As COP28 looms just around the corner, the world’s gaze shifts to Dubai, eagerly awaiting the roadmap global leaders will lay out for our collective future. But what will the conference look like?
After COP27 was analysed predominantly as being an overall failure but with some successes, leaders will face an uphill battle at COP28. Various reports on the state of the climate this year have been sobering; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) offered a ‘final warning’ on the climate crisis in March, while earlier this month the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) stated that current pledges were woefully inadequate.
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The UAE Presidency has outlined four pivotal objectives for this year’s conference, complementing the ongoing negotiations process:
- Accelerating a just, orderly, and equitable energy transition: Paving the way for a sustainable energy future that prioritizes fairness and inclusivity, ensuring a smooth transition away from fossil fuels.
- Addressing climate finance: Effectively channelling financial resources to support climate action initiatives, ensuring equitable access to funding for vulnerable communities and developing nations.
- Incorporating nature, lives, and livelihoods into climate action: Integrating natural systems, human well-being, and sustainable livelihoods into the heart of climate strategies.
- Mobilising for an inclusive COP: Fostering a truly inclusive forum where all voices are heard and represented, ensuring that the global response to climate change truly reflects the diversity of our planet’s inhabitants.
While accelerating the energy transition is expected to take centre stage, given the persisting divisions over addressing the world’s reliance on fossil fuels, COP28 is bound to address the broader spectrum of climate challenges, spanning mitigation, finance, adaptation, and nature.
In this article, we’ll break down the top things we expect from COP28.
Fossil fuel phase out
COP28 is expected to directly address the contentious issue of a fossil fuel phase-out, with a focus on setting a target date for either a complete phase-out or a phased reduction with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
However, this will likely face hurdles. The EU, while advocating for a global agreement to phase out unabated fossil fuel consumption, faces internal discord among member states regarding the scope of the phase-out, with some pushing for a full stop while others – including Italy – supporting carbon capture & storage as a mitigation.
Complicating matters further are the energy reliance of major economies like China and India, which have historically shown reluctance to embrace a complete phase-out. India, in particular, famously altered the text’s wording from “phase out” to “phase down” at COP26.
The ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict has added another dimension to the discussion, as countries seek energy security, leading to renewed interest in domestic fossil fuel resources. This has been evident in the UK’s decision to offer new oil and gas licences.
Leaders will need to consider carefully the challenge of a swift reduction in fossil fuel use, along with supporting the need for energy security.
Despite these challenges, the accelerated deployment of renewables on a global scale presents a promising solution and will likely form the basis of much of the outcome of the conference.
A joint report published in October 2023 by the UAE presidency, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the Global Renewables Alliance outlines a bold goal: to triple global renewable energy capacity, surpassing 11,000 GW by 2030.
To achieve this ambitious target, substantial investments will be required in global energy grids. As the International Energy Agency (IEA) asserts, electricity grid investments will need to double to over $600 billion per year by 2030 to avoid stalling the clean energy transition.
But as policymakers navigate the rapid shift towards renewable energy sources, it is crucial to address the downstream impact on those currently employed in the oil and gas industry. To mitigate this, policymakers will need to ensure job training and capacity building initiatives are in place globally in order to ensure no worker is left behind.
This year marks yet another disappointing chapter in the saga of wealthy nations’ unfulfilled promises to provide climate finance to developing countries. In 2009, at COP15, a pledge of $100 billion in annual funding was made to support developing nations in both mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the escalating impacts of climate change.
However, this commitment has been repeatedly broken, with developed countries falling far short of the agreed-upon target. Compounding this, recent research from UNEP has also revealed that the adaptation finance gap for developing nations is far larger than previously estimated, ranging from 10 to 18 times greater than earlier assessments.
Despite concerns that disagreements between rich and poor nations over how to manage a new fund could throw the climate summit into disarray, leaders will need to look beyond the existing framework and explore different strategies to bridge the funding gap in a way that works for all parties involved.
The task at hand is all the more pressing given the current economic climate. Many countries are grappling with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and the ongoing energy crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine.
Nature is considered one of the most powerful allies in the fight against climate change, offering solutions for both capturing and storing greenhouse gases and helping societies adapt to a rapidly changing climate. This year, there continues to be calls for parties to protect and restore nature.
Building on the momentum from COP27, the Convention on Biodiversity COP committed the world to protecting a third of the planet’s natural systems, eliminating harmful subsidies to nature, and halving food waste.
While the UN Biodiversity Conference will not take place this year due to its biennial schedule, advancing these commitments remains crucial. The COP28 text should incorporate strong commitments to ecosystem protection and restoration, alongside robust outcomes that safeguard the integrity of carbon markets.
COP28 will start on November 30, 2023. It will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and will run until December 12, 2023. Keep up to date with COP28 by subscribing to the Sustainable Future News newsletter.
The start of a new round of Nationally Determined Contributions
COP28 culminates the First Global Stocktake, a comprehensive two-year evaluation of global progress toward the Paris Agreement’s objectives. It provides a clear roadmap of the challenges and opportunities ahead, guiding nations in identifying areas requiring intensified action.
The stocktake aims to inform the next iteration of climate action plans under the Paris Agreement (known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs), to be submitted by 2025, paving the way for expedited action.
While finalising new NDCs is not an immediate outcome of COP28, it will serve as the catalyst for shaping the future of environmental planning.
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