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Loss and damage fund at COP28 ‘not a win, but a relief,’ say small island nations

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They contribute to less than one percent of the global emissions, yet the small island nations are the most affected by climate change.

According to Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster, chair of the Alliance of the Small Island States (AOSIS), a host of calamities including from the rising sea levels to cyclones, and droughts, to coral erosions, made worse by the climate crisis are threatening the entire existence of island nations.

“When we talk about climate change, we experience it on a daily basis for the whole year,” Schuster told Al Arabiya English on the sidelines of the COP28 Summit in Dubai.

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“We have countries that are affected by droughts, but the same one gets blown away by a cyclone and the ones that are also affected with flooding are also getting affected from the coral bleaching, so it's the whole gamut of why we are very concerned,” he added.

AOSIS, a block of 39 small island states, was established in 1990 and has been advocating for the Loss and Damages (L&D) fund since the inception of the Conference of the Parties (COP) in 1995.

The sorely needed fund to help world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries has been operationalized this year in a landmark announcement on the first day of the COP28, with the host UAE pledging $100 million.

“We have been talking about this since the last 30 years,” said Schuster, who is also the Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Lands of the Polynesian Island Nation of Samoa.

The AOSIS has welcomed the launch of the L&D fund but say the work is far from over.

“It's been great effort and for that we congratulate and acknowledge the UAE and the Presidency for pushing from Sharm El Sheikh last year (COP27) when we finally got to an agenda, and got it approved within a year, and now we have managed to capitalize it with the announcement. It's a not a win, but a relief for us,” Schuster said.

Apart from the UAE, the EU has also pledged $145 million to the L&D, with Germany alone contributing $100 million, followed by the UK, US and Japan, bringing the total funds to over $400 million so far.

“It’s not enough. We need at least about 100 billion a year to really address the loss and damage issue,” Schuster told Al Arabiya English.

In a statement ahead of the COP28, AOSIS said the small island developing states have been crying out for urgent climate action for over three decades and that “we get the impression that we are being ignored.”

The small island nations have also said they are steadfastly committed to the 1.5C goal in the global climate negotiations.

“For us the bigger issue is that we need to continue to forge forward with the 1.5C because that is our survivability,” Schuster said.

“If the temperature rises over about 1.5C, some of our nations will be underwater,” he added.

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