With COP28 beginning this week in Dubai, Sustainable Future News spoke with Alexandra Smith and Michael Penrose, co-founders and partners at sustainability management platform provider FuturePlus, on their overall expectations for the event, the challenges and opportunities, as well as the impact on business going forward.
What are your overall expectations for COP28?
Earlier this month, the Copernicus Programme (the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme) reported that October 2023 had seen exceptional temperature anomalies following four months of global temperature records being obliterated. They say that with near certainty, 2023 will be the warmest year on record and is currently 1.43°C above the preindustrial average.
This news forms a worrying and warming background for the world’s nations to gather at the 28th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Conventionon Climate Change (COP28), scheduled to take place in the United Arab Emirates this month. It has led to calls from many to strengthen and accelerate mitigation commitments from all countries, in alignment with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. However, to meet the Paris Agreement, COP28 must push countries to submit and implement more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that reflect the urgency of the climate crisis.
197 countries will meet to discuss this urgent need for climate action. While there are high hopes for the conference to achieve ambitious and meaningful outcomes, there are also significant controversies circling the event before it has even started.
What are the key outcomes that you hope will be achieved at COP28?
There are still many global issues to address, such as gender equality, climate justice, and the role of non-state actors in climate action. We hope that the conference will provide a platform for diverse voices and perspectives to contribute to the global climate response.
Achieving these ambitious expectations for COP28 will require strong leadership, political will, and a commitment from all parties to work together to address the climate crisis. COP28 could be a (much-needed) turning point in global climate action, but it will require will, trust and a collective effort to translate commitments into concrete action.
There is an expectation of a greater focus on collaboration across countries to enhance adaptation and resilience efforts, which is vital to help vulnerable communities cope with the impacts of climate change. Agreements on supporting and providing finance for developing countries in building climate-resilient infrastructure, agriculture, and water management systems for adaptation will be critical.
Many criticise the COP conferences’ slow translation of discussions and commitments into actionable results. Commitments, such as the 2009 promise of $100 billion annually to support states vulnerable to worsening climate-related impacts and disasters, were made by developed countries with the goal of fulfilling the target by 2020. However, data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows $83.3 billion in 2020 – falling $16.7 billion short of the target. The OECD uses U.N. data processed with a two-year delay, and rich countries have already signalled that the target will not be met until 2023.
In line with this is the hope that there will be an agreement in the formalisation and establishment of a mechanism to allocate financial support for loss and damage (which refers to the irreversible and permanent damage caused by climate change) and developing strategies to address the non-economic impacts of climate change.
What are the main challenges that you see in achieving these outcomes?
All the countries in attendance will need to display solid political will to take ambitious climate action, including overcoming political resistance and addressing potential opposition from entrenched interests.
If COP28 can ensure the availability of adequate finance from developed countries to support climate action in developing countries, including mobilising climate finance through public and private sources and facilitating the transfer of climate technologies to developing countries, it could have a significant positive impact and support the goals of reducing GHG emissions.
COP28 President Dr Sultan al-Jaber, the head of the United Arab Emirates’ state oil company, has received headlines recently after being accused of using COP preparation meetings with foreign government representatives to discuss oil deals. There has also been increasing scrutiny of the perceived imbalance in representation, with the voices of smaller and more vulnerable countries and communities needing to be adequately reflected. We must wait to see how the host country manages these issues and builds confidence with stakeholders.
What role do you see for businesses, civil society, and other stakeholders in COP28?
What all COPs have in common is the need for cooperation and partnerships among governments, businesses, and civil society organisations to address climate change effectively. This year’s event will be no different. With a need to strengthen international cooperation and create innovative partnerships to accelerate climate action, trust in the COP presidency and visiting delegations will be vital.
Climate action must also prioritise fairness and equity, ensuring that the benefits and challenges of addressing climate change are shared justly across nations and generations. This will involve addressing vulnerable communities’ specific needs and providing access to climate finance and necessary resources.
Despite the urgency of these actions, public sentiment remains divided and pessimistic.
It is imperative for businesses, civil society organisations, and COP28 to actively engage with the public and provide a more supportive environment for collective climate action. Tackling climate change is a complex challenge that demands systemic transformations across various sectors of society, and COP28 should prioritise driving changes in how we produce, consume, and manage resources.
How do you hope the outcomes of COP28 will impact business going forward?
COP28 has the potential to significantly impact businesses going forward by driving sustainable practices, encouraging innovation, and creating new market opportunities. COP28 could lead to a broader uptake in standards for measuring and reporting organisations’ sustainability and impact, increasing transparency and accountability and enabling investors, consumers, and other stakeholders to make informed decisions about businesses based on their sustainability credentials.
There is significant potential and hope that COP28 reinforces sustainability’s economic and social benefits, making it increasingly clear that businesses that adopt sustainable practices will be well-positioned for long-term success, something close to our hearts at FuturePlus. If this year’s COP creates more ambitious climate commitments from governments, it will also put further pressure on businesses to understand, manage and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Which, in turn, has the opportunity to support the increased adoption of renewable energy, energy efficiency measures, and sustainable transportation solutions.
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