COP28: Lost and Damaged, Swallowed by Corporate Capture and False Climate Solutions

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Although COP28 is already being seen by some as a historical step in addressing the future of fossil fuels, many ESCR-Net members believe that the agreements reached are just another set of false solutions where polluters and the market continue to exploit the planet and our peoples. This path keeps us trapped in the vicious cycle of worsening climate chaos and shackles of debt for many impoverished countries as they crawl to recover from the impact of the climate crisis.

COP28 began with the agreement to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund which had many loopholes. The Fund was set up after 30 years of collective efforts to hold developed countries accountable for their historical responsibilities to pay for the impact of loss and damage. However, there is a glaring insufficiency in the pledges, with a total of 770.6 million USD. Countries have failed to guarantee that the amount pledged is new, additional to their Official Development Assistance (ODA) and existing funding commitment, and will actually be allocated fully towards the operationalisation of the Fund. Even in that case, the amount is far from the estimated 400 billion USD required annually as a minimum pay to immediately address the impact of loss and damage. These issues were repeatedly stressed in a press conference organized by ESCR-Net, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), and the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC).

“COP is supposed to be the most effective space for decision-making and stopping the climate crisis caused by the wealthy countries and those most responsible for the climate crisis. However, we are seeing no effectiveness in the objectives set to mitigate climate impacts, decarbonize life or phasing out of fossil fuels. This is our collective obligation to preserve the life of everyone on the planet. The people of Latin America and the Caribbean must not pay the consequences of the catastrophic brutalities of the emitters from the Global North. We demand that they take responsibility for the damage, to stop the crisis and make the world a sustainable place for present and future life.” - Martha Devia Grisales, Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida, Colombia


Prior to COP28, ESCR-Net members gathered to consolidate analysis on the issues and collective position on how to address loss and damage to deliver justice and accountability to the peoples. COP28 has completely failed these demands and a pledge is a pledge. Questions remain on the delivery timeline and the critical concern of how the World Bank with its notorious track record of harming communities, violating human rights and fueling corporate capture and debt will manage this Fund. The push for the Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) principle also echoed across the plenary room led by civil society and many Global South countries throughout the Conference.

“COP28 outcome takes us to a crossroads. Without consistent recognition of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and human rights across agenda items, confidence in the process risks being eroded. This recognition is inadequate in the outcome document and looking forward it needs to be reflected in resources not rhetoric: equitable and funded phase out of fossil fuels, with developed countries providing financial assistance in the form of grants for a just transition in the Global South; a 10-fold increase in adaptation finance in line with the UN's Adaptation Gap Report; and deep reforms to the international financial architecture on issues such as tax and debt, creating the fiscal space for countries in the Global South to undertake a just transition that puts human rights at the center of climate action.” – Sergio Chaparro Hernández, Dejusticia


At the same time, the Global Stocktake (GST) process, as a comprehensive assessment of the world’s progress in climate action, has indicated that it is critical to radically accelerate global actions and ambitions to tackle the climate emergency. But again, the Outcome Document of the first Global Stocktake ironically focuses on false solutions such as Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), nuclear, and twisted language such as “phasing away of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” as a way forward to recover from the global crisis.

Corporate Capture and Carbon Colonialism Unveiled

COP28 also revealed itself to be a nest for at least 2400 fossil fuel lobbyists, breaking the record with a 400% increase from their highest number of delegations recorded in 2022. The presence raises serious concerns about corporate capture, suggesting a growing interference by vested interests. 

This comes along with the unprecedented oppression and severe restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly imposed upon civil society during the Conference. This is particularly resonated when climate justice movements are calling out the apartheid Israel for its war crimes and crimes against humanity throughout the Conference. At the closing plenary, Bolivia and Colombia also explicitly highlighted the genocide in Palestine and the complicity of countries in the ongoing bloodshed.

“It is devastating to see the Outcome of COP28. The Global Stocktake outcome document does not address the immediate phase out of fossil fuels and ignores human rights. Moreover, the restrictions towards civil society have been very concerning especially as we are going to face another repressive political space, Azerbaijan, as the host of the next COP.” - Ahmed Elsaeidi, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Egypt

The outcome of COP28 fails communities, driven by the hypocrisy of the Global North, particularly the United States, which claims that it champions the phasing out of fossil fuels while calling for an acceleration in CCUS, among other false solutions. As the Conference came to an end, the COP28 Presidency singlehandedly ignored the request for country intervention from Samoa and went ahead with adopting the outcome documents. Samoa on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) was dismissed by the wealthy countries for registering its reservation to the adoption of the GST due to a lack of consultations - in fact, the bloc was not even in the room when the decision was made. 

“The outcome of the COP28 is evidence of how the nuclear, geoengineering and fossil fuel lobbyists won the space. We are dismayed with the outcome and the hypocrisy of developed countries that keep on denying their historical responsibility, cementing the carbon market and imposing debt-creating instruments and inputs in climate finance. As Bolivia said, we are coming to a new era of carbon colonialism. Although we are angry, we have more understanding now on who is with us and who we are up against. COP28 is the fight we lost, but our movements will not be backed down with the outcome of the UNFCCC. We will keep on our work to mobilise and organise for peoples and feminists of the Global South.” - Wardarina, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development


Many scientists say that this year is the hottest year on record. However, with the direction of the global climate negotiations rolling out the red carpet for businesses' vested interests to continue burning, we may beat the record of the heat in 2023 in no time. It is deeply worrying to see how wealthy and highly industrialized countries are gambling with the planet's survival, leaving frontline communities devastated by the impact of loss and damage for the sake of profit. We can’t talk about meaningfully addressing the climate crisis and the glaring impact of loss and damage if it is not grounded in human rights, justice, and accountability.

With the outcome of COP28 smelling like oil and gas along with the absence of meaningful efforts for real transformation and climate solutions, including drastic cut in global emissions, it is a tough battlefield ahead to make our collective vision for a just and equitable transition toward the path of climate justice a reality.

>> Watch our official COP28 side event on Loss and Damage, Human Rights and Corporate Accountability

More from our members:

“Time and time again we bring every piece of evidence of the catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis but has it really been heard, seen or felt by those in power? Those corporations and governments who have all the finance, technology, information and the capacity to not only protect but to save what is left - this COP has yet again broken endless pledges to keeping to 1.5 and phasing out of fossil fuels. This COP is a business transaction robbing us of our very humanity. We call on all those fighting on the ground that we will not lose hope. We unite with our power and we will show them that we will keep resisting carbon colonialism and green capitalism. We choose to stand on the right side of history and together we fight for a livable future.”Kavita Naidu, member of the Advisory Group of the Environment and ESCR Working Group

“The world leaders are not listening to the voices of the peoples! They are ignoring our messages of climate justice and they continue to contribute to the climate crisis. Our demands are clear enough for everyone to understand. We're leaving COP28 with many of our demands being ignored and diminished. Let me remind you that land remains the most dangerous resource to protect accounting for more than half of all attacks on women, land and environmental defenders! How many more lives are the polluters willing to take because they value and prioritize profit over peoples? Without winning the fight to protect defenders there is no climate justice!” - Radiatu Kahnplaye, Natural Resource Women Platform, Liberia

“The climate crisis is devastating people and communities around the world. The deal agreed at COP28 does not reflect that reality and instead is a testament to wealthy nations’ persistent avoidance of responsibilities. The first Global Stocktake failed to signal the needed shift to prevent more loss and damage by leaving a so-called phaseout of fossil fuels full of loopholes and dangerous distractions. This failure will lead to more human rights violations at a time when the UNFCCC should be committing to rights-based climate action as justice and science demands.” - Lien Vandamme, Centre for International Environmental Law

“Developed countries have slowly choked justice out of COP halls, leaving the ground open for the fossil fuel lobbyist to take over. The Loss and Damage Fund  fell victim to the system, condemned to fundraising and driven by countries that fail to acknowledge their legal responsibility to the harm inflicted to Frontline communities.” - Adrian Martínez Blanco, La Ruta del Clima