel companies who have profited from climate breakdown must now pay for the damage.”

Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organisation Secretary General Professor Petteri Taalas described this year as a “cacophony of broken records”.

Giving a sombre breakdown of new research at a press conference in Dubai, he detailed how global temperatures and sea level rise are at record highs while Antarctic sea ice is at a record high.

He pointed to events like like wildfires in Hawaii, Canada and Europe; floods in Greece, Libya, Bulgaria and Turkey; and heatwaves in southern Europe and parts of Africa as evidence of the range of extreme weather experienced by the world in 2023.

COP28 has been formally opened this afternoon by the United Nations and the United Arab Emirates, the latter of which is serving as the conference’s host this year.

Major issues include a stocktake of countries’ progress – or lack thereof – on cutting emissions to prevent temperature rise, setting up a fund to help vulnerable countries hit by the effects of the climate crisis, and targeting fossil fuel use.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE-appointed President of COP28, told the opening plenary that he intends to “run an inclusive and transparent process, one that encourages free and open discussion between all parties”.

Al Jaber is the UAE’s special envoy for climate change but also the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, which recent analysis by Global Witness forecast would increase the emissions from its oil and gas products by more than 40% by 2030.

Journalists at the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) and the BBC reported this week that briefing notes prepared by the UAE’s COP28 team for Al Jaber ahead of meetings with foreign governments this year showed plans to try to strike new fossil fuel deals. A COP28 spokesperson said in response that the briefing notes were “inaccurate and were not used by COP28 in meetings”.

In his opening speech this afternoon, Al Jaber set out his stance that the presidency “proactively engage[d] with oil and gas companies”.

“We had many discussions. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy, but now, many of these companies are committing to zeroing out methane emissions by 2030 for the first time and many national oil companies have adopted net zero 2050 targets for the first time,” he said.

He called on countries to deliver on setting up the new loss and damage fund and to “find common ground” in negotiations with each other on fossil fuels and renewable energy, asking them to “never lose sight of our North Star of 1.5.”

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell put countries on alert that they will be required to submit updated climate strategies in the coming years.

“In 2024, countries will submit their first Biennial Transparency Report. This will mean the reality of individual progress can’t be concealed,” Stiell said.

“We will also agree at COP29 how to finance this massive shift, with the new Finance Goal.

“And let this be your first official notice that early in 2025, countries must deliver new Nationally Determined Contributions — Please start working on them now.”

“This takes us to COP30, where every single commitment – on finance, adaptation, and mitigation – has to be in line with a 1.5 degree world.”

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