The legacy of the COP28 climate summit, which concluded this week in Dubai, hinges on the success of a new international fund that was announced to great fanfare on the very first day of the conference. The stakes could hardly be higher: The so-called loss-and-damage fund is considered an essential resource for the survival of the countries most affected by the 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming that has already occurred.

The loss-and-damage agreement represents a different kind of climate fund: The money isn’t meant to help climate-vulnerable countries mitigate their emissions or plan adaptation projects like sea walls or water reservoirs. Instead, it’s supposed to help them pay for damages that have already been caused by a specific climate-linked incident, like a storm, flood, heat wave, or other extreme weather event.

The fund is primarily intended for use by relatively poor, developing countries in the Global South for two related reasons. The first is that these are the sorts of countries that have already seen the most severe losses and damages tied to climate change: record-breaking floods in Bangladesh, historic drought in the Horn of Africa, life-threatening sea-level rise in the Marshall Islands, and infectious disease outbreaks in South Asia. The second is that, due to their late or still ongoing industrialization, these nations did much, much less to cause the climate change that is already harming them than their counterparts in rich and early-industrializing regions like the European Union and United States.

For decades, developing countries fought for the existence of a loss-and-damage fund. Now that it’s finally operational — it’s being housed, temporarily at least, at the World Bank — the hard part has arrived: filling up the fund, and getting the money to the countries that need it. More than $650 million has come in so far, with $100 million apiece from Germany and the United Arab Emirates, $75 million from the U.K., $17.5 million from the U.S., and $10 million from Japan. But these pledges, some portions of which the contributing countries relabeled or pulled from existing climate pledges, are insufficient to cover the scale of loss and damage developing nations are facing. Researchers estimate that countries need anywhere between $290 billion and $580 billion every year by 2030.

As debates continue over how to finance and deploy the fund such that it serves those most in need, one aspect is frequently lost in the conversation: how countries will use the money when they receive it.

To begin answering this question, Grist reporters spoke with representatives of 10 developing nations to understand their needs and aspirations for the fund. While we received a wide range of responses, national leaders were united in their emphasis that the fund would not only pay for past damages, but also fortify their people against future losses.

Read the full article about climate reparations at Grist.