From Bonn to Dubai: why addressing peace and conflict is critical for loss and damage

The impact of climate on conflict is undeniable. That is why we joined CSOs, researchers, scientists and country delegations in Bonn to discuss how the major new loss and damage fund agreed at last year’s COP climate summit can be made to work in conflict-affected and fragile places.

The Bonn Climate Change Conference is one of the biggest milestones leading to COP every year. All members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are convened to discuss the technicalities of their respective positions for COP and to decide on the negotiating agenda.

Why was Alert present?

A world where global warming goes beyond 1.5°C will see conflicts multiply in the most fragile places, such as the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. Despite historically being the least responsible for emissions, these places are the most affected by climate change. We are therefore in a race against the clock, but we are still faced with the same situation: those most affected are those receiving the least climate finance.

This year’s conference nearly ended in disaster after difficulties agreeing on an agenda for COP28. If this had failed, all progress made at Bonn would have been lost. A group of low-income countries wanted to link mitigation efforts and financing, which high-income countries refused, leading to both elements not making the final agenda. This does not bode well. Solidarity is of the essence, and it is urgent to ensure climate finance reaches those that need it the most.

Climate change is recognised as a threat multiplier for conflict, meaning that it accelerates and exacerbates other drivers of instability. Conflict-affected places are disproportionately impacted by extreme weather and climate variability. They are also often prone to weak governance, poor social cohesion and inequality, increasing their vulnerability to climate and environmental pressures and the potential for social tensions and violent conflict.

In the Horn of Africa, for example, drought is a major contributor to conflicts, as people compete over scarce resources to survive. Increased levels of gender-based violence, disease, conflicts over land and rising migration are also intricately linked to the climate crisis. Where Alert is working in Turkana county in Kenya, violent organised attacks are becoming more and more frequent, with successive droughts creating scarcer and scarcer resources, like water and pasture.

In Nigeria, the climate impacts on conflict can be seen in the violent resource disputes between farmers and herders killing and displacing thousands of Nigerians. Climate change has aggravated the conflict. In the first half of 2018, farmer-herder violence killed up to six times more people than the Boko Haram insurgency in the country’s northeast.

These countries have recognised the impact of climate on conflict, but their needs are not reflected at a global level.

What can be done?

International Alert and other organisations working in conflict contexts are calling on decision makers to ensure their climate action and finance is conflict sensitive. Indeed, with 70% of climate-fragile countries being at risk of or already in a state of conflict, climate action and finance can no longer turn a blind eye to the needs of volatile situations.

Climate finance in conflict-affected places is not straightforward, with major investments having the potential to interact with existing conflict drivers. To reap the intended benefits of a climate adaptation or mitigation project, an in-depth analysis of the conflict dynamics, involving local members of the community, needs to be carried out. The principle of doing no further harm should be a bare minimum, as maladaptation only further weakens communities’ resilience. Conflict sensitivity is therefore key to the success of climate action and finance.

This requires better quality climate finance. This includes locally led projects, with a bottom-up approach from the start. And it means fewer barriers to accessing finance – communities need to see increased flexibility in project reporting, simplified accreditation systems and enhanced capacity.

Last year’s COP27 opened a new negotiation track in the form of a loss and damage fund for vulnerable countries. This represents a great opportunity for the new fund and funding arrangements to take into account the needs of people living in fragile and conflicted-affected places. The fund needs to be for and designed by those most affected. This means moving away from classical blueprints of financing and adapting the fund to local structures, making sure no country is left behind.

The loss and damage discussions carried on via the Second Glasgow Dialogue, highlighting how much work still remains. Who will pay into the fund? Who will be the beneficiaries? What is the scope? The Transitional Committee (TC), which co-chaired the Dialogue, now has the difficult mission to address these in upcoming meetings and deliver a set of recommendations before COP, where fragile and conflict-affected states need to be acknowledged.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. The COP28 presidency has agreed to have a thematic day on peace, on 3 December. This is a step in the right direction and provides a platform for community voices to be heard. Everyone has a responsibility – governments, institutions, the private sector and NGOs – to reach across sectoral silos to promote holistic and conflict-sensitive climate action.

This is not the time for rifts between blocs of countries. COP28 needs to reflect the urgency of this new era of losses and damages.