Climate justice is at the heart of the international climate conference

The UN climate summit being held in Dubai began with the historic decision to approve the introduction of a new climate fund. However, much still needs to be done in order for climate justice to be realized.

A recent UN report shows that we are not reaching the goal of the Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Instead, we are headed for a temperature increase of more than 3 degrees, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described as “hellish.”

These disturbing news came before the UN climate meeting (COP28) in Dubai, where a global review of the situation is underway. It means that, for the first time, countries are looking at how far behind they are in implementing the Paris Agreement in reducing emissions, preparing and securing the necessary funding for climate action. It is very important that the review leads to new commitments and that the computational scientific basis provided by the inventory is taken seriously.

However, it is clear that climate change has already caused significant harm and will continue to cause it. This is a central issue related to justice and human rights. Damages and losses caused by climate change cause a lot of suffering, especially in countries that have had the least impact on emissions and that often do not have the necessary financial capabilities to compensate for the damage. Young people are harmed, girls are harmed – and their rights are violated.

This year, the young people of Plan’s Finnish-Ugandan group of influencers have focused on highlighting exactly these consequences. The group consisting of young people concerned about the climate crisis has gathered expertise through remote discussions and reading circles and documented the effects of the climate crisis on themselves and their communities.

The question of damage and loss was first introduced 30 years ago, but it did not receive the necessary attention and did not make it into the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, activists did not give up, and extreme weather events around the world in recent years reinforced its urgency. The research results of the intergovernmental climate panel IPCC also warned that “as the climate continues to warm, the limits of adaptation will come up, and it will be increasingly difficult to avoid damages and losses that are heavily concentrated in vulnerable population groups”.

Damages and losses were on the agenda of the annual UN climate summit for the first time last year. The meeting ended with a landmark decision to establish a financial mechanism to replace them.

On the first day of the current climate meeting, the representatives approved the draft text on the establishment of the fund. The draft was prepared with hard work by the transition committee established at the previous meeting. The most difficult question was who would manage the fund. The developed country parties wanted the World Bank, while the developing country representatives wanted the fund to be managed under the UNFCCC. The World Bank was accepted under certain conditions.

And what should the fund be like? Before the meeting, the young people of our climate group prepare their own recommendations for the fund:

  1. The damage and loss fund must be put into use. This was the first requirement and we are excited to celebrate this decision together with all countries. However, a lot of work still needs to be done in the coming years to make the fund work.
  2. The funding must be new and supplement the official development society funding. We are happy that some promises have been announced at COP28, albeit too small. These include pledges of 245 million dollars by the EU, 100 million dollars by the United Arab Emirates, and 17.5 million dollars by the United States. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, who participated in the meeting , promised that Finland would finance the fund with 3 million euros. We also hope that this sum will be new and additional climate finance.
  3. Funding must be based on grants. Unfortunately, however, the decision also includes other financing options, which the decision calls “consent-based instruments and other financing instruments, procedures and arrangements”. These are, for example, loans.
  4. The fund takes into account human rights and non-material losses and damages. We are satisfied that human rights have been included in the preamble of the decision, although the key right to education was not explicitly mentioned. The text states that climate action must take into account human rights obligations and, for example, the human rights of indigenous peoples, children, the disabled and those in a vulnerable position, as well as gender equality.
  5. Those who cause emissions must pay for the losses they cause. This is included in the decision, but weakly worded. It only “asks” for financial contributions, and developed countries are still in the leading position in starting the fund’s operations. The fund needs billions, not millions of dollars.
  6. Funding must be easily available and accessible to local communities. This has been taken into account in the decision, but only in practice will we see if communities can access funding at the necessary speed and extent.

The young people of our climate group follow the meeting closely, some of them even on the spot. We expect the negotiators to keep climate justice in mind. The meeting must also create a strong framework for phasing out fossil fuels, so that there is less need for the damage and loss fund in the future.

Written by:


The author is Plan International Finland’s volunteer work and school cooperation coordinator and a climate activist.


Executive Director, African Center for Trade and Development and mentor of Plan’s youth climate group.