The litmus test of success for the U.N. climate summit will be the creation of an urgently needed fund to help the most vulnerable people
Open letter to the incoming president of the COP28 U.N. climate summit
Dear Dr Sultan Al Jaber,
Let me thank you for inviting me to join the Advisory Committee for the COP28 Presidency, which will host December’s U.N. climate change summit in the United Arab Emirates. As I told you when I accepted this offer, I am going to be a “one agenda” adviser – and my agenda is to get an outcome on creating a new Loss and Damage Fund at COP28 in Dubai, which is also one of your priority issues.
So here is my advice:
With only 180 days before the start of COP28, you should declare an intention to have one of the outcomes at the end of the negotiations be the creation of the “Dubai Loss and Damage Fund”.
This will mean dealing with several key questions, including the role of the Transitional Committee set up under the COP decision to address funding for loss and damage, as well as where the funding could come from, who will manage the fund and who will be eligible to receive the money.
Let me try to offer some answers: the role of the Transitional Committee is to come up with a way to respond to your proposals to announce the creation of the Dubai Loss and Damage Fund in COP28, so that they have time to figure out how to get it going by the time they arrive in Dubai.
This will make them focus on something concrete to achieve this year rather than simply “making progress”. As far as I am concerned, if all you can say at the end of COP28 is that “progress” has been made on the issue of funding loss and damage, that will be the kiss of death.
On the issue of where the money might come from, you could solicit contributions from all those who are willing. You could also impose a solidarity levy on all the airlines registered in the UAE to contribute to the Dubai Loss and Damage Fund. A mere $5 levy on every passenger flying into Dubai for COP28 would raise tens of millions – and if you were to impose the levy for the full year of your COP28 presidency, the total would reach $100 million.
Similar solidarity levies could be imposed by governments in Europe or the United States. This would not require global agreements under either the U.N. climate secretariat (UNFCCC) or the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
As to who should receive the money, the victims of human-induced climate change – the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet – should be the target recipients for the Dubai Loss and Damage Fund, as they need urgent support.
The fund manager should visit each country as it gets hit by climate events to help those affected – not just to recover from a disaster but to invest in building longer-term climate resilience.
Finally, it is important to recognise that while there are indeed actors in the humanitarian sector who respond to rapid onset climate events like cyclones or floods, the slow displacement of people from sea level rise is not being taken care of by any existing agency and is clearly the mandate of the UNFCCC.
Just to cite one example from my country Bangladesh – every single day, over 2,000 climate-displaced people arrive by foot, cycle, boat and bus in Dhaka and disappear into the city slums. No one is looking after them – but they are people being forced to move by human-induced climate change and are hence the responsibility of the UNFCCC.
It is important to remember that this COP28 is, in fact, “COP1”: the first U.N. summit in the new era of climate loss and damage which is already upon us. I hope you will make it a shining example of the new kind of outcome-oriented COPs to come.
Dr Saleemul Huq is director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).
Originally this article was published on 6th June 2023 by Context.