Cop28 talks on climate and conflict could give voice to fragile Sudan

Summit in Dubai to look at funding gap for crisis-hit countries

Sudan has been rocked by weeks of fighting between rival military chiefs. AFP
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Talks on climate and conflict at the Cop28 summit in Dubai could give a voice to fragile countries that feel “left behind”, an activist from Sudan has said.

Summit chiefs have chosen “relief, recovery and peace” as one of the themes for the fourth day of Cop28, which opens on November 30.

The discussions will highlight the impact of climate change on crisis-hit countries where floods, drought and scarce resources can add fuel to the fire and where bringing in money can be difficult.

Sudan, for example, which has endured weeks of bloody fighting between the army and paramilitary, is also regarded as one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries.

Nisreen Elsaim, a Sudanese climate activist and former chairwoman of a youth advisory group to the UN secretary general, described her background as the “perfect fit” for a discussion on climate and conflict.

She said at talks in Bonn, Germany, that are preparing the ground for Cop28 in the UAE, that the agenda on climate change, peace and security should “grow bigger and bigger”.

“I am actually quite happy to see peace as part of the thematic days of Cop this year, because it wasn’t in the previous Cops,” she said.

“My recommendation would be that this day tries to bring the people who are already left behind a little bit forward, and make them a little bit able to communicate and access the world instead of being in an isolated island.”

The peace agenda will be grouped alongside talks on health on day four of Cop28, organisers have said.

Dane McQueen, Cop28’s director of programmes and partnerships, said countries in crisis had reported struggling to get hold of finance, as donors look to mobilise trillions of dollars to fund global climate action.

Humanitarian groups have felt overwhelmed by the volume of global crises, and other providers of climate finance may be unable or unwilling to send money to conflict-hit countries, he said.

“What we want to do with the next six months and at Cop28 is start presenting some options and see what people feel comfortable with given their own mandates, given their own budgets,” Mr McQueen said.

Negotiators are “looking for some kind of agreement, some kind of initial consensus” on how the flow of money can be improved, with food and water a particular focus, he said.

Summit organisers also hope to take forward a $3.1 billion initiative by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to set up early warning systems around the world for people facing climate-related disasters.

Scientists say developing countries will be particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming, with impacts projected to be more severe if the goal of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5°C is missed.

Ms Elsaim said climate and conflict could be “back-to-back problems” with global warming causing insecurity and fragile states in turn suffering more from higher temperatures.

“Climate change sometimes contributes and makes conflicts happen, especially conflicts over natural resources,” she said, echoing a concern voiced by the leaders of Nato and major military powers.

But unstable countries can be even more climate-vulnerable because their infrastructure is poor or non-existent as a result of conflict, and instant humanitarian aid rarely leads to long-term development work, she said.

“For some reason it’s very easy to collect and gather funds and money for humanitarian [aid] that is not sustainable,” she said, but “it’s by far harder to gather the same amount of money for development actions for building the resilience of communities.”

Updated: June 10, 2023, 3:23 PM