More than $420M pledged for yet-to-be-named climate fund

And as COP28 starts, the UN weather report says 2023 is the hottest year on record.
Subel Rai Bhandari for RFA
2023.11.30
Geneva, Switzerland
More than $420M pledged for yet-to-be-named climate fund COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber speaks during the opening session at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Nov. 30, 2023, in Dubai.
Peter Dejong/AP

Oil-rich COP28 host state United Arab Emirates pledged US$100 million for an officially unnamed climate fund aimed to address irreversible loss and damage incurred by vulnerable nations due to climate change impacts as the U.N.-led climate summit gets underway in Dubai.

Representatives from nearly 200 nations Thursday reached a unanimous agreement to adopt the operational framework for the fund, which developing countries have been pushing for more than three decades. It was agreed only last year and is expected to be up and running by early 2024. 

COP28 President Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber said the decision was a “positive signal of momentum to the world and to our work here in Dubai,” while Simon Stiell, the head of U.N. Climate Change, said the funds raised have given the conference “a running start.”

UAE led the way by pledging $100 million, matched by Germany. The United Kingdom committed $75 million to the fund, while a European Union representative said it would give $145 million.

Activists roundly decried the low amounts the United States and Japan – the biggest and third biggest global economies respectively – announced they would contribute ($17.5 million and $10 million), calling it “disappointing.”

“Given the size of their economies, there is simply no excuse for their contributions to be far eclipsed by others,” said Ani Dasgupta, the president and chief executive of the World Resources Institute.

“People in vulnerable countries will face up to $580 billion in climate-related damages in 2030, and this number will only continue to grow.”

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People demonstrate at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Nov. 30, 2023, in Dubai. (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

More than $420 million in funding was announced on the first day of COP28, which was still much less than hoped for. 

“The amount pledged initially is barely enough to get the fund running, and little more … It is dwarfed by the total US$7 trillion in subsidies that many states, including some of these donors, provide annually to support the fossil fuel industry,” Amnesty International’s Climate Advisor Ann Harrison said.

Another activist in Dubai said the absence of a defined replenishment cycle raises serious questions about the fund’s long-term sustainability. 

“Rich countries, given their significantly higher historical responsibility, must do more on a scale commensurate with their impact on planet-heating emissions,” Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, told Radio Free Asia.

Many developed countries have asked without such success for wealthier developing nations with high emissions, like China and Saudi Arabia, to contribute to climate funds as well.

COP28 starts without a notable hitch 

Earlier on Thursday, Jaber inaugurated the 28th UN climate summit by calling on nations and fossil fuel companies to collaborate to achieve the world’s climate objectives.

Organizers said more than 97,000 participants from nearly 200 countries registered to attend the event in Dubai, as the inaugural day averted any contentious dispute over the agenda for the forthcoming two weeks of negotiations, a common issue at such gatherings. 

The European Union (E.U.) withdrew its proposal to include an agenda item focused on aligning all financial activities with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, while Brazil, China, South Africa, and India abandoned their request to discuss unilateral trade measures resembling the E.U.’s carbon border adjustment mechanism.

Small island states also set aside their objection to the loss and damage fund mechanism to focus on other contentious points of discussion, including the phasing out of fossil fuels, the primary source of carbon emissions, as Pacific Island countries push for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Jaber, the chief executive of UAE’s state oil company, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, one of the largest in the world, said there were “strong views about the idea of including language on fossil fuels and renewables in the negotiated text.”

“It is essential that no issue is left off the table. And yes, as I have been saying, we must look for ways and ensure the inclusion of the role of fossil fuels,” he added, noting that many national oil companies had adopted net-zero targets for 2050. 

2023 was the hottest year on record

Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Thursday that 2023 will be the hottest year ever recorded, even before the year’s conclusion, with extreme weather leaving “a trail of devastation and despair.”

“We are living through climate collapse in real-time, and the impact is devastating,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told COP28 delegates in Dubai in an event launching the WMO report.

“This year has seen communities around the world pounded by fires, floods, and searing temperature – and the impact is devastating,” Guterres said. “Record global heating should send shivers down the spines of world leaders. And it should trigger them to act.”

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People pose during a demonstration at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Nov. 30, 2023, in Dubai. (Peter Dejong/AP)

According to WMO’s provisional State of the Global Climate report, global temperatures were approximately 1.4 degrees Celsius (2.5 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average during the first ten months of the year. 

The difference between 2023, 2016 and 2020 – previously ranked as the warmest years – is such that the final two months are unlikely to affect the ranking, WMO said.

The report said that carbon dioxide levels are now 50% higher than in the pre-industrial era, causing atmospheric heat retention, adding that this long-lasting CO2 effect ensures ongoing temperature increases.

The sea level rise rate from 2013-2022 doubled compared to the first decade of satellite records (1993-2002) due to continued ocean warming and ice melting, WMO said.

Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang. 

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