Climate Nerd Prom Returns

Will leaders at COP28 finally offer financial assistance to the countries least responsible for climate change?

Climate Nerd Prom Returns
Photograph by Douglas Adesko / Instagram

LISTENING: my Spotify wrapped on repeat (the song above is my top played)
FEELING: amused
SEEING: my partner play video games

Y'all know what time it is. The time of year all climate nerds rejoice over. C'mon, you know what I'm talking about.

COP! COP is here yet again.

For those scratching their heads, around this time every year, world leaders and industry assholes gather to gloat about all they plan to do to save the planet while activists, scientists, and academics push them to actually do so. COP is the one and only international conference dedicated to climate change where every country has a vote. My trusted source Tamara Toles O'Laughlin called it a "climate nerds prom" when she visited my classroom a few weeks ago. I love that name. It's perfect.

At this year's COP28, folks are meeting in Dubai to hash out a few lingering questions, primarily around the loss and damage fund (i.e. climate reparations) that was agreed upon during last year's treaty talks.

Everyone has their opinion on COP. Some advocates see it as crucial. Others think it's a waste of time. Most eco-influencers attend to post Instagram content and speak about the work others have done. (Yes, that's shade.) As for me, I've never been. I don't really want to, either, but it does always make for important storytelling.

Welcome to Possibilities, a creative climate newsletter on the possibilities that lie where crisis meets community. Iā€™m Yessenia Funes, and communities should be playing a larger role at COP, especially this year.

The big focus for this year's negotiations will be the loss and damage fund. This is, essentially, a wallet that wealthy polluting nations can pay into for lower-income nations to spend from when climate disaster hits.

Think: the next time a cyclone barrels into Malawi, its government (and, in the ideal world, non-governmental organizations, too) can request or directly access funds to rebuild homes, provide life-saving healthcare, and bring in food and water. Or perhaps low-lying island nations in the Pacific can finally afford to move their communities entirely somewhere else before the sea swallows them up.

These countries are entitled to financial assistance, especially after all the pillaging they incurred during colonial times. If we look at the climate crisis through the lens of colonialism, who is responsible becomes that much more clear.

A new report out Sunday from Carbon Brief shows that the historical emissions of countries like the U.K. and the Netherlands shoot up when considering that they were the ones running countries like India and Indonesia in years past. Formerly colonized nations, on the other hand, see their share of responsibility go down.

Many questions need to be addressed at this year's session to determine how the fund will actually operate and address this historical inequity. The big one is: How much money will countries actually cough up?

It's always a bit of a bummer to see the final results of these talks. I'm no pessimist, but I am a realist. Rarely do these negotiations offer anything of substance to folks on the frontlines. In 2015, world leaders agreed to dramatically cut their emissions. These days, they can't even make deadlines to submit their climate plans on time. Instead of honestly addressing the emissions question, countries like the U.S., U.K., and China continue to invest in fossil fuels. COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber himself is the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

How is the industry that created this mess going to be the one to solve it? Ridiculous, right?

So while I hope the loss and damage fund can amount to actual money in the hands of the people who need it, I imagine it'll be a lot of the usual: bureaucracy, red tape, and false promises. If that can happen here in the U.S. in regard to federal funds and grassroots groups, I don't see the process being much easier for organizations and communities with even fewer resources abroad.

Also, let us not forget that the United Arab Emirates where COP28 is being held doesn't support LGBTQ+ rights. How are elected officials working toward climate justice when they hold these events in countries where some of the most marginalized and impacted by climate change can't safely attend? I wrote about the same issue last year when the COP was in Egypt. The concerns there hold true yet again today.

Are any of you at COP this year? I hope it's fruitful. The one thing I hear time and time again is that the conference is always a rich space for coalition building. Connect and build moments of care with your community.

Little matters more in the end than the people we carry by our side. šŸŒ€

Rest in Power

Not finding anything this week. Thank the creator.

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