[Suva, 22 December 2023] — As we approach the end of what has been a whirlwind of a year, we wanted to share with you some insights into the outcomes from COP28 in Dubai.
PICAN had a small team on the ground working alongside nodes, members, allies and our Pacific Negotiators to ensure that COP28 delivered the course correction that is urgently needed to keep #1point5tostayalive and secure our futures.
This work was made even more difficult as our Pacific negotiators, civil society representatives and activists navigated an increasingly captured space going up against an unprecedented number of lobbyists working to either water down the text or push for false solutions. COP28 saw over 2450 fossil fuel lobbyists and at least 475 carbon capture and storage lobbyists attend the climate negotiations in Dubai.
This, coupled with the COP28 Presidency being held by a petro-state, resulted in a real mixed bag of outcomes which we have tried to capture in our COP28 End Game analysis. In our analysis, we track the progress and challenges presented by the COP28 outcomes against our Topline climate justice demands that we took to COP.
We hope that this overview serves as a critical reflection on some of the achievements made as well as the obstacles that demand our continued commitment and advocacy as we continue the fight to #HoldTheLine and to bring an end to the fossil fuel era.
Emphasis on addressing disproportionate impacts on vulnerable communities, upholding human rights, and ensuring inclusive policy-making.
Climate justice appears as a keyword in the preamble whilst the focus on just and equitable actions is littered in the text as would be expected as we move towards a ‘just transition’. Despite the Convention and the Paris Agreement acknowledging the disproportionate impacts of climate change, the equity dimension falls short in the Global Stocktake (GST). The text, regrettably, lacks the robust emphasis needed to convey the urgency stemming from the repeated failure of developed nations to act on reductions and finance. As such, a clear and decisive path forward concerning climate justice is notably absent from the discourse.
Loss and Damage
Prioritizing support and finance for communities facing irreversible loss and damage due to climate change.
COP28 acknowledges significant gaps in finance for addressing Loss and Damage, with a focus on economic and non-economic aspects, especially for developing countries. Decision made on operationalizing a new Fund for Loss and Damage with around $700 million pledged to the Fund however it would seem that this would be a voluntary fund with no concrete avenues for capitalisation. As it stands, it is a tokenistic decision which will not meet the significant needs of people and communities already experiencing Loss and Damage.
On a positive note, the Santiago Network (SN) was also operationalised at COP28 following the decision to have the UNDRR as its host. The SN’s mandate includes facilitating access to knowledge, resources, and technical assistance needed to address climate risks comprehensively and is considered the technical arm of the Loss and Damage Fund.
Gender, Human Rights and Social Inclusion
Integrating gender-transformative, socially inclusive, and human rights approaches in all climate responses.
Very limited and weak language if at all, eg ‘Also encourages Parties to implement climate policy and action that is gender-responsive, fully respects human rights, and empowers youth and children
Supporting safe, voluntary, and dignified migration in the context of climate change.
Appears under loss and damage in the same para where adaptation actions and humanitarian aid are noted which does not adequately provide the space for climate mobility nor the recognition of its severity in a 1.1C world
Improving the quantity and quality of climate finance, with a focus on adaptation and the needs of frontline communities.
Emphasizes challenges in accessing climate finance and encourages efforts to simplify access, especially for LDCs and SIDS. Urges developed countries to deliver on the USD 100 billion per year goal through 2025 and recognizes the need to scale up adaptation finance.
However, while Loss and Damage is explicitly mentioned under the finance section of the GST, the New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) decision text does not even mention the term. This could be a real concern as from the outset it does not set Loss and Damage as the third and missing pillar of climate finance.
Additionally, the conversations on Article 2.1C have been seriously concerning for developing countries where this conversation, whilst important, is also seen to undermine the significant responsibility of historic high emitters in the provision of finance that does not enhance the debt burden of developing countries as they transition away from fossil fuels.
Halting the expansion of fossil fuel industries and transitioning to renewable energy.
It may seem positive that the GST acknowledges the need to reduce emissions from fossil fuels and emphasizes the need to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency as well as mentions phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, however, the text we have is not the clear market signal that this is the end of the fossil fuel era. What we have is much more dangerous and insidious than we could have hoped for. It is not aligned to the science that will limit warming to 1.5C. The text explicitly recognizes the role of transitional fuels (e.g. gas); is focused mainly on transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems; has no mention of differentiated timelines for developed and developing nations; and has given a free hand in the acceleration of dangerous distractions of abatement technologies without any definition of what this may mean.
Addressing the ocean-climate-biodiversity nexus and opposing deep sea mining.
There are absolutely no guardrails or safeguards on what tripling renewables means, however, this is not necessarily expected in the limited text of the GST. Importantly, noting the critical significance of oceans as sinks there is disappointingly very little link back to the science of healthy oceans for 1.5C.
We have just a single paragraph that "invites Parties to preserve and restore oceans and coastal ecosystems and scale up, as appropriate, ocean-based mitigation action".
The GST's emphasis on the urgency of scaling up adaptation finance resonates deeply with the health sector's needs in developing countries. The recognition of the challenges in accessing climate finance, particularly for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), is a crucial acknowledgement of the existing disparities. Increased adaptation finance is vital for strengthening health systems against the backdrop of escalating climate impacts. This funding can support infrastructure development, emergency preparedness, and disease surveillance systems, crucial for responding to climate-induced health crises.
However, the GST's approach to climate finance raises concerns regarding its adequacy and alignment with health priorities. The commitment by developed countries to deliver on the USD 100 billion per year goal through 2025 is a positive step, but the pace and scale of disbursement remain inadequate compared to the escalating health challenges posed by climate change.
Moreover, the lack of explicit mention of loss and damage finance under the finance heading of the GST is a significant omission. The health impacts of climate change often manifest as 'loss and damage' – from the destruction of health infrastructure to the loss of lives and livelihoods due to extreme weather events. The absence of a dedicated financial mechanism for loss and damage within the GST framework means that the newly operationalised Loss and Damage Fund might struggle to secure predictable and adequate funding for these critical aspects of climate-related health challenges as the discussion for the New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) conclude next year.
Additionally, the discussions on aligning broader financial flows with climate goals (Article 2.1c of the Paris Agreement) present a double-edged sword. While reorienting finance towards climate-friendly and health-promoting initiatives is essential, there is a risk that this approach might be used by developed countries to shirk their responsibilities. As the highest historical and present emitters, developed countries must not use the alignment of finance flows as a pretext to reduce direct climate finance, which is desperately needed by developing countries to bolster their health systems against climate impacts.
Thus, whilst the commitment to increased adaptation finance and the acknowledgement of access challenges are welcome, the absence of a robust mechanism for loss and damage finance and the potential diversion of responsibility by developed countries present significant hurdles in leveraging climate finance for health resilience effectively. As we navigate the health and climate nexus, climate finance must be not only scaled up but also strategically directed to holistically support the health sector's unique needs in the face of a changing climate without redirecting funds from other areas, without lessening any other element of responding to climate change.