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COP28 Kicks Off in UAE with Agreement on Loss and Damage Fund

December 1, 2023

The first day of the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference COP28 kicked off on Thursday in the United Arab Emirates with a formal approval of the draft decision for the Loss And Damage Fund.
“We’ve delivered history today. The first time a decision has been adopted on day 1 of any COP. And the speed in which we have done so is also historic,” COP28 President Sultan Al-Jaber said at the conference to a standing ovation.

Al-Jaber also announced that the United Arab Emirates is pledging $US100 million to the fund.

In total, more than $US420 million was pledged to the Loss and Damage Fund on Monday. Germany committed $US100 million, the European Union pledged $US246 million, and the United Kingdom pledged “up to” $US60 million. The United States pledged $US17.5 million to the fund, subject to U.S. Congressional approval. Meanwhile, Japan committed $US10 million.

The long-awaited fund to help poor states damaged by climate disasters was decades in the making. After years of challenging climate finance negotiations, the creation of a Loss and Damage Fund was celebrated as a pivotal moment by developing country negotiators at the 2022 COP27 summit in Egypt. A Transitional Committee was tasked with designing the fund, with multiple meetings throughout the year yielding no progress until early November 2023 when a draft agreement was finally reached.

“It is a heartfelt moment because Loss and Damage has been an issue that’s been neglected for 30 years,” Head of the Egyptian negotiating delegation Ambassador Wael Aboul Magd told Egyptian Streets, pointing out the good will demonstrated by several developed countries following the announcement.

At COP26 in Glasgow, there was frustration amongst many developing countries, particularly small islands, over being excluded from the agenda, Aboul Magd said, adding, “So we, as the incoming COP presidency, knew that we had to deal with it and take it seriously”.

“The great achievement is in fact that we managed to bring people together and get them to agree on a decision on creating a fund and funding arrangements; that was the first step in the success that we’re witnessing today,” he said, as passer-by delegates congratulated him. One delegate from a European country went as far as saying “We should call it the Egypt Loss and Damage Fund”.

Aboul Magd pointed out that pressure from civil society organizations and activists was “instrumental to our ability as COP27 Presidency to put this on the agenda and move it forward at the pace that it was achieved”.

The decision, adopted on Monday, will involve setting up a fund under the auspices of the World Bank for an interim period of four years, a major tension point in previous discussions around the fund. Developing nations fear undue influence and high fees.
Questions of who will be eligible to receive funding and on what grounds also remain on the table.

“We need to acknowledge that there is much work to be done before we reach the level that we are aspiring to,” Aboul Magd stated.

The COP28 conference is taking place between 30 November and 12 December in Dubai.

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