The Paris Agreement, which has been signed by Ireland, reaffirms that developed countries should take the lead in providing climate finance to countries more vulnerable.

The legally binding international treaty on climate change sets the target of limiting global warming to well below 2°, preferably to 1.5° compared to pre-industrial levels.

Following the 28th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP28), Agriland spoke to Christian Aid Ireland’s policy and advocacy officer, Ross Fitzpatrick about Ireland’s in role climate finance.

Loss and damage

The establishment of a global Loss and Damage Fund was agreed at COP27 in Egypt last year, making it the first United Nations (UN) fund dedicated to addressing climate-driven damage.

Just over US$700 million have currently been pledged to the fund for climate mitigation and adaptation, including €25 million from Ireland for 2024 and 2025 together.

However, putting this figure into context, he said that earlier this year Cyclone Freddy hit southeast Africa, causing damage of US$655 million in Malawi alone.

“That’s just one climate event in one country and based on what we have in the fund, that would be emptied by a single event,” Christian Aid Ireland’s policy and advocacy officer said.

However, he said none of the money pledged to the fund is new or additional. “Much of it is just repackaged and relabeled from existing kind of budgets,” Fitzpatrick told Agriland.

The Loss and Damage Fund had been in the making for 30 years with small island states driving it forward, however, there has been “huge resistance” from bigger, developed countries, he said.

New York

The US, in particular, has resisted any kind of language around compensation or liability in COP decisions, he said. A pledge of €17.5 million has been made by the US to the fund.

COP28 host the United Arab Emirates (UAE) made a pledge worth US$100 million to the fund. The pledge by the US was “considerably less” than the ones made by many EU countries, he said.

However, not every country in the world made a pledge to the Loss and Damage Fund at the UN’s annual climate conference, including China, according to Fitzpatrick.

Some of the language in the text agreed by countries at COP28 on loss and damage is “not satisfactory”, he said, for example that the fund is “voluntary” for countries.

There is no obligation on any country and no specific targets for the amount needed to finance the loss and damage experienced by countries due to climate change, he said.

Climate finance

Fitzpatrick said that it is “unfortunate” the text does not make a reference to the historical responsibility of the wealthiest, high-polluting countries to provide the lead.

Rich, developed countries in the west are “largely responsible” for driving the climate crisis, while countries in the global south are experiencing the worst impacts, he said.

“What we really need to see now is developed countries primarily, and that includes Ireland, actually come forward in the next year and provide much more money,” Fitzpatrick said.

Ireland’s “fair share” of loss and damage finance has been estimated to be at least €1.5 billion annually by 2030, according to research by Christian Aid Ireland and Trócaire.

Under UN climate treaties, Ireland is obliged to reduce domestic emissions and provide finance to countries in the global south which do not have the resources necessary to deal with the crisis, he said.

“There’s a feeling that all of these disastrous climate impacts are kind of happening in another part of the world, and they’re not really affecting us, but I think that’s very short sighted.

“These impacts are coming down the line for everyone. We can’t escape the impacts of the climate crisis in this part of the world either.

“The more we do to bring down emissions now both in Ireland and in countries around the world, the less scale the crisis will [have] in the future,” Fitzpatrick said.

Despite China being the biggest emitter in the world, he said that Ireland has a responsibility to contribute to the global effort which is needed to tackle the climate crisis.

‘Double injustice’

The Loss and Damage Fund will be hosted by the World Bank, a decision which many developing countries were opposed to “quite vehemently” for a number of reasons, Fitzpatrick said.

Rules by the World Bank, which historically has been a “big funder” of the fossil fuel industry, make it difficult for smaller communities to directly access funds, he added.

Christian Aid Ireland’s Policy and Advocacy officer, Ross Fitzpatrick
Christian Aid Ireland’s policy and advocacy officer, Ross Fitzpatrick at COP28 in Dubai

The World Bank also provides money in the form of loans, which would add to the existing debt burdens of many developing countries, he said adding that grants are needed instead.

Describing the impacts of both debt and damage due to climate change in developing countries as “double injustice”, he said that there are big calls for debt relief and cancellation.

Countries in the global south are experiencing ever more intense and frequent climate disasters, which then have to borrow money from international financial institutions, he said.

Money from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the major shareholders of which are rich countries, is then being used to rebuild after a climate disaster, he said.

Thus, countries who are not responsible for causing the crisis have to borrow money from countries who are and then pay it back with interest – “it’s a double injustice in a way”, he said.