Restore trust, deliver change: what needs to happen at COP28

Thursday, November 9, 2023

World leaders and negotiators will soon descend on Dubai, United Arab Emirates for the 28th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP28), at which decisions on many important issues are expected. The Alliance will be there to push for bold, truly transformative action that the climate emergency, and its impact on the most vulnerable, demands.  

The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference is now only weeks away, and the stakes have rarely, if ever, been higher. From the widespread destruction and loss of life caused by Cyclone Freddy in southern Africa to record-breaking wildfires in Canada, extreme weather events have dominated the headlines in 2023. In the countries where the Alliance works, many of our community partners live in fear of the next climate shock – one they have no responsibility for causing.  

As for COP28 itself, concerns about the process and potential conflicts of interest remain, as do feelings of distrust caused by the failure of developed countries to honour previous commitments to provide climate finance. Moreover, the backdrop of tremendous geopolitical challenges threatens to further impede cooperation at a time when it could not be more crucial. 

“It is a difficult and yet critical time for multilateral engagement; and a time of anxiety,” recognized UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell recently. “Let us be united by the knowledge that climate change is our common challenge… we will all benefit from the solutions, and we will all suffer from the failure to find them.” 

Decision time for Loss and Damage

After the initial relief that a last-minute deal on Loss and Damage was struck at COP27, the focus turned to the difficult road ahead. Indeed, deep rifts between developed and developing countries were exposed during meetings of the Transitional Committee, focused primarily on matters such as where the fund should be based, who can access it and – crucially – who should pay in. 

Loss and Damage will inevitably be among the most contentious issues at COP28, and the Alliance calls on all countries to take a constructive role in reaching consensus. As the details are debated and finalized, it is imperative that the needs of communities already suffering from the impact of climate disasters are comprehensively addressed.  

Global failures to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis are causing massive losses and costly damages to the lives, livelihoods, and futures of communities around the world.

The resulting Loss and Damage Fund must have the necessary autonomy to ensure that finance can be made swiftly available to any developing countries who require it – particularly fragile states where the impacts are typically greater, yet for whom support has been historically harder to access.  

We call on developed countries to make new and additional funding commitments at COP28 to ensure that the Fund is not only operationalized but well-resourced from the start. This would have huge symbolic importance, and strengthen trust and solidarity between Parties. 

One year on from the historic announcement in Sharm-el-Sheik, it’s time for the Fund to move from aspiration to reality. Anything short of an agreement to establish and operationalize an effective Fund will represent a significant failure to support those already bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.  

Prioritize resilient recovery

As key decisions for the future are made in Dubai, it is imperative that the process of recovering from disasters is no longer treated as an afterthought, and instead becomes an integral element of climate action. 

Much needs to change at the national level to better prepare for climate disasters, and ensure that affected communities do not just return to the status quo (or worse), but the Parties at COP have their role to play too. Donors must address the fact that far too much financial support for recovery going to developing countries comes in the form of loans, which creates an avoidable and potentially catastrophic debt burden.  

This prevents the implementation of long-term, resilience-focused approaches to recovery, leaving countries vulnerable to future climate shocks. All providers of climate finance must recognize the unjust and often self-defeating nature of the current funding situation, and commit to reforming climate finance architecture to deliver more appropriate channels for climate finance, such as grants and highly concessional loans.  

More (and better) climate finance

As outlined in the Global Stocktake’s recent technical report, transformational change is required urgently to avert the worst of the climate crisis. Delivering on and scaling up finance is one indispensable element to achieve these climate objectives; today’s decisions on spending for climate action will have repercussions for decades to come.   

Yet it has long been evident that the amount of climate finance provided by rich countries is falling far short of what is needed to effectively address the issue; and when even modest targets, such as the $100 billion collective goal agreed at COP15 in 2009, are consistently missed, it’s clear that a fresh approach is needed. 

The New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) is an unmissable opportunity to course-correct and ensure that not only is more funding made available, but that it better serves those who need it. Tangible progress on the scale and scope of the fund must be made in Dubai, and a timeline put in place to ensure that an agreement can be reached by COP29. 

Climate finance specifically for adaptation must be increased, yet it is all too often overlooked as mitigation is prioritized. The COP28 cover decision must therefore contain stronger language on adaptation to ensure it remains in focus. We must also see an agreement on the framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation – one which incentivises better access, quantity and quality of adaptation finance, including traceability to the local level. 

The frequent breaking of climate finance promises by developed countries, who bear the most historical responsibility for climate change, has undermined trust in the process – as was apparent during the Bonn Climate Conference. However, by providing realistic plans at the COP to ensure the current $100 billion target for overall climate finance (of which at least $40 billion should go towards adaptation) is fully met, as well as acknowledging the need to go beyond those figures as the NCQG comes into view, these actions by developed countries could repair some of the damage and set the scene for improved collaboration in the future. 


With so much to be determined in just two weeks, and many key issues still proving contentious, it will be no surprise should the COP negotiations again run past the conference’s intended end date. If that is what it will take to ensure the right outcomes, so be it. 

Major changes in the world’s collective approach to the climate crisis are not merely desirable or beneficial, but essential. Failure is not an option; the Parties at COP28 must seize the opportunity to deliver positives outcomes that directly and tangibly benefit those most at risk of climate disasters.  

To find out more about the Alliance’s activities at COP28, visit our event page.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *