When Sultan Al Jaber, dressed in his traditional white Kandora, officially sanctioned the Loss and Damage Fund this past November in an auditorium surrounded by hundreds of world leaders, the general feeling was that of a great victory. The financial mechanism promises to assist countries most impacted by climate change, and everywhere you looked in the overflow hall were cheerful faces.

Want to keep the OptOut newsletters and app free?



Al Jaber was the president at COP 28, the U.N.’s yearly climate conference, which took place last year in Dubai, between November 30th and December 13th. It was the largest COP so far, with nearly 100.000 people in attendance from over 190 countries.

It is hard to believe it’s been three months already since the halls of Dubai’s Expo City 2020 were filled by an infinitude of patterns and colors. Indigenous peoples from all over the world, sporting their traditional clothes and body paint, walked alongside elegant Muslim women whose light fabric outfits waved as they walked, and men in suits of various ethnicities.

For a brief moment, it felt as if a slice of the whole world had come together with a common goal: solving the climate crisis. But reality is always more complicated, and as it turned out, COP 28 and its aftermath were full of disappointment.

The record breaking attendance didn’t come with either inclusion or representation. “For people who don’t experience the body of a disabled person, Expo City 2020 seemed like a very accessible place for people with disabilities,” Brazilian accessibility consultant Camila Aragão told me. “But many buildings did not have ramps, the spaces were not always wide enough for the mobility of people in wheelchairs and there were no tactile cues or sound signs,” she recalls.

Even for people who didn’t encounter in that a challenge, fully participating at COP was anything but a given. “Oftentimes, accessibility and inclusion are not about whether or not you can enter the room where decisions are made, but about whether or not that place allows your voice to be heard,” Brianna Gordon, an Australian woman from the Wiradjuri Indigenous people, told me.

Please join our mission to boost independent media, challenge the dominant corporate and legacy outlets, and move things forward towards a stronger democracy, a healthier planet, and a more equitable society.

Please consider donating $20, $100, $1,000, or whatever you can here!

When the voices of those most affected aren't heard, we all lose. And it is about more than just understanding the perspective of people on the ground—mostly from marginalized communities—but also learning what specific policies mean for their everyday lives. As Ana Paula Souza, human rights officer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) told me: “what they bring to the table is more than demands–it’s solutions.”

When equitable solutions don’t get a platform, the climate crisis becomes a never ending cycle which makes particularly the Global South more vulnerable. It also makes important announcements, such as the creation of the Loss and Damage Fund, which earned significant press attention, an empty promise.

Stela Herschmann, climate policy specialist at the Climate Observatory, and Gaia Hasse, member of the Latin American Climate Lawyers Initiative for Mobilizing Action (LACLIMA) told me that even with the fund’s existence and the first millionaire pledges, which correspond to less than 0,2% of the irreversible losses the world already sees, the damages tend to snowball, making it even harder to compensate. This reality becomes more alarming when we consider that there are no tools to guarantee the pledges will be met at all in the first place.

But the COP 28 conference also presented significant steps forward. Hosted by a petro state and marked by a series of scandals, from Al Jaber’s intent of using the event to sign new oil deals and deny science behind fossil fuel phase-out, to OPEC rallying its members to disrupt negotiations, it was the first climate summit where it was impossible to avoid tackling the number one cause of climate change.

DOWNLOAD the free OptOut News aggregation app for Android or iOS for more curated content like this every day!

Even the all time high attendance of oil lobbyists was a positive sign of the impact of COPs. Journalists who have been covering the event for years or  even decades, like Chris Wright and Shreeshan Venkatesh, explained how their increased presence is a sign that the conferences has gained relevance; an indication that Big Oil is actually worried.

It was also the first time ever that a COP’s final text explicitly mentioned fossil fuels—something many have deemed the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era.

Yet, 2024 arrived and a basis for this optimism remains elusive.

Last January was the 9th-straight warmest month on record, rich countries failed to choose representatives for the Loss and Damage Fund within the deadline, the world experienced the first full year with a rise of temperature superior to 1.5ºC, and the announcements regarding COP 29, set to happen later this year in Azerbaijan, didn’t bring a lot of hope, with an oil company veteran as its president and an initial committee that is all-male.

The truth is that 2024 is a key year for the climate–and the U.S. presidential elections have everything to do with it. On one side, a candidate with a long history of anti-environmentalism. On the other, a party on a collision course with climate activists. The outcome may determine whether or not the world will still have a fighting chance.

The OptOut Media Foundation (EIN: 85-2348079) is a nonprofit charity with a mission to educate the public about current events and help sustain a diverse media ecosystem by promoting and assisting independent news outlets and, in doing so, advance democracy and social justice.

Download the app for Apple and Android.
Sign up for OptOut's free newsletters.
Learn more about OptOut.

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Mastodon, and Facebook.