Submitted by Niko Scherer
22 Jan 2024

Anticipatory action at COP28: a quick readout

Anticipatory action as a prominent theme

As in the past two years, anticipatory action was a prominent theme at COP28. According to the Anticipation Hub’s calendar, there were at least 35 sessions and side events that explicitly discussed the role of anticipatory action. Many of these were related to the Early Warnings for All (EW4All) initiative, which was formally launched at COP27, highlighting the achievements to date in terms of integrating anticipatory action into wider disaster-risk policies. Other sessions explored the need to scale up anticipatory action further and presented opportunities to do so.

To highlight a few:

  • The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the World Meteorological Organization launched the Global Status of Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems 2023, to which the Anticipation Hub contributed; this analyses the latest data about early warnings, one year into the EW4All initiative.
  • The Intergovernmental Authority on Development launched its Regional Roadmap for Anticipatory Action, which was developed with strategic partners to build a coherent regional approach to anticipatory action in East Africa.
  • The Coordination Centre for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America (CEPREDENAC) presented the Mitch 25+ Forum Declaration, in which SICA countries (Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana) commit to integrating anticipatory action into government systems.
  • The European Union reiterated its commitment to support the scaling up of anticipatory action. 
  • The Anticipatory Action and Health Working Group launched its new briefing on anticipatory action for epidemics and demonstrated ways to expand anticipatory action to disease outbreaks.
  • The UN Capital Development Fund presented a new project in Fiji which links anticipatory action and insurance.

Another key event was the launch of the Getting Ahead of Disasters Charter. Established by the COP28 Presidency, the UK, Samoa and the Risk-informed Early Action Partnership, and endorsed by 41 countries and organizations, this calls for collaborative action to scale up the financing available to better manage risks and safeguard people, including through anticipatory action. The charter sets out principles that will allow frontline communities facing the worst impacts of climate change to access resources before the impacts of extreme weather events are felt.

Overall, humanitarians, donors and other supporters and partners of anticipatory action at COP28 pushed for the greater uptake of anticipatory action as part of efforts to build greater resilience against climate-related risks. At the same time, there was clear interest from the climate community on humanitarian work in general. This was demonstrated by the first Relief, Recovery, Peace and Health Day, as well as the first Humanitarian Hub event, which hosted numerous sessions. The much-needed cross-sectoral exchanges around these themes are gaining momentum.

Establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund

One of the most relevant outcomes for the anticipatory action community was the formal establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund, which happened on the opening day of COP28. Parties agreed to have the World Bank as interim host of this fund and pledged 660 million US dollars in funding.

For a long time, the World Bank hosting this fund was a ‘red line’ for many countries, as this painted it as a donor-driven institution with rigid and inflexible policies. Finally, countries agreed to have the World Bank as an interim host on the provision that it adheres to certain conditions, including:

  1. that countries which are ineligible for existing World Bank finance can access the Loss and Damage Fund, and that it creates an entry point for non-traditional entities (i.e., beyond multilateral and regional development banks, UN agencies) and communities to directly access the Loss and Damage Fund
  2. that it reports to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) bodies, and is bound by the principles of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. Further details will be worked out this year, with the board setting out the fund’s strategic direction, clarifying its governance and operational modalities (e.g., policies, frameworks, work programme) and approving and overseeing funding decisions.

Whether anticipatory action will be eligible for funding from the Loss and Damage Fund will be decided this year. At present, it seems to focus more on what humanitarians call the ‘recovery and rehabilitation’ phase. The role of anticipatory action was widely discussed during technical discussions in the run-up to COP28, and was initially presented as a cost-effective approach to minimizing climate-related losses and damages. The arguments being put forward then experienced a backlash, however, with concerns raised by some developing countries that anticipatory action was being put forward as the ‘panacea’, in contrast to the immense post-disaster financing needs they have and the broad range of needs to be addressed. 

However, the decision text for the Loss and Damage Fund is vague, leaving room for interpretation – and for those pushing for anticipatory action to advocate for its inclusion. The Anticipation Hub’s recent policy brief on this theme sets out the arguments for doing so. In particular, it will be important, especially for champions of anticipatory action in the Global South, to highlight its value as part of a comprehensive approach to manage losses and damage – and as an approach that also improves response efforts. References to the work of the EW4All initiative and the Sendai Framework, and the increasing institutionalization of anticipatory action in relevant policy frameworks, may help.

Whatever the results of this political negotiation will be, from an anticipatory action perspective, it was great to see that the COP28 decision text calls for greater coordination and coherence with existing and new loss and damage “funding arrangements” outside of the UNFCCC/COP structure (e.g., climate, development and humanitarian finance). In this context, it also urges relevant actors “to scale up anticipatory approaches through mechanisms such as the Central Emergency Response Fund, the Disaster Response Emergency Fund, the Start Network and country-based pooled funds”. This paves the way for closer collaboration between climate, development and humanitarian actors.

The first meeting of the board for the Loss and Damage Fund is due by 31 January 2024, with further coordination functions, such as the High-Level Dialogue on Loss and Damage to enhance coherence between the Loss and Damage Fund and other funding arrangements, to follow later in the year. The important work of setting up the fund – and making sure it delivers – is just beginning.

This blog was written by Dr Nikolas Scherer, the Anticipation Hub’s policy and advocacy manager (photo by the secretariat team for EU side events at COP28).

Many thanks to Mary Friel for her input to this blog.