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World’s first climate damage fund established at COP28 climate conference in Dubai

After facing renewed criticism for his deep ties to the oilpatch on the eve of hosting the world’s largest ever climate summit, the president of COP28 scored an early victory on Thursday with a breakthrough financial agreement.

Tentative deal reached on the world’s first climate damage fund

A man in white clothing sits on stage in front of a microphone.

After facing renewed criticism for his deep ties to the oilpatch on the eve of hosting the world's largest ever climate summit, the president of COP28 scored an early victory on Thursday with a breakthrough financial agreement.

Sultan al-Jaber oversaw the creation of the world's first climate damage fund. The tentative agreement was met with a standing ovation from delegates in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on the opening of the UN climate conference.

The new fund has been set up to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change such as floods, drought and rising sea levels. The U.A.E. and Germany both pledged $100 million US.

The agreement came following a declaration from the World Meteorological Organization that 2023 will be the warmest year recorded in human history.

'We are living through climate collapse'

"We are living through climate collapse in real time and the impact is devastating," UN Secretary General António Guterres said to delegates. "Record global heating should send shivers down the spines of world leaders, and it should trigger them to act."

Al-Jaber, who is leading the talks on behalf of the U.A.E., is also chief executive of the U.A.E. national oil company, ADNOC. Environmental advocates have criticized his dual positions as a conflict of interest.

Those complaints resurfaced on Monday, after leaked briefing documents prepared for al-Jaber showed plans to discuss oil and gas deals with 15 countries, including a possible LNG project in Canada. The BBC and the Centre for Climate Reporting published the details.

Three people talk as they walk at a conference.

During an opening news conference, al-Jaber denied the validity of the allegations.

Instead, he said his role as an oil company CEO will help him to engage the oilpatch industry and other oil-producing countries.

"Sometimes, I am told, 'You need to engage with governments and oil and gas companies to put pressure,' and sometimes, I am told, 'You can't do that.' So, we're damned if we do, damned if we don't," he said.

Hundreds of oil and coal representatives

The conference is being held in OPEC territory and, for the first time, the oil cartel will have its own pavilion space at the climate conference. More than 600 oilpatch and coal industry officials registered for last year's summit, and more are expected to attend this year's event.

In his opening speech on Thursday to delegates, al-Jaber again addressed the role of the oilpatch and said his discussions with the sector resulted in more companies announcing net-zero emission targets for 2050.

"Let history reflect the fact that this is the presidency that made a bold choice to proactively engage with oil and gas companies. We had many hard discussions. Let me tell you that wasn't easy," he said.

The climate summit is only beginning as government officials prepare for marathon negotiations over the two-week event. Ministers and high-ranking officials from 198 countries will try to agree on new measures to tackle climate change, as temperatures soar and carbon emissions continue to rise around the globe.

"The reality is that industry has to be part of the equation" of reducing emissions, said Carlos Pascual, a senior vice-president with S&P Global Commodity Insights and a former U.S. ambassador, in an interview with CBC News in Dubai.

"If you ask what are the parts of the world that have the technological capability, the engineering skill, the ability to mobilize capital to implement and undertake capital projects at scale and replicate them at scale, the oil and gas industry has to be part of that," he said.

No funding from Canada yet

Canada did not announce funding for the new loss and damage fund on Thursday. There will be pressure on developed nations to announce contributions as world leaders take to the stage on Friday and Saturday.

"There has been a fight for 30 long years to create a mechanism so that people already facing climate emergencies, who are losing their homes, farms and income, how can they be supported to recover from these impacts," said Harjeet Singh, an environmental advocate with Climate Action Network International.

He added it was "unprecedented" for a decision to be adopted on the first day of a COP summit.

A man with a beard is interviewed.

The early breakthrough is raising hopes for other agreements at COP28, such as a deal to triple global renewable energy installed by 2030.

World leaders and government officials, including King Charles, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi are attending the summit.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden and Xi Jinping of China are not expected to attend.

The Canadian government is expected to announce new methane targets and the long-awaited cap on oilpatch emissions.

WATCH | New financial deal is a start, says climate activist:

Rich countries pledge $450M US for climate loss and damage at COP28

6 hours ago

Duration 2:09

Featured VideoRich countries at COP28 are pledging a small fraction of what's estimated to be needed to pay for climate change loss and damage, but observers are calling it a start.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kyle Bakx

Business reporter

Kyle Bakx is a Calgary-based journalist with the network business unit at CBC News. He files stories from across the country and internationally for web, radio, TV and social media platforms. You can email story ideas to Kyle.Bakx@cbc.ca.

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