COP28: UN Climate Talks Have a Surprisingly Smooth Start
Notes from the ground
By John Ainger
The COP28 climate summit could have hardly had a better start.
Delegates from nearly 200 countries agreed on details for running a new fund designed to help vulnerable countries deal with more extreme weather stoked by global warming. It’s a major breakthrough, coming just a year after countries first agreed to set up a loss and damage fund.
Countries almost immediately began pledging money to start the program. COP28 host, the United Arab Emirates, said it would contribute $100 million, alongside an identical offering from Germany, $50 million from the United Kingdom and $10 million from Japan. The US also said it would provide $17.5 million to the fund — which, interestingly, has yet to get a proper name.
One major hurdle still remains, however. Developed countries have called on high emitting, yet not fully developed, nations — chiefly China and Saudi Arabia — to also contribute. The UAE’s pledge toward the fund may be seen as a symbolic acknowledgement that the divide between the developed and developing world is very different from when the COP process started three decades ago.
The first day at COP28 also managed to avoid a fight over the agenda for the two weeks of negotiations, which frequently mars such summits. The EU dropped its push to get an item on aligning all financial flows to the goals of the Paris Agreement. In return, Brazil, China, South Africa and India abandoned their call to debate unilateral trade measures like the EU’s carbon border adjustment mechanism.
The most heated point today may have been an exchange between Russia and the US over the George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and the National Democratic Institute. A delegate for Russia accused the NGOs of interfering with the affairs of sovereign states and said their presence at COP harmed negotiations. John Kerry, US special presidential envoy for climate, responded by saying that there was no basis to question the climate credentials of the two non-profits.
And of course, key challenges remain: getting nearly 200 countries to agree on how to slash emissions by nearly 50% this decade, which includes consensus on the phase out of fossil fuels. At the end of the summit, that’s how the COP Presidency will be judged.