“We can change the world and make it a better place. It’s in our hands to make a difference.”
A few days after 28th Conference of the Parties (COP 28) opened in Dubai, December 5th, marked the ten year anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela. Mandela was someone who believed that each person has the capacity to change the world. One can help but wonder: what would he say if he saw the state of the world today? Did we move a little bit further towards the kind of world we all want to live in with the outcome at COP 28?
After 13 intense days of negotiations in Dubai, COP 28 has just come to a close. We came into the COP 28, with high expectations. Developing countries and the households and communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis within them needed to see high ambition on all fronts —and we stood in solidarity with them. We called a package on the three pillars of climate action under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaptation and Loss and Damage. In this blog members of the Loss and Damage Collaboration reflect on the outcome on Loss and Damage and what comes next to get closer to creating the kind of world we all want to live in: one in which every human, species and ecosystem is thriving, not just surviving.
A GLOBAL STOCKTAKE THAT GOES FURTHER BUT IS IT FAR ENOUGH?
The first Global Stocktake (GST) of the Paris Agreement was, arguably, the most anticipated outcome of COP 28. The Paris Agreement established the GST as a process to take stock of progress towards achieving the purpose and long-term goals of the Paris Agreement every five years. The first GST began at COP 26 and culminated in an outcome at COP 28. While the GST was initially mandated to focus on mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation and support, at COP 24 Parties decided that the GST may take into account efforts to social and economic consequences and impacts of response measures and those required to avert, minimise and address loss and damage.
Over the last few months, we have seen a shift in positions around including Loss and Damage in the GST with less pushback from developed countries. While Loss and Damage was reflected as an option in the draft of the elements of the outcome of the GST at the 58th meeting of the Subsidiary Bodies —the UNFCCC spring intersessional which took place in June— by the time we arrived at COP 28 it was clear that there would be a section on Loss and Damage.
During the course of negotiations, the GST was shaped through feedback from Parties in informals and later ministerial consultations including the Majlis convened by the COP 28 presidency. Four iterations of the text released throughout COP 28 with the final version released early this morning. The text was adopted at the start of the plenary which began just before 11 am this morning.
While it’s a positive signal to see Loss and Damage reflected in the GST, it’s clear we still have some work to do to cement Loss and Damage as the third pillar of climate action alongside mitigation and adaptation. It is still treated as an option rather than a key component of a comprehensive response to climate change, which is a concern given the fact that loss and damage is escalating in frequency and magnitude and households and communities are already bearing the burden of responding to both the economic and non-economic costs of loss and damage.
We needed to have seen recognition of developing country efforts to address loss and damage, just as we saw in the context of adaptation. We also needed to have seen obligations for developed countries to provide support to enable developing countries to address loss and damage inscribed in the GST. Our analysis of the relevant science estimates that those needs are at least 400 billion USD a year. Those costs of addressing loss and damage should have been reflected just as those of adaptation and mitigation. We also need to see recognition of the fact that the more mitigation and adaptation we do, the less loss and damage there will be. But also that delayed action in the past has led us to where we are today.
The GST is an assessment of the progress towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, which sits under the Convention as the foundational or parent treaty. Thus, the principles of the Convention still apply, particularly common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and respective capabilities (RC). Loss and Damage falls on the sharp end of climate action and is fundamentally a climate justice issue.
Developing countries have long called for a standing agenda item under the COP and the CMA to provide space for discussions on Loss and Damage. This was an option in previous iterations but disappeared in the last two versions of the GST outcome. Clearly developed countries do not want to create space for broader discussions on Loss and Damage. This is something we need to see in the very near future, however, as Loss and Damage has now expanded beyond just the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM). Developing countries have also long called for an annual gap report on Loss and Damage which would draw on the best available science. What landed in the text is a synthesis report to be prepared by the secretariat which will be a synthesis of reports submitted by countries. The synthesis report does not replace the gap report and we would imagine that developed countries will continue to demand that one be produced.
All in all Loss and Damage in the GST is a step forward but not one that goes far enough to support efforts to address loss and damage and to cement Loss and Damage as the third pillar of climate action. In addition, we are concerned with the fact that we didn’t not go far enough on mitigation and adaptation which are essential to avert and minimise loss and damage. We agreed to keep 1.5°C alive but we didn’t go as far as we needed to go to get there. We cannot limit global average warming to below 1.5°C without phasing out fossil fuels. We also need to go further on adaptation including mobilising finance at the scale of the needs to enable adaptation in developing countries. The GST captures the framework for global goal on adaptation (GGA) which includes a set of indicators and now has stronger language on the means of implementation. But the means of implementation need to be provided by developed countries in order for the GGA to be realised.
A LOSS AND DAMAGE FUND IS OPERATIONALISED BUT NOT YET CAPITALISED
At COP 27 a historic breakthrough decision established a Loss and Damage Fund (LDF) and funding arrangements to respond to loss and damage from the adverse effects of climate change. A Transitional Committee (TC) was set-up to make recommendations for the operationalisation of the LDF and funding arrangements for adoption at COP 28.
The TC met five times throughout 2023. Only four meetings were planned but after protracted discussions and a lack of agreement at TC4, a fifth meeting was held in Abu-Dhabi in early November. At TC5 recommendations were developed which saw the Fund hosted, at least in the interim for four years starting from COP 29, by the World Bank, something which developing countries and civil society organisations (CSOs) vehemently opposed. But at the end of the day the discussions on the LDF were oriented towards satisfying the supply side of finance for Loss and Damage, rather than the demand side. That is, rather than acknowledging the scope and scale of the needs and working backwards to design a fund which delivers what households, communities and countries on the frontlines of the climate crisis in the global South need, the TC focused on what developed countries needed in order to provide finance for the LDF.
In a surprise move, giving the UAE Presidency an early win, on the first day of COP 28 the recommendations of the TC were adopted without any discussion. The UAE pledged 100 million USD and Germany 100 million USD immediately, satisfying the threshold of 200 million USD for the set-up of the new Fund under World Bank hosting rules. These pledges were followed by others and thus far 770.6 million USD has been pledged to the LDF. But while the LDF is operationalised, it is not capitalised and pledges made are insufficient for the huge scope of work the LDF is meant to address: responding to loss and damage in developing countries particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. ‘
Another issue is that throughout COP 28 and in a number of climate finance negotiations, developed countries reiterated their understanding that all support for addressing loss and damage and the Fund is purely voluntary, and not an obligation, with repercussions for the GST discussion (in which this is also highlighted) and the New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance (NCQG) in the context of Loss and Damage. The scope and thematic focus of the NCQG will be determined in 2024 but there were fears that the outcome of discussions in 2023 may prejudge those negotiations and make it even more difficult to ensure that Loss and Damage is included.
With the decision for the operationalisation of the LDF in Dubai, attention turns now to the next steps, including the quick nomination of Board members for the Fund by respective regional groups to be able to convene the first Board meeting as required in the decision by the end of January 2024. In the closing plenary both Barbados and the Philippines offered to host the LDF and some Board members have already been nominated. However, we have a long way to go to capitalise and replenish the fund at the 400 billion USD needed annually to (at least begin to) address the needs.
A HOST FOR THE SANTIAGO NETWORK
Following the inability of Parties to come to a decision regarding the host for the secretariat of the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage (SNLD) during SB 58 (the UNFCCC intersessional in Bonn), an agreement was finally reached at COP 28.
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) will jointly host the secretariat for the Santiago Network for an initial term of five years, with five-year renewal periods. The network aims to catalyse the technical assistance of relevant stakeholders to prevent, minimise and address the loss and damages resulting from the impacts of climate change. The decision to establish the secretariat reflects a consensus among Parties and is seen as a crucial step in providing the much needed technical assistance to developing countries on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
Parties also agreed on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the Conference of the Meeting of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA) and the host of the Santiago network secretaria (UNDRR/UNOPS). The MoU will be signed and finalised, ready for the Santiago network to get up and running in 2024. It is critical now that the secretariat for the Santiago network be established and the Advisory Board selected so that the Network can begin its work as soon as possible.
The Santiago network is expected to choose the headquarters for its secretariat; select members for its Advisory Board; secure more commitments of finance and ensure that a diverse range of organisations, bodies, networks, and experts at the local, national and regional levels actively participate and contribute to its work.
The immediate work ahead is to swiftly operationalise the network to ensure the most vulnerable communities on the frontlines receive prompt, sound and effective technical assistance; while connecting organisations, bodies, networks and experts to one another and to countries that need support. The effectiveness of the Network hinges on robust monitoring and evaluation systems. Proposed mechanisms include performance indicators, Advisory Board oversight, independent evaluation, participatory monitoring and transparency reporting. Implementing these mechanisms will hopefully instil a sense of accountability and allow the Network to (un)learn and adapt to better support countries in the global south facing the first-hand and devastating repercussions of the climate crisis.
AFFIRMING THE WORK OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
At COP 28 Parties endorsed the latest report of the Executive Committee (ExCom) of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM). The report provides details on the activities carried out by the ExCom between October 2022 and August 2023. It covers many aspects such as organisational and procedural matters, including meetings and events related to the ExCom and its thematic expert groups. The report additionally highlights the recommendations to ExCom in order to advance their work.
The ExCom will have some additional work on its plate having been asked to consider the synthesis report that the UNFCCC secretariat has been asked to prepare with information on loss and damage. Developing countries had called for a gap report on loss and damage, which drew from the best available science. As we stated above, the synthesis report does not replace the gap report which is still urgently needed to provide a regularly updated repository of loss and damage and to assess progress of efforts towards addressing loss and damage.
CONCRETE DISCUSSIONS ON THE NEW COLLECTIVE QUANTIFIED GOAL ON CLIMATE FINANCE DEFERRED TO NEXT YEAR
After two years of technical expert dialogues (TEDs) as part of the three-year work program on the NCQG established at COP 26 in 2021, COP28 marked a shift from the technical to the political process and thus the beginning of the end game for agreeing on the scale, scope and structure of the goal at COP29.
Over the past two years there have been a total of eight TEDs on a range of thematic issues related to climate finance, and there will be at least three more TEDs in 2024. There will also be three meetings back-to-back with the TEDs to support the co-chair’s ability to issue a framework for draft negotiating text at least four weeks before COP29 in 2024. The framework for the draft negotiating text will take into account submissions from 2022 - 2023 and inputs from previous TEDs and the three Party-driven meetings in 2024. With some assurance in the decision text, it is hoped that like the TEDs - which are open to observers -, these three meetings will allow for some meaningful input and participation as well. After each TED and meeting a report will be published outlining the way forward.
A new work programme for the NCQG will be developed by March 2024, but only Parties will be allowed to share their views on what should be included in the work programme. However, observers are invited to provide their views and submissions in advance of each of the TEDs and political meetings that will be synthesised as inputs for each of these meetings.
The NCQG discussions in 2024 will also build off of the outcomes on the GST and the newly established framework for the GGA. The text also welcomes calls for more adaptation and mitigation finance, and states that discussions on scale will focus on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) implementation needs, but includes no mention of finance to address loss and damage.
The text seems to align with the position of countries in the Global North, which is that the NCQG should cover adaptation and mitigation and not Loss and Damage. However, there is still space for negotiations in 2024 to result in a formal inclusion of financing to address loss and damage in the outcome of COP 29. What is positive is that language on Article 2.1.c on sustainable finance has not been included in the paragraphs dedicated to the NCQG in the GST. Doing so would conflate climate finance (finance to support countries in the global South) and sustainable finance (aligning financial flows with the goals of the Paris Agreement, so as to not continue causing loss and damage).
It was hoped that the High Level Ministerial Dialogue (HLM) on the NCQG at COP 28 could provide some political guidance for the work in 2024 that remained unfulfilled. Indeed, all parties agreed that high level political involvement in 2024 —well in advance of COP 29— would be useful, and it would be up to the COP 28 presidency to define the level of engagement. This might also explain why in a departure from the normal, in 2024, the HLM on the NCQG will take place ahead of COP 29, as opposed to during the COP.
While the main outcome at COP 28 has been on the procedures for 2024, there are many outstanding elements of the NCQG that will need to be addressed next year, including on eligibility, access and methodologies for defining what climate finance is.
What’s clear, is that the ‘stickiest’ elements of the substance discussions on the NCQG are on i) what the NCQG should cover and by-extension sub-goals, and on ii) what articles of the Paris Agreement the NCQG should cover. This is also where Loss and Damage comes into play. Countries in the Global South are adamant that the NCQG needs to cover all aspects of climate ambition, meaning Loss and Damage, adaptation and mitigation. Whereas countries in the Global North are of the view that it should cover mitigation and adaptation as per Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement, but additionally they would like the NCQG to be linked to Article 2.1.c on sustainable finance.
This distinction has consequences. If countries agree to the latter then loss and damage would be left out of another global climate finance goal, thereby undermining financial support for the Loss and Damage Fund. If the Loss and Damage Fund is not tied to a defined global climate finance goal, and additionally its regular review (as defined in the Fund’s governing instrument) is not tied to the NCQG’s ambition processes, this risks de-linking the Fund’s own capitalisation and replenishment efforts, from the broader mandate for developed countries’ climate finance provision.
Countries did agree that the NCQG co-chairs would remain the same and there’s some agreement that they meant to listen to the needs and priorities of countries in the Global South, which could go some way to ensuring that Loss and Damage is a priority in NCQG discussions next year. However, it’s clear that next year will be an intense year of discussions on what a new climate finance goal will look like. What we need to see is the following:
• The NCQG 2024 work programme needs to include a commitment to discuss sub-goals and loss and damage.
• Loss and damage must be on the agenda of at least one TED and one meeting.
• The framework for the draft negotiating text on the NCQG that will be developed ahead of COP 29, must include text on sub-goals and loss and damage.
• All of the above with the aim of ensuring that loss and damage as a sub-goal is included in the NCQG so that the NCQG covers Loss and Damage in addition to adaptation and mitigation.
Without including Loss and Damage, the NCQG will not be delivering what is needed, which is support to a comprehensive response to climate change that includes all three pillars of climate action.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE TO CREATE THE WORLD WE WANT?
The operationalisation of the LDF is a good first step, but it’s just the beginning. We need to see hundreds of billions in pledges that are actualised into money in the bank (in this case the World Bank). And then we need to see the LDF operationalised in real life (not just on paper). It needs a headquarters and a Board, modalities and procedures and so on. All the things that will enable it to do its work. And get to work it must, because the needs in the Global South are only escalating. And to enable capitalisation at the level of the needs, we will need to see a sub-goal on Loss and Damage in the NCQG and we’ve explained a process for getting there above.
The Santiago Network must also now be fully operationalised in real life with all the things needed to do that which we’ve described above. The linkages between the Santiago network on the LDF were also strengthened with the GST text urging developing countries to submit requests for technical assistance to the Network. This technical assistance could, among other things, enable developing countries to better assess and address loss and damage.
We need not wait for the secretariat to be established to begin meeting those needs. At least two developing countries —Jamaica and Vanuatu— have already submitted requests and with the pledges of finance already received, the UNFCCC secretariat could be matched with the providers of technical assistance. Moving forward, the Santiago Network will need more resources to deliver this critical support to enable developing countries to develop a foundation and the building blocks to address loss and damage.
Now that Loss and Damage has been cemented in the GST we need to acknowledge it as the third pillar of climate action and treat it accordingly while also raising ambition on mitigation and adaptation to avert and minimise loss and damage. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to operationalise the outcome of COP 28. But first we all need to get a little bit of rest. We wish you all safe journeys home and look forward to working with many of you in the new year to continue to work towards the world we want.
The Loss and Damage Collaboration (L&DC) is a group of climate policy and art and cultural practitioners, researchers, activists, lawyers, advocates and decision makers from both the global North and South working together to ensure that vulnerable developing countries, and the vulnerable people, communities, and ecosystems within them, have the support they need to address climate change related loss and damage.