Everything you could ever need to know about the upcoming Conference of the Parties 28 (COP28)…
Climate change and its impact on the world as we know it is one of the most pressing challenges facing us today. After a year of extreme weather events that have broken multiple records, world leaders are getting ready to gather in Dubai for the 28th United Nations Conference of the Parties, also known as COP28.
This year’s summit is particularly important because it comes at a time when the window to keep global warming to 1.5c – above pre-industrial levels – is rapidly narrowing. To achieve this goal, countries need to take decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a clean energy economy, whilst also considering and mitigating the costs of adaptation associated with greener technologies.
Another notable feature of this year’s COP28, is that it falls at the end of a period known as the Global Stocktake. The Global Stocktake provides an assessment of the world’s collective progress towards the Paris Agreement and offers leaders a clearer understanding of the progress they have made as well as the persisting challenges they still need to overcome within their climate strategies.
But let’s pause for a moment and have a deeper look at the origins of COP…
What is COP?
COP standards for the ‘Conference of the Parties’. All countries who have signed up to a specific United Nations convention are invited to annual meetings called the Conference of the Parties (COP) to discuss the subject of that particular convention.
There are a number of different COPs, which cover a range of different issues affecting the world, including; corruption, biodiversity, chemical weapons, and, of course, the subject of this article…climate change.
Each conference is named according to the number of conferences so far held, for example; this year marks the 28th edition of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) and is therefore known and referred to as COP28. Last year saw the 15th edition of the Convention on Biological Diversity Conference (CBD), therefore was referred to as COP15.
What is the purpose of the UNFCCC COP?
Signed in 1992 and entered into force in 1994, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the foundational treaty which provides the basis for international climate negotiations.
The very first COP on climate change was held in Berlin in March 1995, and it brought together all UNFCCC parties to assess progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent harmful human-induced climate change.
During a COP, countries come together to discuss and negotiate on a wide range of climate change issues, including:
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
- Adapting to the impacts of climate change
- Financing greater climate action
- Technological cooperation and innovation
- Capacity building
Key achievements of the COP
A COP is often a divisive moment for the global community, and opinions do vary on the effectiveness of the various discussions, negotiations, and outcomes. In addition to this, COP has been considered very bureaucratic and lacking in tangible solutions to tackle climate change.
This said, there have been a number of notable moments throughout the years which have demonstrated progress is possible.
COP3 (Kyoto, 1997)
The Kyoto Protocol was the first legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It set targets for developed countries to reduce their emissions by an average of 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2012.
COP13 (Bali, 2007)
The Bali Road Map was a two-year process to negotiate a new climate agreement. It launched the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA), which was tasked with developing a new agreement that would apply to all countries.
COP15 (Copenhagen, 2009)
The Copenhagen Accord was a political agreement that set a goal of limiting global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. However, it was not legally binding and did not include specific commitments from countries on how they would achieve the goal.
COP21 (Paris, 2015)
The Paris Agreement was a landmark agreement that set a long-term goal of keeping global warming well below 2 °C and pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C. It also required countries to submit and regularly update their own climate targets, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Drafted in 2015, the agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016.
COP26 (Glasgow, 2021)
The Glasgow Climate Pact was a follow-up agreement to the Paris Agreement. It committed countries to strengthen their climate targets and accelerate the transition to clean energy. It also included provisions for providing financial assistance to developing countries to help them reduce their emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
What will happen at COP28?
COP28 is taking place at a critical time in the fight against climate change. It is the first COP since the publication of the Global Stocktake, which assesses the progress countries have made towards meeting their Paris Agreement commitments.
The continued war in Ukraine has also heightened the urgency of the climate crisis, as countries struggle to replace Russian fossil fuels with other sources of energy. This has led to calls for a faster transition to clean energy, but there is widespread disagreement about how this should be achieved. Some countries are pushing for a global deal to phase out unabated fossil fuels, while others are concerned about the impact on their economies.
Loss and damage funding for climate victims will also be a major topic at this year’s COP. At COP27, countries agreed to establish a loss and damage fund, but there is still disagreement about how it should be financed and operated.
COP28 President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber delivered a keynote address discussing the key goals of the upcoming conference:
- Accelerate a just and equitable energy transition
- Secure climate finance
- Centre nature, lives, and livelihoods in climate action
- Mobilise for the most inclusive COP yet
According to Dr. Al Jaber, the COP28 Action Agenda will provide “a practical plan of action to transform the goals of Paris into a realistic roadmap that the whole world can follow.”
Who will be a COP?
Over 200 governments have been invited to COP28 in Dubai, but many leaders have yet to confirm their attendance. US President Biden is expected to attend, as he did COP27. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed his attendance last month, despite making some controversial changes to Britain’s net zero policies.
One notable attendee who may attend this year is Pope Francis, who has publicly urged politicians to take action on climate change. Similarly, King Charles is also tipped to attend, and will deliver the first major speech on climate change of his reign.
In total, 70,000 people are expected to attend COP28, including heads of state, delegates from environmental INGOs and NGOs, think tanks, faith groups, private sector representatives, and representatives from other constituencies. A report last year stated that more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists attended COP27, more than the combined total of delegates from the ten countries most impacted by climate change.
New UN rules mean that fossil fuel representatives will have to disclose this information prior to attending COP28, this could impact their participation during the negotiations.
What is the controversy around COP28?
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of the world’s top 10 oil-producing nations, has appointed the CEO of its state-owned oil company, Sultan Al Jaber, to preside over COP28.
While Al Jaber has also served as the UAE’s special envoy for climate change for the past three years, environmental groups have heavily criticised his appointment, stating it is a clear conflict of interest which undermines the credibility of the summit. Even Pope Francis has questioned the UAE’s suitability as a host, given its status as a major fossil fuel exporter and also has a poor track record when it comes to human rights.
Al Jaber has defended his appointment, arguing that his unique position allows him to challenge the oil and gas industry to take greater action on climate change. Al Jaber has also advocated for and overseen the expansion of renewable energy technologies in the UAE.
Some have defended Al Jaber’s appointment, citing his business background as an asset. US climate envoy John Kerry told the Associated Press that Al Jaber is a “terrific choice” because he is “the head of the company.” However, it remains to be seen whether other governments will take as favourable a view on Al Jaber’s appointment as we draw closer to the event itself.
Controversy is not uncommon at COP summits. Last year’s summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, was criticised for greenwashing due to its sponsorship by Coca-Cola and for the reputation of the host country as a human rights violator which many feared would prevent fair, just and transparent discussions.
It remains to be seen whether COP28 will prove to be a success and lead to the desired outcomes to tackle climate change. What is clear however is that COP28 is a crucial opportunity for world leaders to come together and together make ambitious commitments and take ambitious action for the climate.
What can world leaders do at COP28 to make it a success?
- Set ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to a clean energy economy
- Provide financial support to developing countries to help them tackle climate change
- Protect nature and people from the impacts of climate change
- Ensure that the COP28 process is transparent and inclusive
How will COP28 impact businesses?
Businesses are both vulnerable to climate change and play a key role in mitigating its effects. As countries seek to curb their emissions and promote more sustainable activities, they are likely to implement new regulations and policies that will impact businesses in both positive and negative ways.
For example, governments may introduce new carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes, which could increase costs for businesses that are not already taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. New regulations can also add to the compliance burden on businesses required to report on their sustainability initiatives.
However, COP28 is also expected to drive increased consumer and investor demand for sustainable products and services, giving those who invest in sustainability a competitive edge.
Where can I keep up to date with COP28?
Sustainable Future News will be keeping up with the developments taking place at the conference, be sure to sign up to our newsletter to stay informed.
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