COP 28 A Moment of Truth: Financing Climate Injustice & COP Rhetoric

It is apparent that COP promises from previous years have failed to be met, leaving vulnerable nations more exposed to climate change consequences.

A protest sign stating 'Earth is more valuable than money'

This includes those that are contributing the least emissions.

There is a critical need for loss and damage financing and a paradigm shift in policy-making that instates evidence-based interventions to prioritise sustainable and equitable climate financing, holding the main contributors to climate change accountable and safeguarding the future of most impacted nations. There are many key implications for policy-makers to assess in efforts to practically address the current global issue of inequitable green financing, including shifting away from carbon offsets to emission reduction projects; focusing on adaptation, nature-based solutions; responsible consumption and circular economy thinking, whilst localising climate finance to foster inclusive, bottom-up solutions.

This piece urges COP28 discussions to prioritise equitable, future-proofed solutions and innovative strategies to tackle climate change. It highlights the urgency of addressing the climate finance gap and the need for collaborative, inclusive efforts to ensure a sustainable future for all, whilst also reflecting on previous climate promises.

Where we are now

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have reached an all-time high, threatening to push the world into unprecedented levels of global warming, with poor countries bearing the brunt of climate change consequences. Whilst previous Conference of the Parties (COP), have so far fallen short of their promises for green finance targets, it has become clear in the last several years that countries in both the Global South and Global North are left to suffer the consequences. Although COP27 saw some positive breakthroughs in ‘Loss and Damage,’ in providing financial assistance to poorer nations for the disproportionate consequences of climate change, the fact also remains that the long-promised $100 billion per year in climate finance from developed countries has still not been met. Other major concerns include the current global commitment to tackle climate change, which is still alarmingly behind the target to keep 1.5C alive or to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The dynamics of funding global climate change discourse have taken on extra significance this year as COP 28 is to be hosted by the United Arab Emirates, a leading oil and gas producer. When considering what this year’s focus should be, priorities on funding for Loss and Damage mustn't become another political rhetoric or be left open to wealthier countries issuing ‘Blanket Checks’ to offset reputational damage. Instead, the discourse should be led by an intention to empower interdisciplinary climate change stakeholders, including academics, to apply evidence-based interventions to innovate, develop, expand, or enhance net-zero emission transition policy roadmaps.

Where do we go from here?

Financing loss and damage should address the following:

  1. Decarbonisation Measures versus Carbon Credits

Key implications for policymakers:

  • Any meaningful and renewed focus on financing projects should aim to move away from investing in carbon offsets towards investments in projects and practices that help reduce GHG emissions within value and supply chains, including business operations, i.e., where it makes the most difference to reach net zero targets e.g., measures focusing on GHG emissions reductions and removals aiming to address a business operations scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions i.e, direct, emissions, indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy, and indirect emissions from value chain respectively, against a current baseline.
  1. Adaptation versus Mitigation Measures

It was clear from the outcomes of COP27 that climate impacts are inevitable and pose enormous challenges for many countries, therefore discussion of fiscal measures which target both mitigation and adaption measures will be even more crucial at COP28.

Key implications for policymakers:

  • Given the inevitability of climate change impacts, fiscal mitigation-focused measures must aim to halt deforestation and biodiversity loss e.g. via the introduction of payments for ecosystem services, heavy investments in low-carbon public transport, and transitions to renewable energy.
  • Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are key to the mitigation measures, which for the first time were included in political discussions during COP27. NbS is a significantly cost-effective means of addressing climate change, which can help reduce 37% of the carbon emissions needed by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement goals, as well as manage the impact of future risks like flooding and mudslides. Funding them now within vulnerable nations and communities that would benefit most is fundamental.
  • Too long overlooked in COP, is the role of tackling irresponsible consumption and production patterns. Global emissions and consumption of materials, especially fossil fuels, metals and minerals are expected to double in the next forty years, while annual waste generation is projected to increase by 70% by 2050. Circular economy measures alone have the power to slash global emissions by 39% and cut virgin resource use by 28%. Therefore it is imperative for effective and equitable implementation that COP 28 fiscal adaptation-focused measures incorporate responsible consumption and the circular economy concepts within National Adaptation Plans.
  1. Inclusion, Stocktaking & Localising Global Climate Finance

Climate change and emission impacts are felt with increasing severity at a local level, so to make meaningful change, localising global climate finance must be prioritised. Given the complex nature of climate science and identifying appropriate measures, there are increasing calls for new and highly inclusive capacity building and bottom-up governance mechanisms. The success of these will depend on building ongoing relationships between all relevant stakeholders to develop innovative, collaborative and future-oriented practical solutions to bring the world back to a 1.5 C trajectory by 2030. However, current incentives and measures are not fully aligned with optimal pathways, as successful bottom-up multi-stakeholder engagement tools have yet to emerge in practice in localising subnational climate finance within Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) frameworks.

Key implications for policymakers:

  • A social innovation mechanism integrating participatory scenarios development capable of empowering decision-makers in delivering bottom-up coherent climate change plans, policies, and programmes at the local level remains crucial.

Build inclusive participatory scenarios, tools and roadmaps with ‘bespoke plausible measures and pathways’ that drive immediate action, focusing on empowering and guiding individual sectors, regions and communities towards a 2050 low carbon economy. This will also bridge existing data quality gaps, including harnessing analytical tools, and climate-related capabilities at the local level. 

Bringing it together

COP28 Loss and Damage negotiations must be shaped and driven by equity and equality concerns between post-industrial countries in the Global North and emerging economies in the Global South to be meaningful to those most affected. COP28 emissions reduction strategies need to be part of a consistent, plausible and cumulative process, whilst dealing with the political feasibility of climate policy and the geo-economic fragmentation of the world we face now.

Given the technical, economic, social and institutional barriers and structural issues within emerging economies, instead of a ‘climate action focus’, COP28 should rather aim to tackle climate change co-benefits within the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lens. Notably, where there are strong “win-win synergies” between addressing climate change, whilst simultaneously achieving the SDGs and its investment gaps. This can be achieved by a laser focus on critical SDG issues; particularly reduced inequalities and poverty, creating green jobs, and healthier, sustainable cities and communities which will resonate better with developing economies and allow us to develop strong and equal partnerships to achieve our global goals and the Paris Agreement.