The 28th annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is scheduled to run until 12 December. Photo: Christophe Viseux/ COP28.

Delegates meeting in Dubai on Thursday finalized the launch of a fund that will help compensate vulnerable countries struggling to cope with loss and damage caused by global warming, a breakthrough on the first day of this year's United Nations Climate Change Conference. COP28.

This success "gives the Conference a good start. All governments and delegates must build on this momentum to achieve more in Dubai," said Simon Stiell, head of the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), during the press briefing at which the announcement was made.

The fund is a long-standing demand of developing countries, which are on the frontline of the impact of climate change and face the cost of the devastation caused by increasingly frequent extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and rising sea levels, which are caused by the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases. that generate global warming, and that the vast majority has been caused by the most developed countries.

After several years of intense negotiations at the UN's annual climate meetings, developed nations voiced their support for the need to create the fund last year during COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Emirates and Germany inaugurate the fund

Sultan Al-Jaber, president of COP28, has declared that his country, the United Arab Emirates, will allocate $100 million to the fund. That pledge has been joined by Germany, which has also offered a $100 million contribution to the fund. Britain, the United States and Japan have also announced their contribution to the fund, although it is unclear how much that will be.

The 28th annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is scheduled to run until 12 December.

The action takes place on the sprawling Expo City grounds, which have been decorated with trees and foliage. It is located on the outskirts of Dubai and is expected to host more than 70,000 delegates, including diplomats, experts, civil society and other participants who will come together to forge a better future for the planet.

Boldness in the face of baby steps

Simon Stiell warned at the opening of the Conference that the world is moving too slowly in the face of a terrifying planetary crisis that demands bold action now.

"We are taking baby steps and too slow to find the best answers to the complex climate impacts we face," he told delegates.

The warning came just hours after the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued an interim report stating that during 2023 climate records have been broken again accompanied by extreme weather that has left a trail of devastation and despair.

What's at stake

Stiell explained what we're playing for. "This year is the hottest in human history. A lot of scary records have been broken: We are paying with people's lives and livelihoods."

"The science tells us that we have about six years before we exhaust the planet's capacity to cope with our emissions before we exceed the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit," he warned, referring to one of the key goals of the historic Paris Agreement.

A series of reports published on the eve of COP28 have shown that the world is a long way from achieving the climate goals of that treaty and that, if ambitious action is not taken, we are heading towards a temperature increase of 3 degrees by the end of this century, which would have catastrophic consequences for life on the planet.

In this context, Stiell urged countries to come up with ambitious new measures, which are set out in the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) or national climate change plans, in which each and every one of the commitments for 2025, in terms of financing, adaptation and mitigation, must be in line with a 1.5-degree world.

Progress on the Paris goals

COP28 marks the culmination of a process known as the Global Stocktake, an assessment of the progress made to date in achieving the key provisions of the Paris Agreement: namely reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to the global warming process, and mobilizing financial support for vulnerable countries.

In this sense, COP28 delegations are faced with two options, Stiell explained: The first, simply to note the lack of progress, tweak some measures taken so far and postpone the most necessary decisions, or decide to ensure that all the inhabitants of the planet are safe and able to adapt to climate change, adequately finance the transition that this entails and decide to commit to a new energy system.

"If we don't signal the terminal decline of the fossil fuel age as we know it, we will welcome our own terminal decline and choose to pay with people's lives," he warned.

In addition, he commented that if the transition to the new era is not fair, it will not be a transition: "That means justice within countries and between them."

He also emphasized his interest in ensuring accountability for the failure to deliver on climate pledges.

"Yes, this is the most important COP to date, but attending a COP does not mean that the year's climate target has been met. The badges you wear around your neck make you responsible here and at home," added the head of the UNFCCC Secretariat.

"I am committed to the Secretariat following up on all announcements and initiatives made. So that long after the cameras are gone, we can ensure that our promises continue to serve the planet," he said.

Thursday's events marked the procedural opening of the meeting, but the Conference will begin its work on Friday with a Climate Action Summit, which will bring together the UN Secretary-General and world leaders in Dubai, who will present what their governments are doing to tackle the global climate crisis.

A call to which we all come together

Egyptian Foreign Minister and outgoing COP27 President Sameh Shoukry reminded delegates that despite global challenges such as COVID-19 and the conflict in Ukraine, COP27 managed to deliver a number of long-awaited measures on the global agenda.

For example, he recalled that the loss and damage financing agreement was established, the Just Transition work programme was launched, and a work programme on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was agreed.

The world at a crossroads

In his address to the opening plenary, Sultan al-Jaber, President of COP28, said that the urgency of the work was felt at the Conference as the world has reached a crossroads.

"Science has spoken. It has confirmed that the time has come to find a new path, wide enough for all of us. That new path starts with a decision on the Global Inventory."

It expressed its commitment to an inclusive and transparent process, which fosters free and open debate among all parties.

(Taken from UN News)