Held in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December 2023, this meeting generated a lot of controversy due to its being held in the UAE, a major petrochemical state However, some feel it was a moderate success, with establishing a ‘loss and damage fund’, ‘transitioning away from’ fossil fuels, continuing to emphasise the science and commit to 1.5C, tripling renewables by 2030, and adaptation being the key take outs.

Above: Kangaroo Island Jan 2020, from New Matilda

COP – Conference of the Parties: background 

What is COP? = Conference of the parties = 198 parties (nations). Governments from across the globe meet once a year to coordinate global responses to climate change. 

1994: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC got going with COP as the decision making body.  COPs highlight the successes and failures and provide a global system of peer pressure. 

Since 2015 (COP 21 – Paris), 198 Nations endorsed Paris commitments and 192 formally approved them in domestic law. It was the first time every nation pledged to constrain its emissions. 

Aims from Paris COP 21 (2015):

  • To rapidly reduce green House gas (GHG) emissions and achieve net zero by the second half of the century.
  • Strongly urged rich nations to fulfil pledges to support the poorest nations 
  • Aims to increase the ability of communities to adapt to adverse climate impacts and foster climate resilience
  • Nations to regularly update the ambition of their 2030 carbon cutting pledges ( called Nationally Determined Contributions – NDC’s)

Nations carbon cutting pledges are expected to ratchet up over time so that they deliver the temperature goals of the Paris agreement. In addition, COP 27 held in Egypt in 2022 struck a collective commitment to establish a loss and damage fund to help vulnerable nations cope with irreversible climate damage.

COP 28 marks the conclusion of the first UN global stocktake, the primary mechanism to review, assess and improve global progress on reducing emissions and other goals of the Paris agreement.

COP 28 Held in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December 2023

There was a lot of controversy over holding a COP in the UAE a major petrochemical state. In addition the president of the COP was Dr Sultan Al Jaber who is the CEO of the States oil and Gas Company. He made many controversial statements which upset a lot of the delegates but managed to pull off the historic “Transitioning away from fossil Fuels” by the close of the COP.

Key take outs

(Left: damage caused by Severe Tropical Cyclone Val, 1991, Western Samoa; Archives New Zealand, Wikimedia Commons.)
  • Establishing a Loss and damage fund – 2023 has been the hottest year on record and the poorest nations are the most heavily impacted by increases in temperature and weather extremes, such as storms. The fund will be administered by the World Bank who will distribute it to those who need it. There do not appear to be sufficient funds allocated for the purpose at this stage. Wealthy developed nations have been slow to deliver since they promised $100 billion a year in 2009.
  • Transitioning away from fossil fuels – This is the first time fossil fuels have been mentioned at a COP; over 100 delegates wanted stronger ‘phasing out’ or ‘phasing down’ terminology; transitioning is a compromise that most could live with, though it remains to be seen if nations will follow through with action fast enough.
  • Continue to emphasise the science and commit to 1.5C – still aiming to limit temperature rise to 1.5C; at this stage the world is on a trajectory of 2.9C by the middle of the century which would be catastrophic. Fast and bold action is needed to cap the rise at 1.5C Emissions cuts of 43% this decade, and 60% by 2035 – in line with IPCC calculations – is needed and this depends on countries taking action and having plans and pathways ready for 2025 when they report back at COP 30.
  • Tripling renewables: The stocktake also calls on countries to contribute to the global tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling of the rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030.
  • Adaptation:  The global goal on adaptation should have, in essence, produced the world’s guide and toolkit for adapting to worsening climate impacts. Instead, it produced principles and themes and aims, but very little by way of money and mechanisms. Adaptation is important everywhere, but financial and technical support are particularly in need by poorer, developing nations of the Global South. Only partial progress was made in this area.

It seems many issues were relegated to the mid-term meeting in Bonn, such as carbon trading, food and agriculture, and others where compromise could not be reached. The work to be done in Baku, Azerbaijan (COP 29) will be substantial, particularly on money. But the next major stride forward should come in Brazil, with the country NDCs that should deliver on the promises enshrined in the deal which was done in Dubai.

Reference: with permission of Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit.