Author: arichakr

COP28: A Fragile Hope for Vulnerable Nations – Navigating the Labyrinth of Governance in a Multipolar World

Aritra Chakrabarty
Aritra Chakrabarty

The historic announcement of a Loss and Damage Fund (L&D) at COP28 in Dubai resonated as a long-awaited victory for vulnerable nations bearing the brunt of climate change. Yet, amidst the celebratory spirit, a nagging concern lurks beneath the surface – the absence of a robust and binding governance framework threatens to engulf the L&D Fund in a labyrinth of political and financial complexities.

From an International Relations perspective, the current multipolar world order presents unique challenges for climate governance. The traditional model of global governance, built on the dominance of a few powerful actors, has eroded. This power vacuum creates a more complex and fluid environment, where consensus-building and collective action become increasingly difficult (Mearsheimer, 2001).

COP28 exposition entrance lined with flags and crowds of attendees
COP28: A global convergence for climate justice, symbolized by a multitude of national flags united in the face of environmental challenges.

Loss and Damage Fund Falls Short of Need

This dynamic is particularly evident in the case of the L&D Fund. While the initial commitment of $700 million marks a significant step forward, it falls far short of the estimated annual need of hundreds of billions of dollars (UNFCCC, 2023b). Moreover, the lack of a binding agreement on funding targets creates uncertainty and undermines the Fund’s long-term sustainability.

Lack of Governance Adds to the Challenge

Furthermore, the absence of a clear and transparent governing mechanism raises concerns about accountability and equitable distribution of resources. Without a framework to ensure that contributions are proportionate to historical emissions and that funds reach the most vulnerable communities, the L&D Fund risks perpetuating existing inequalities (Keohane & Nye, 2000).

Demonstration with banners like "Don't Gas Africa" and "Don't Gas Asia"
Demonstration with climate advocacy banners

These governance challenges are further exacerbated by the rise of nationalism and populism in many countries, leading to political resistance towards international cooperation and financial commitments (Ikenberry, 2018). In this context, securing long-term support for the L&D Fund demands a shift from the traditional power-centric approach towards a more inclusive and participatory model of governance.

Need to Build Empathy and Understanding

Drawing upon the concept of “cooperative hegemony” (Ikenberry, 2001), developed nations must embrace a leadership role that prioritizes collaboration and mutual understanding over unilateral dictates. This requires transparency in decision-making, responsiveness to the needs of vulnerable nations, and a genuine commitment to shared responsibility.

Additionally, fostering a sense of global solidarity and collective responsibility is crucial. Initiatives such as awareness campaigns and international exchange programs can help bridge the gap between developed and developing nations, building empathy and understanding of the challenges faced by vulnerable communities.

Ultimately, ensuring the success of the L&D Fund necessitates navigating the complexities of a multipolar world order with pragmatism and a commitment to global justice. By addressing the current governance gaps and fostering a spirit of international cooperation, we can transform the L&D Fund from a fragile hope into a powerful instrument for climate justice and a beacon of resilience for vulnerable nations.


  • Ikenberry, G. J. (2001). After victory: Institutions, strategic restraint, and the rebuilding of order after major wars. Princeton University Press.
  • Ikenberry, G. J. (2018). The end of liberal international order? International Affairs, 94(1), 1-23.
  • Keohane, R. O., & Nye, J. S. (2000). Power and interdependence in the information age (2nd ed.). Longman.
  • Mearsheimer, J. J. (2001). The tragedy of great power politics (updated ed.). W. W. Norton & Company.
  • UNFCCC. (2023b, November 30). Report of the Adaptation Committee on its fourthteen meeting. [FCCC/SB/STA/2023/10]

About COP28

Michigan Technological University is one of a handful of universities taking a leading role at the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) from November 30 to December 12, 2023. Hosted by the UAE at Expo City Dubai, COP28 is the largest climate change-focused event in the world. COP28 aims to unite the world towards agreement on bold, practical, and ambitious solutions to the most pressing global challenge of our time. You can read more about the Huskies’ presence at COP28 in the Huskies at the UN Climate Conference (COP) blog.

Aritra Chakrabarty: What COP 27 Means To Me

Ever since the first Conference of Parties (COP) was initiated in Berlin in 1995, COPs have been used to review what the signatory Parties (the countries who have signed up) have achieved, and measure their progress. These annual conferences organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are the sites for negotiations, discussions, and abating challenges.

Aritra Chakrabarty

Global Crises Impact COP 27

This year (2022) COP 27 in Egypt takes place amidst the backdrop of a multitude of global crises (Cogswell, et al. 2022). We could expect this COP to be an active heated discussion ground that might witness renewed discussion on the pledges made at 2021’s climate conference which had recognized the interlinked global crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss.

The ripple effects of COVID – 19 had not subsided completely when the Ukraine war roared on the horizon which has caused double impact on already impoverished economies. Food, fuel and overall energy prices have skyrocketed, thanks to profiteering of the crisis by the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC), mainly Saudi Arabia (Bland 2022). A climate catastrophe in Pakistan claimed more than 1000 lives and displaced millions (Chaudhary 2022).

The first half of 2022 also saw floods and storms in southern Africa that disrupted economic activity and claimed hundreds of lives. China was similarly battered by a drought that derailed the nation’s food and energy production, and Europe is bracing itself for a cold winter after facing the onslaught of the worst drought in 500 years (BBC 2022). Crises does not differentiate between developed, developing or least developed countries. However, the impacts of natural and/or man-made crises is compounded by existing economic disparity, a weak public safety net and deteriorating food systems.

The Parties Must Come Together

A colorful, rainbow-like, free-standing sign that shows "#COP27"
The many colors of COP 27, representing that action on climate change is an inclusive affair.

It is thus required from this year’s climate conference that Parties come together to navigate such crises. It is high time that we recognize how our ecosystems have become fragile due to burgeoning unsustainable economic activities. This conference should also be used by the Parties and their delegates to recognize that adaptation, mitigation and GHG reduction strategies now have to extend beyond climate specific activities and be more inclusive of the nexus with food, income, gender, and living.

Millions of people have now been pushed back to poverty for the first time ever. As the current UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres remarked recently, “the world has moved backwards. COVID – 19 and the war has set back more than four years of hard – won progress. Income inequalities have widened as more people fall back into extreme poverty, job losses, along with increasing food and energy prices has set the cycle in backward motion” (Xinhua 2022).

Young voices protest for action on climate change

Why I Am in Egypt at COP 27

The intention to participate in the conference was to advocate on my part for the local voices that can speak to adaption strategies, in the context of the National Adaptation Plans (NAP), that are to be finalized by the Parties (UNFCCC 2021). The NAPs were established under the Cancun Adaptation Framework (CAF) which enables Parties to formulate and implement national adaptation strategies as means of identify medium- and long-term adaptation needs. It is a continuous, progressive and iterative process. Through the participation in the Capacity Building Hub organized by the Paris Committee on Capacity Building (PCCB), our objective is to inform climate policy making through local knowledge that has been the wealth of indigenous and other local communities for centuries and how their practices have helped in harboring a sustainable relationship between humans and the ecosystem.

This post was written by Aritra Chakrabarty, who is attending COP 27 as part of a delegation led by Sarah Green and the Youth Environmental Alliance in Higher Education (YEAH) Network. YEAH is a transdisciplinary, multi-institutional network that equips students with real-world experience of collaborative, evidence-based approaches to global environmental sustainability. Aritra is among more than 35,000 attendees at the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP27). The annual summit is the largest climate-change-focused event in the world. He is an Environmental & Energy Policy graduate student at Michigan Technological University.