US, Rich Nations Force Lopsided Loss and Damage Compromise, Create Huge Trust Deficit Ahead of COP28 Climate Talks

Statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Nov 4, 2023

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WASHINGTON—The U.N. Loss and Damage Transitional Committee, which consists of a geographically representative group of member nations tasked with furthering efforts to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund in advance of the annual U.N. climate talks, has today concluded its fifth and final meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. After world leaders created a fund last year, the Transitional Committee was tasked with figuring out key details for how and who will fund it, and where it will be located, ahead of the next annual U.N. climate talks, COP28. Today’s inadequate outcome on recommendations from the Transitional Committee was brought into further question with the United States calling it “not a consensus document” in the final moments, despite the agreement of the committee to move it forward to the COP. Even though developing countries had serious concerns of their own, they nevertheless agreed to accept the text. These dynamics will all but ensure that the issue of Loss and Damage—and its implications for the rest of the negotiations—will be even more hotly debated at COP28 starting later this month in Dubai.

Below is a statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, the policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“The final outcome reflects richer nations, including the United States, continuing to evade their primary responsibility to contribute to a climate Loss and Damage fund for low- and middle-income countries facing a devastating onslaught of extreme climate impacts. Wealthy nations also steamrolled developing countries into accepting a lopsided compromise to locate the fund at the World Bank, an institution with a donor-driven lending model and an undemocratic governance structure that raises serious concerns about its ability to host the Loss and Damage Fund. And despite all those concessions, the United States did not ultimately accept the recommendations as a consensus document.

“As the climate crisis gets more acute, and its burden more inequitable, it’s deeply disturbing to see those most responsible doubling down on tactics to undermine long-standing global climate frameworks and refusing to accept even a small measure of responsibility for causing this crisis. The United States showed yet again that it will wield its power to serve its own narrow interests rather than show solidarity with climate-vulnerable communities on the frontlines of climate change.

“The deeply compromised outcome on Loss and Damage from this Transitional Committee meeting will have serious reverberations at COP28. The United States and other rich countries will have to dig deep to overcome the significant trust and ambition deficit they’ve created, so that COP28 can deliver climate action in line with the latest science that the world so desperately needs.”

If you have any questions or would like to arrange an interview with Dr. Cleetus, please contact UCS Climate and Energy Media Manager Ashley Siefert Nunes.