COP28 talks open in Dubai with breakthrough deal on loss and damage

COP28/Neville Hopwood View of the iconic Al Wasl Dome at Expo City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which is hosting the UN climate conference COP28.

“Today’s news on loss and damage gives this UN climate conference a running start. All governments and negotiators must use this momentum to deliver ambitious outcomes here in Dubai,” said UN climate chief Simon Stiell during a press conference at which the announcement was made.

On X (formerly Twitter), UN Secretary-General António Guterres also welcomed the agreement to operationalize the fund calling it an essential tool to deliver climate justice. He urged leaders to support the fund and get COP28 off to a strong start. 

The fund has been a long-standing demand of developing nations on the frontlines of climate change coping with the cost of the devastation caused by ever-increasing extreme weather events such as drought, floods, and rising seas.

Following several years of intense negotiations at annual UN climate meetings, developed nations extended their support for the need to set up the fund last year during COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Reportedly, Sultan al-Jaber, the President of the COP28 climate conference, has said that his country, the United Arab Emirates, would commit $100 million to the fund.  

Germany has also reportedly pledged a contribution of $100 million to the fund. The United States, the United Kingdom and Japan have also announced contributions to the fund. 

The 28th annual meeting known as ‘COP’ after the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Cli​mate Change (UNFCCC), opened today and is scheduled to run through to 12 December. 

The action is taking place at the sprawling campus of Expo City, which has been decorated with trees and foliage. It is located on the outskirts of Dubai and is expected to host over 70,000 delegates, climate negotiators and other participants coming together to shape a better future for the planet. 

Loss and damage?

For a reminder of how central the loss and damage issue is to past COPs and efforts to stay on track with the Paris Agreementhere’s our story from last year in Egypt when the dramatic agreement was announced in the final hours of COP27, and you can check out this explainer from our colleagues at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

In short, nations contributing least to greenhouse gas emissions are least equipped to deal with droughts, sea-level rise and other climate-related destruction. Lives, livelihoods and cultures could be massively altered by extreme weather events. As the climate crisis unfolds, these events will occur more frequently, and the consequences will become more severe. 

The draft agreement to operationalize the long-awaited ‘loss and damage’ fund aims to help compensate vulnerable nations for the impact of climate change, by, citing just one possible example, ensuring that vital infrastructure can be rebuilt or replaced with more sustainable versions.

‘Bold action, now’

Speaking earlier on Thursday at the opening of the conference, Mr. Stiell, who is the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, issued a warning that the world is taking “baby steps” in the face of a terrifying planetary climate crisis that requires bold action now. 

We are taking baby steps and stepping far too slowly to work out the best responses to the complex climate impacts we are faced with,” he told delegates gathered for COP28. 

The UN climate chief’s warning came just hours after the UN weather agency, known as WMOissued a provisional report saying that this has “shattered” climate records accompanied by extreme weather which has left a trail of devastation and despair.

What’s at stake

Mr Stiell then outlined what’s at stake. “This has been the hottest year ever for humanity. So many terrifying records were broken,” he said, adding: We are paying with people’s lives and livelihoods.” 
“Science tells us we have around six years before we exhaust the planet’s ability to cope with our emissions. Before we blow through the 1.5-degree limit,” he warned, referring to one of the keystone targets under the landmark Paris Agreement. 
Ominously, a steady stream of reports published in the lead up to COP28 have shown that the world is way off-track in achieving climate goals. and in the absence of ambitious action, we are heading towards a temperature increase of 3 degrees by the end of this century. 
Against this backdrop, Mr. Stiell called on countries to deliver ambitious new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), or national climate action plans where every single commitment in 2025 – on finance, adaptation, and mitigation – must be in line with a 1.5-degree world.