In a historic move on the first day of COP28 climate talks in Dubai, nations reached a groundbreaking agreement to establish a global climate damage fund. Following suit, Canada joined other developed countries in supporting the initiative, with Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault announcing an initial commitment of $16 million toward the loss and damage fund.
Guilbeault expressed the significance of this commitment, highlighting Canada’s year-long advocacy for serious discussions on loss and damage, a topic that had been overlooked for almost three decades. The fund aims to assist developing countries in coping with the adverse impacts of climate change, such as floods, droughts, and rising sea levels.
The total contributions to the fund have exceeded $400 million, with notable pledges from the U.A.E. and Germany ($100 million each) and the United States ($17.5 million). Canada’s contribution, in U.S. dollars, amounts to approximately $11.8 million.
The swift progress in reaching this agreement has been praised, particularly for addressing the concerns of developing and vulnerable nations that have advocated for such a fund for decades. Catherine Abreu, founder of the advocacy group Destination Zero, emphasized the historical significance of the moment.
However, during the opening ceremony at the Canadian pavilion, Indigenous leaders raised the issue of climate impacts on their communities within Canada. Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council, highlighted the significant loss and damage experienced by Indigenous communities due to forest fires, floods, and droughts, underscoring the need for support.
While the loss and damage fund focuses on developing nations, Minister Guilbeault acknowledged the importance of addressing climate impacts on all levels of government in Canada, particularly Indigenous communities. The federal government is expected to make announcements during COP28 regarding methane emissions and details about a proposed emissions cap on the oil sector.
As part of negotiations, Canada will advocate for a deal to phase out unabated fossil fuels by 2050. Despite some resistance, several countries support this target, emphasizing the need to transition away from carbon-intensive industries.
The primary goal of COP28 is to reduce emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, crucial for averting a climate catastrophe. While progress has been made, concerns persist, with Bill Gates noting the world’s likelihood of surpassing the target. Leaders at the conference stressed the urgency of taking bold actions to address climate change, echoing the sentiment that “the Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the Earth.”