COP28 off to a solid start

Just as our co-founder Helen sets foot in Dubai, there’s a major breakthrough: after months of negotiations, nearly 200 nations have agreed on how to run a ‘loss and damage fund’ to help poorer countries weather the impacts of a changing climate.

Here’s what they decided: 

  • The World Bank will provisionally host the fund 
  • Countries will replenish it with cash every four years
  • It’ll start backing projects around the world early next year, and
  • A handful of rich countries have already cut some serious cheques, with the UAE, EU and Germany each dropping ~$100M.

This fund is a big deal, partly because negotiators hammered it out with unusual agility – for reference, it took four years to land the Paris Agreement (though some countries have been calling for a loss and damage fund for three decades).

This is also a big deal because the fund itself is such a polarising idea: it’s like a quasi-reparations scheme channelling cash from rich, high-polluting countries to the poorer, lower-emitting countries that often bear the climate brunt.

Inevitably, the reactions to this kind of news have been mixed:

Jennifer Morgan, Germany’s climate envoy, says it’s “so important to get [the fund] going with the impacts happening the way they are now”.

But others have pointed out that the approved text has several shortfalls:

  1. Contributions are entirely voluntary, with no minimum ticket – a condition the US fought to keep in the final text (the US needs congressional approval for contributions above a certain limit), and
  2. Some don’t like that it’ll be run by the World Bank, which has a US-dominated structure and which has continued to back oil & gas projects.

But on the whole, the prevailing sentiment on the ground in Dubai is sheer bewilderment that this deal has happened at all, let alone so quickly.


While the world digests this news, our very own co-founder Helen shares some reflections on the vibe among COP negotiators:

  • After last year, there was an expectation of more talk here in Dubai, but no real pen to paper, certainly no signing, and so definitely no funding. But here we are emerging from COP28’s opening day with an agreed fund and $>400M pledged already. A win for diplomacy.
  • Folks are saying it’s thanks to the sheer hustle of UAE diplomats. The petrostate (accused of impropriety) was an unlikely choice as host, but wanted to be judged on its results. So, well played.
  • But between bouts of back-slapping, there are whispers on what the actual impact will be. E.g., one climate finance guru in Southeast Asia expects to see mining companies tap this new fund to repair ecological damage from their mines (rather than paying for it themselves).

Still, at a time when so little in this world seems to go to plan, this looks like proof to us that big, complex negotiations can still work.

Also worth noting: 

  • There are some estimates the fund could need $400B annually by 2030 to cover the full costs of loss and damage.
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