Global Economy

COP28 initiates smooth start in Dubai: Agreement on agenda and Loss and Damage Fund proposal

The UN climate conference in Dubai is set for a smooth start. COP28 president-designate Sultan Al Jaber and his team have been able to finalise the agenda for the two weeks by asking all countries to agree to dropping the requests for additions to the already long to-do list. The COP28 presidency team has also been able to secure an agreement among negotiators to approve the proposal for the Loss and Damage Fund at the opening plenary. A development that delegates in Dubai believe would add to the positive momentum over the next two weeks of talks.

This move avoids a repeat of the June intersessional meet in Bonn when the “agenda” of the meeting was adopted just 24 hours ahead of the sessions’ closing. At Bonn, talks proceeded pending an agreement on what would be officially discussed during the meeting. However, without an agreement, any progress made would not be part of the official record, forcing negotiators to start anew at the round of talks. The COP28 presidency were keen to avoid a repeat of the Bonn situation at Dubai.

While the agreement on the agenda will definitely allow for a smooth start to the negotiations, it does not resolve some of the deep-seated political issues that have dogged the UN climate negotiations. “While the agreement on the agenda is a positive development, it is not solving the conflict merely postponing it,” said Mattias Söderberg, Global Climate Lead at Dan Church Aid and Co-Chair of the Climate Justice Group at ACT Alliance.

The issues that have been dropped as separate items will now be part of consultations by the COP28 or as part of existing items on the agenda. Among the issues that have been dropped is the proposal by the BASIC countries on unilateral trade measures such as the EU’s border adjustment tax and the impact such measures can have on a just and equitable transition. Another item that will not be discussed as a separate line of negotiation is the operationalisation of the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. A proposal put forward by the Like-Minded Developing Countries, a group of 40 odd countries including China, India, Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, Egypt.

The informal agreement among the negotiators to approve the proposal for the Loss and Damage Fund at the opening plenary is likely to add to the positive momentum to the talks.

The proposal was finalised by the transitional committee in Abu Dhabi last month and is to be presented to the COP for countries to consider and agree. An early decision on the Loss and Damage Fund would be a “positive” development that would likely contribute towards bridging the trust deficit between countries. With the fund resolved, the focus could shift to the global stock take and its political outcome.The adoption of the proposal is only the first step. According to Harjeet Singh, Global Policy Head, Climate Action Network International, “while the decision’s adoption at COP28 is likely, it is crucial to simultaneously enhance its financial scope—necessitating hundreds of billions of dollars annually—and establish a process for initial capitalisation and periodic replenishment. This step is essential to efficiently channel funds to those battling climate catastrophes. Moreover, the ongoing Global Stocktake (GST) and discussions about the new climate finance goal must address these significant gaps.”