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Pledges to loss and damage fund fall short at COP28

The wealthy countries most responsible for the climate crisis have so far contributed a combined total of just over $700m. This is nowhere near enough to help the world’s most vulnerable nations cope with the damage caused by slow onset disasters and extreme weather events.

Day one of COP28 saw the first big breakthrough: an agreement on a ‘loss and damage’ fund to compensate poor states for the ever-worsening repercussions of climate change.

Signifying that wealthy countries and major polluters will contribute a combined total of just over $700m to help the world’s most vulnerable nations cope with the damage caused by global warming, the deal has been welcomed by many who deem it an essential tool in the overdue delivery of environmental justice.

Initial commitments include $75m from the UK, $24.5m from the US, $10m from Japan, and $100m from Germany. Others include Denmark at $50m, Ireland and the EU both with $27m, Norway at $25m, Canada at less than $12m, and Slovenia at $1.5m.

‘Today’s news on loss and damage gives this UN climate conference a running start,’ said UN climate chief, Simon Stiell, at the time of the announcement. ‘All governments and negotiators must use this momentum to deliver ambitious outcomes here in Dubai.’

As promising as this seems, however, many have argued that it’s nowhere near enough money as is required to make up for the irreversible economic and non-economic losses caused by the slow onset disasters (like rising sea levels) and extreme weather events (like heavy rain, flooding, droughts, and wildfires) that are increasingly affecting poor states across the globe.

‘With the loss and damage fund established here it may seem like that story is over and countries can pat themselves on the back with a job well done,’ says Mohamed Adow, director of the climate and energy thinktank Powershift Africa.

‘However, the bill for loss and damage will only increase if adaptation is not sufficiently funded and emissions are not urgently cut – they are part of the same puzzle being negotiated within the global stocktake discussions.’

In fact, as reported by The Guardian, the amount pledged is the equivalent of less than 0.2% of losses, with the loss and damage in developing countries estimated to be greater than $400bn a year.

Such a shortfall is a kick in the teeth, especially considering that rich nations have spent decades fighting tirelessly against the idea of a fund.

This is largely due to their reluctance to pay reparations for the historic carbon emissions they’re responsible for and provide financial support for some of the destruction that’s already under way.

‘The initial pledges of $700m pale in comparison to the colossal need for funding, estimated in the hundreds of billions annually,’ says Harjeet Singh of Climate Action Network International, a coalition of almost 2000 climate groups.

‘The over 30 year delay in establishing this fund, coupled with the meagre contributions from affluent nations, particularly the US, the biggest historical polluter, signals a persistent indifference to the plight of the developing world.’