…Loss and Damage Fund agreed on first day of COP28

YK Poudel

Dubai, UAE—At the opening plenary session of the annual United Nations climate change summit—Conference of the Parties (COP28)—held on November 30, Bhutan called upon world leaders to prioritise the inclusion of mountains and climate change in technical dialogues. The central theme focused on the impact of glacial melt affecting all Himalayan countries.

Leaders, government representatives, and delegates have convened for COP28 in Dubai, reflecting on the unresolved matters from COP27. The agreement reached last year to fund nations impacted by climate change has faced challenges, particularly in determining which states will contribute and the allocated amounts.

International and Bhutanese delegates at the Bhutan Pavilion in Dubai

Karma Tshering, the Head of the Bhutanese delegation (Technical Discussion), acknowledged the COP presidency and pledged unwavering support for Kyrgyzstan’s urgent call for dialogue on mountain and climate change and emphasised Bhutan’s commitment, stating that ample scientific evidence demonstrate the extreme vulnerability of fragile mountain ecosystems to climate change effects.

“Bhutan reiterates our submissions and requests made during numerous similar consultations in previous COPs on the issue of mountain ecosystem and its inclusion in the process,” Karma Tshering said.

Bhutan has experienced first-hand, the irreversible damage caused by climate change in the Himalayan mountain ecosystems. Karma Tshering highlighted a recent incident where an iceberg displacement led to a glacier lake outburst, releasing approximately two million cubic metres of water down the valley.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report underscores the alarming rate of glacier retreat, particularly in the Himalayas. Even with a limited global warming scenario of 1.5°C, a third of glaciers in the Hindukush Himalayan region could vanish by 2100.

The impact of these climate events extends to critical sectors such as agriculture, energy, biodiversity, forests, food security, infrastructure, public health, and development, endangering livelihoods.

Post-plenary, countries reached an agreement to establish a Loss and Damage (L&D) Fund. UAE, the host committed USD 100 million to this fund, aiming to provide support and build resilience for communities grappling with the devastating impacts of climate change.

Germany and the United Kingdom also pledged significant amounts, emphasising the urgency of addressing loss and damage. Germany as well made a commitment of 100 million towards L&D. The United Kingdom pledged US dollar 17.5 million (4.5 million to the pacific resilience facility and 2.5 million to the Santiago Network).

The UK also made a pledge of US dollar 75 million (50 million for the fund and 25 million for funding arrangements).

Likewise, Japan pledged for US dollar 10 million for funding L&D to ensure the delivery of meaningful support for the world’s most vulnerable.

Loss and damage funding are essential, even if the world meets climate mitigation goals because a “locked-in” level of warming already impacts particularly vulnerable communities being hit by extreme weather events.

Why is Bhutan’s participation in COP28 important?

Bhutan’s participation in COP28 holds significance against the backdrop of devastating floods and heatwaves globally, including the hottest summer witnessed this year.

For Least Developed Countries (LDCs) like Bhutan, COP serves as an opportunity to strengthen climate change measures through improved targets and measures, utilizing tools such as finance, technology, and capacity-building.

Despite Bhutan’s proactive efforts towards carbon neutrality and forest conservation, financial support for climate change adaptation, mitigation, and carbon stewardship remains inadequate.

COP represents one of the final opportunities for Bhutan to secure support before its graduation from LDC status.

A UN report highlights the record-high greenhouse gas levels in 2022, with projected carbon emission reductions falling far short of the necessary targets.

The urgency to address climate change is underscored by the failure to achieve the 1.5-degree Celsius target set more than a decade ago at COP16, making COP28 a critical juncture for global climate action.