The 28th Conference of the Parties is now underway, as all eyes look to our world’s leaders to fast-track their nation’s climate efforts, lock in deals, and for the richest developed nations to contribute in a meaningful way to a new ‘loss and damage’ fund. 

On the first day of the UN summit, a landmark deal was reached to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries pay for the impacts of climate disaster. Germany and the UAE both pledged $100m (£79m) to the loss and damage startup fund, while the UK donated £60m ($75m), the US, $24.5m, and Japan, $10m.

The loss and damage resolution, aimed to support developing nations’ recovery from the economic losses and damaged livelihoods wreaked from severe floods, droughts, sea level rises, ocean acidification and other slow-onset disasters, does not issue deadlines, goals, or target contributions. It relies purely on the voluntary donations of developed countries. 

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Further contributions are likely to be made as the conference continues and world leaders take to the stage.

Opening speeches

King Charles has made his opening speech on the second day of COP28, in which he urged world leaders to meet the opportunity this conference brings “with ambition, imagination, and a true sense of the emergency we face.”

“Unless we rapidly repair and restore nature’s economy, based on harmony and balance, which is our ultimate sustainer, our own economy and survivability will be imperilled,” he said. “Records are now being broken so often that we are perhaps becoming immune to what they are really telling us. When we see the news […] we need to pause, to process what this actually means.”

“We are taking the natural world outside balanced norms and limits and into dangerous, unchartered territory. We are carrying out a vast, frightening experiment of changing every ecological condition, all at once, at a pace that far outstrips nature’s ability to cope,” he said.

King Charles makes his speech at the opening of COP28.
King Charles makes his speech at the opening of COP28.

Keeping optimism alive at COP28

Staying optimistic about progress at government level, and the contributions of different countries is imperative, says Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and a key architect of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Speaking to reporters before the summit, she highlighted a few of the positive changes that are emerging, such as the plummeting cost of renewable energy and the growth of electric cars, and stressed we need to look for the positive stories.

“The moment that we give up and say ‘OK, we’re doomed, we’re going above 1.5C, I’m just going to crawl into my little cubbyhole and pull my blankets over my sheets’ – then we have a self-fulfilling prophecy, for sure,” she said. “Our responsibility is to understand the threat and do everything within our power to avoid it.”

Likewise, climate experts have noted how at COP, positive action is often happening outside of the main negotiations; that progress is being made on the sidelines — between businesses and innovative organisations, which is something the mainstream media isn’t always covering.

“There are people getting together from all around the world who would never normally meet,” says Jordan Dunbar, host of the Climate Question podcast, “people who really care about climate change. There are businesses there [at COP] who don’t want to have to wait for their own government or country — that’s waiting on 192 other countries — to get together.”

A number of key initiatives have emerged from side talks at past COP events, he explains.

“For example, there’s the Just Energy Transition Partnership (an innovative funding model) which came out of COP26[…]. There’s also the First Movers Coalition, an American strategy of getting companies who really want to move fast and don’t want to have to wait to be told; for laws to change. They get together with other countries and investors and start to rapidly change things. That energy that you get inside of COP can sadly sometimes be missing from the main room.”

For more positive stories and insights around Sustainability Solutions Towards Net Zero — head here to watch ITN Business’ new programme, screened in the Blue Zone of COP28.