Deadlocked talks on 'loss and damage' set to resume in the UAE before Cop28

Countries unable to agree on key issues such as who administers the fund and who pays into it

Developing countries have long viewed the idea of 'loss and damage' as crucial in tackling climate change, experts say. AFP
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A key meeting to resolve differences over a fund to help countries deal with damage from climate change will take place in the UAE next month, weeks before Cop28 gets under way.

It follows a round of talks in Egypt that concluded early on Saturday with countries deadlocked over how to advance the “loss and damage” mechanism.

The fund was agreed on at Cop27 in Egypt last year and aims to help countries – particularly less developed ones – deal with the damage from climate change, such as wildfires, floods, rising seas and other extreme events.

But key questions such as who should fund it, who should receive the finance and who would administer it have yet to be agreed on and, since Cop27, rounds of meetings have been trying to chart a path forward.

Now it has been agreed, according to the Cop28 presidency, that another round of talks will take place in Abu Dhabi from November 3 to 5. It will follow the October 30 and 31 pre-Cop28 preparatory meetings to iron out differences ahead of the crucial summit.

Time to deliver

“The eyes of the world are on you to deliver clear, clean and strong recommendations ahead of Cop28 to operationalise the loss and damage fund and funding arrangements,” Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Cop28 President-designate, and Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology said in a statement released on Saturday, regarding the decision to stage another round of talks in the UAE.

Experts believe the talks over loss and damage show the scale of the task ahead during the key climate talks that start on November 30.

“It is not unexpected and entirely predictable,” said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the London School of Economics, regarding the decision to stage another round of loss and damage talks.

“And it highlights the fact that on many issues, developed and developing countries come from different perspectives.”

Mr Ward said loss and damage is seen by developed countries and small island states – who often also tend to be the lowest emitters – as crucial but the discussion has historically been mired in controversy.

“It started as a conversation about compensation from rich to poor,” he said. “But wealthier countries, particularly the US, refused to accept that premise.”

At Cop27 the discussion moved on and it was agreed to create a new fund to help deal with the damage that cannot be avoided by adaptation in a decision that was seen as one of the few wins from the summit.

“The EU and US want the fund to be administered by the World Bank,” said Mr Ward. “Now many less developed countries are against that as their experience of the bank, they say, is as an instrument of the policy of wealthier countries. There are also separate issues of financial pledges to the fund and it is not clear how much money it will receive.”

Mr Ward said there was logic to having an existing entity oversee it as it can be time-consuming to establish something new. “In my view the Green Climate Fund could expand to cover loss and damage,” said Mr Ward, referring to the fund that is administered by the UNFCCC – the UN’s climate change entity – that also deals with climate adaptation and mitigation.

Cop28 runs from November 30 to December 12 at Expo City Dubai and Mr Ward warned of a danger that if too many areas of discussion are delayed until the summit, it can have knock-on effects for other key points. But it was important to recognise climate talks go on throughout the year.

“The idea behind these rounds of talks are to set up a final deal at Cop28,” he said. “But important negotiations go throughout the year.”

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Updated: October 30, 2023, 2:50 PM