By SGA Executive Director, Gary Cuneen

COP28 – Day 3

King Charles III made strong and clear statements during his address at COP28, stating that “The Earth does not belong to us.” and rather “We belong to the Earth.” King Charles III emphasized that “humans are carrying out a vast, frightening experiment on the planet” and that we are taking the natural world “outside balanced norms and limits and into dangerous unchartered territory.”

At a meeting of the Green Climate Fund, similar themes from past COPs were articulated, including a statement from a Brazil delegate that while incremental progress is being made to increase the fund, we are still not reaching the goal of $100 billion. Over the years, I’ve attended sessions of the Green Climate Fund, and in my opinion there is not enough facilitative leadership to take comments made by delegates, synthesize them and put forth a proposed plan of action for review. Hesitant leadership has resulted in a process that is bogged down on this and other issues. Other countries echoed this sentiment. Another big issue is how long it takes to get funding to projects (countries have had periods of 18-34 months to receive accreditation to get funds for mitigation and adaptation projects). Funding distribution needs to be simplified, while striking the balance between project review and accountability and getting funds disbursed in a timely manner. The clock is ticking.

U.S. Vice President, Kamala Harris, addressing COP28 delegates.

Lastly, there has been some criticism that most of the funds are going to climate mitigation rather than striking a 50-50 balance in the original agreement between mitigation and adaptation. Poor countries are dealing with the impact of climate change now and have expressed need for funding through the Green Climate Fund and the Loss & Damage Fund to pay for the impacts of climate change.

I spent time at the US Center today listening to and speaking with Mayor Cantrell of New Orleans and White House Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, who moderated a panel on subnational climate initiatives. McCarthy – an eternal optimist with great energy – stated that change happens at the town and community level, while Mayor Cantrell spoke about New Orleans’ adaptation initiatives and funding ($8 million for trees; opt-out recycling; $55 million to strengthen the electric grid; $1.3 million for wetland restoration to mitigate hurricane impact; $250 million for an energy resilience hub). John Podesta, a senior advisor to President Biden on clean energy, reiterated the US goal of 80% clean power by 2023 and 50% EVs by 2030 – despite US emissions increasing by 2% this year in the face of a 7% reduction goal. In a late decision, Kamala Harris arrived at COP28 today and gave a speech mid-afternoon that underscored that the US is walking the talk through billions of funds being distributed through the bi-partisan Inflation Reduction Act, while announcing the US’ new commitment of $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund.

A few other tidbits: Microsoft is developing an AI Playbook for Sustainability; Maryland is on fire with regional and state initiatives that have reduced emissions by 30% from 2006 and has the goal of 60% ghg reductions by 2031; and the US Climate Alliance (25 governors drawn together in response to Trump’s inaction) is gaining steam and collaborating to drive statewide emissions reductions.