COP28 Dubai: Can the world rise to the climate change challenge

COP28 Dubai
COP28 Dubai will be a pivotal moment in the global response to climate change, with fossil fuel dependency, climate finance, and health impact in focus.

As the world converges in Dubai for the COP28 conference, set against a backdrop of extreme weather events and escalating climate crises, the urgency for decisive action has never been more apparent. The conference, taking place between November 30 and December 12, is expected to be a pivotal moment in the global dialogue on environmental action and policy, with key focuses on fossil fuel dependency, climate finance, and the recognition of interconnected health and climate issues.

The COP28 discussions will be heavily influenced by the recent alarming revelations from the UNEP’s Broken Record report which underscores that current carbon-cutting policies are alarmingly inadequate, projecting a potential 3°C global temperature rise this century, far exceeding the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C. This dire forecast, coupled with record-breaking temperature increases and devastating climate impacts already experienced at a 1.4°C rise, lays bare the critical need for substantial policy shifts at COP28.

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Fossil fuels on COP28 agenda

The COP28, to be held between November 30 and December 12, will revolve around the strategies for reducing dependency on fossil fuels. The choices are stark: either to continue with a gradual phase-down, as tentatively agreed upon in COP27, or to adopt a more assertive stance towards completely phasing out unabated fossil fuels. The recent Global Stocktake report, assessing progress towards the Paris Agreement goals, paints a worrying picture, indicating a rapidly closing window to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This year’s extreme weather events globally underline the urgent need for decisive action.

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Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, President-designate, COP28 UAE.

Another central topic at COP28 is the establishment of a Loss and Damage fund, a concept born out of the dire need to support developing nations facing the brunt of climate change. Despite the commitment of developed nations to mobilise $100 billion annually for climate action in the Global South, there remains a shortfall in funding and a lack of clarity in its management. The upcoming discussions in Dubai will further delve into these intricacies, seeking to create a more equitable and effective framework for climate finance.

Geopolitical tensions and regional conflicts

The COP28 is not immune to the broader geopolitical landscape. Ongoing regional tensions, like the Israel-Hamas conflict, could potentially influence the negotiation dynamics, especially in discussions related to climate finance. Developing countries are increasingly wary of the developed world’s commitment to principles of fairness and equity in addressing global challenges.

A novel addition to the COP28 agenda is the emphasis on climate-related health impacts. This inclusion reflects a growing awareness of the interconnectedness of environmental and public health issues. The conference will likely witness discussions on strategies to mitigate health risks posed by climate change, though concrete commitments might be limited due to the complexity of these challenges.

COP28 is expected to see a significant increase in the participation of non-state actors, including businesses, civil society organisations, and academia. This reflects the growing recognition of their role in driving climate action. Non-state actors can play a key role in developing and implementing innovative solutions, mobilising resources, and building public support. The curtain raiser does not adequately address the role of non-state actors and the opportunities for their meaningful engagement in COP28.

Towards a low-carbon economy

A just transition to a low-carbon economy is essential for ensuring that the benefits and burdens of climate action are shared equitably. This requires addressing the social and economic impacts of transitioning away from fossil fuels, particularly on vulnerable communities. COP28 will provide an important opportunity to advance the just transition agenda. The curtain raiser does not explicitly mention the just transition, which is a critical issue that must be addressed at COP28.

Indigenous peoples have a deep understanding of the natural world and have developed sustainable practices over generations. Their knowledge and leadership are essential for developing effective climate solutions. COP28 must provide a platform for indigenous voices to be heard and respected. The curtain raiser makes a brief mention of indigenous peoples, but does not adequately capture the importance of their knowledge and leadership in combating climate change.

Sound climate policy must be rooted in the latest scientific evidence. COP28 must strengthen the science-policy nexus by ensuring that the scientific community is actively engaged in the negotiation process. The curtain raiser mentions the need for evidence-based climate action, but does not discuss how this will be achieved at COP28.

As the world’s eyes turn to Dubai, COP28 stands as a critical juncture in international climate policy. The key issues of fossil fuel dependency, climate finance, geopolitical influences, and health impacts converge, presenting a complex matrix of challenges and opportunities. The effectiveness of COP28 in addressing these issues will not only shape global climate policy but also signal the world’s collective resolve in confronting one of the most pressing issues of our time.