Abu Dhabi Meeting for Climate Disaster Funding
In a race against time, governments worldwide have gathered in Abu Dhabi for a final two-day meeting, striving to overcome deep-seated divisions regarding the distribution of funds for "loss and damage" caused by climate disasters. These discussions, which commenced in March, hit a roadblock two weeks ago amidst increasing discord. The urgency arises from the looming UN COP28 climate summit scheduled to begin at the end of this month in the United Arab Emirates.
A Pivotal Moment
Harjeet Singh, the head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, emphasized the pivotal nature of this meeting, stating that the success or failure of the new loss and damage fund hinges on the decisions made. Bridging the trust gap, operationalizing the fund, and providing essential support to those most in need is imperative, as millions of lives and livelihoods are at stake.
Divisions: Cash Contributions and Governance
A stark divide exists between developed and developing nations regarding cash contributions. Developed countries advocate for voluntary contributions from emerging economies like China, Gulf petrostates, and traditional donors such as the US and Europe. In contrast, poorer nations express concerns over governance and access to the much-needed rescue funds.
At Cop27 in Egypt, all nations unanimously agreed to establish a loss and damage fund, marking a historic milestone that developing countries had pursued for over a decade. Despite their minimal contributions to the climate crisis, these nations bear the brunt of extreme weather due to geographic vulnerability, limited infrastructure, and resource constraints.
Critical Areas of Contention
The primary points of contention revolve around governance, funding sources, and accessibility to the fund. Developed nations, including the US, advocate for the World Bank to host the fund, citing its established infrastructure for expedited fund allocation. However, sceptics argue that this preference gives rich nations undue influence and highlights the high overheads associated with the World Bank.
Access to the Fund
Negotiations are trending towards favouring the most vulnerable in developing countries for fund access. Some propose opening the fund to all countries classified as developing in 1992 when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed. However, the focus will likely lean towards the least-developed nations.
Source of Funding: A Heated Debate
Campaigners stress the responsibility of rich countries to bear the brunt of funding due to their "historic responsibility" for emissions. This puts the onus on the US, a challenge given potential opposition from a Republican-controlled Congress. Additionally, suggestions for diverse funding sources, including carbon offsets, private sector contributions, and innovative levies, are under consideration to meet the immense financial needs.
The Crucial Tension: Emerging Economies and Petrostates
A core challenge lies in defining the role of large emerging economies like China, India, South Korea and petrostates such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia, and the host country UAE. While classified as developing in 1992, these nations contribute significantly to emissions and possess larger economies than the vulnerable countries benefiting from the loss and damage fund.
As governments grapple with these complex issues, finding common ground is paramount. The success of the loss and damage fund is a matter of financial allocation and a testament to global cooperation in the face of a shared environmental crisis. The decisions made in Abu Dhabi this weekend will set the stage for meaningful progress at the upcoming UN COP28 climate summit.