The UN Loss and Damage Fund Transitional Committee Must Deliver for Climate Vulnerable Countries

March 27, 2023 | 2:55 pm
Soldiers evacuate a family in a boat along the main road in Nowshera, Pakistan, as the road is floodedSamenwerkende Hulporganisaties/Flickr
Rachel Cleetus
Policy Director

At COP27 last year, nations reached a historic agreement to establish a Loss and Damage Fund to help address extreme climate impacts in low-income climate vulnerable countries. A Transitional Committee was created to help flesh out the details of operationalizing the Fund and bring clear recommendations for adoption at COP28 in Dubai later this year. The first meeting of the Transitional Committee just got underway today in Luxor, Egypt, and will go through March 29. Expectations are high that the committee will work in an inclusive and efficient way so that the L&D Fund can soon start to deliver for communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. The needs are urgent, as the latest IPCC report underscores.

Ahead of the meeting, a list of members of the committee was announced, showing representation from across the world. Appropriately, the committee includes 14 members from developing countries and 10 from developed countries (note that ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ are official UNFCCC classifications). The United States has a seat on the committee and will be represented by Christina Chan, Senior Advisor on Adaptation in the Office of Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. Civil society groups will also be allowed to observe all the open sessions of the meeting. The agenda is available online and the meeting will be webcast for anyone to watch.

To help jump-start the work of the Transitional Committee, an informal note was put forward last week by the President of COP 27 and the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, and a helpful summary of existing international funding arrangements was prepared.

Here are five things I’ll be watching for as the work of the Transitional Committee’s (TC’s) work proceeds this year:

  1. An inclusive, transparent, and efficient process that builds on existing lessons learned and develops a robust set of recommendations to get an agreement to operationalize the L&D Fund at COP28. The TC should draw on lessons learned from the set up of the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund, previous funds focused on other aspects of global climate action. Civil society participation and open webcasts are important ways to create transparency and accountability, and it’ll be important for this to remain the norm for this and all future meetings of the TC.
  2. A process that centers the voices of climate-vulnerable countries. Many low-income nations are already reeling from the impacts of climate-related extreme weather like floods and droughts, as well as slow-onset disasters like sea level rise. As the IPCC notes, loss and damage will only increase as climate change worsens. There’s no time to waste: people need and deserve funding and other support, including a human rights-centered approach, as soon as possible. The IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report notes with high confidence that, without rapid and robust climate action, ‘losses and damages will continue to increase, including projected adverse impacts in Africa, LDCs [Least Developed Countries], SIDS [Small Island Nations], Central and South America, Asia and the Arctic, and will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations.’
  3. A workplan that leads to a clear definition for Loss and Damage, and a methodology for estimating it, that is informed by science and the needs of communities.
  4. Clear recommendations for who must pay into the fund and who is eligible to receive funding. Nations most responsible for the climate crisis, including the United States, which has contributed about a quarter of historical heat-trapping emissions, must live up to their responsibility to contribute to the fund. Innovative sources of funding, such a levy on fossil fuel companies to hold them accountable for the damages their products have caused, are also important. Loss and Damage funding must be grant-based, and additional to and distinct from humanitarian aid. Countries that are most vulnerable to climate impacts and have the least resources must be prioritized for receiving funding.
  5. An ambitious, fair outcome by COP28, which could take the form of a draft Governing Instrument for operationalizing the Loss and Damage Fund at COP28. This should include clear recommendations for its structure, governance, who should pay into the fund and who is eligible to receive funds, as well as critical operational details.

At COP28, nations should come together to agree on operationalizing the Loss and Damage Fund, so that it can be quickly filled with resources by richer nations, and then funding can start to flow to low-income climate vulnerable countries no later than 2025.

The IPCC also notes, ‘With increasing global warming, losses and damages will increase and additional human and natural systems will reach adaptation limits.’ And that, ‘Deep, rapid and sustained mitigation and accelerated implementation of adaptation actions in this decade would reduce projected losses and damages for humans and ecosystems (very high confidence).’ That’s why it’s critical that COP28 also deliver an agreement to secure a deep, rapid and equitable phase down of all fossil fuels, as well as ramping up climate finance from wealthier countries to help low-income nations cut their emissions and invest in climate resilience.

There are a number of other parallel multilateral and bilateral efforts to advance and reform international climate finance, including efforts to reform the multilateral bank lending system to be more aligned with climate goals, and the Bridgetown Initiative championed by Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados.

The U.S. Congress and the Biden Administration must also ensure the United States delivers on its commitment to provide $11.4 billion annually in climate finance by 2024. Please add your voice to urge your policymakers support international climate finance.

Another front for action is an effort led by the country of Vanuatu to request a ruling on climate change from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). My colleague Delta Merner has blogged about this effort and the related March 29 UN General Assembly vote on a resolution to bring climate change before the ICJ.

Each of these efforts is critical—and they are complementary and additional to the successful operation of the Loss and Damage Fund under the UNFCCC. Getting the Loss and Damage Fund up and running, and well-resourced, is critical for the world to deliver on climate justice for those on the frontlines of the deeply inequitable climate crisis.