Dubai COP28

COP28 in Dubai – what is it and what’s on the agenda?

It’s that time of year again. But no, we’re not talking about the holidays.

The 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) – the biggest climate meeting on the planet bringing together UN member states, observer organizations and even industry leaders – is right around the corner.

But first things first. Let’s not forget what happened at COP27. Refresh your memory with our comprehensive breakdown of last year’s event. And once you’re all caught up, scroll down to see what’s on the menu for COP28 in Dubai, UAE.

Sultan Al Jaber COP28 President
Dr. Sultan Al Jaber is the UAE boss steering COP28. Source: CNN

Skip ahead to:

The progress (and failures) of COP27

COP is an admirable effort by the international community to address one of the biggest threats we currently face. But it’s also controversial – proof that the perfect ending only exists in movies.

What didn’t go well?

  • No progress on phasing out fossil fuels. It was a win for anyone who’s been profiting from the degradation of our planet. Fossil fuels are the biggest contributors to climate change. Yet business got to go on as usual for oil, gas, and coal producers. “Phasing down” without concrete specifics to boot doesn’t mean much, it almost reeks of greenwashing. But when the host (Egypt) is friendly with other oil-rich countries… It pays to be friends with the right people.
  • Inaction to reduce global warming. Everyone knows about the 1.5°C goal. But COP27 showed us that not only are we way off track, but we’re also rather apathetic towards it. What do targets mean if we’re not willing to revise our current course of action so that we can actually meet them?
  • Failure to meet the 2009 climate funding pledge. Way back when rich countries promised to provide a collective USD 100 billion to developing countries. Per year by 2020. It was built on the fact that wealthier nations are largely responsible for GHG emissions, but it’s the poorer ones paying an unfair price. Unfortunately, the mark was missed – and by a pretty large margin if we do say so ourselves.
Activists COP27
Activists campaigning for the phasing out of fossil fuels at COP27. Source: Flickr

It’s not perfect, but we assure you there are silver linings to be found. Before giving in to the doom and gloom, there were a few successes to celebrate.

  • The new “Loss and Damage Fund”. The biggest news to come out of the 2022 conference, it’s the latest effort of wealthy nations to assist those disproportionately affected by the negative impacts of climate change. After much deliberation, it was decided that USD 4 trillion was the magic number to help the world transition to a low-carbon economy.
  • Acceleration of clean energy. Action aside, what’s needed to get things moving is money. Money in the right direction. So the UN published a collection of 50 projects, plus an extension for another 128 in need of USD $128 billion. Race to Zero – a campaign focused on private sector involvement – met over 300 interim targets, gaining the participation of 100 more financial institutions and USD $20 trillion.
  • The ocean is part of the solution. In the fight against climate change, the ocean is now recognized as one of the best allies. France said no more to deep-sea exploration. The shipping industry pledged to produce and deploy at least 5 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030 And there’s a USD 4 billion plan to protect and restore 15 million hectares of mangroves by 2030 in the works.

The controversy of COP in the UAE

Now that we’re picking up where we left off, on to COP28. And we can’t start the conversation without acknowledging the avalanche of hypocrisies that continues to fall.

The world’s biggest and most important forum for tackling climate change is being hosted by a country whose largest source of wealth is oil. The president of COP28 is none other than the CEO of the country’s state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).

It was one thing when Adnoc recently announced expansion plans worth $150 billion to increase their production capacity for the 2023-2027 period. They say their oil and gas are some of the world’s least carbon-intensive, but scientists have already pointed out that existing reserves need to remain in the ground. Not be extracted further.

Adnoc and fossil fuel producers 2023 - Gogel
Data Source: Gogel and Graphic Source: Guardian

But with only a few days to go, news has broken out that the UAE has been using its position as the UN climate talks host to do business.

The BBC found evidence revealing efforts to explore new fossil fuel projects with the likes of China, Egypt (last year’s host), and more.

It’s not just a conflict of interest. It’s an actual potential breach of the standards of conduct expected of a COP president. And at this point, it’s downright absurd.

What’s on the agenda at COP28?

Since 2015, the summit has been about participating nations reviewing their commitments to the Paris Agreement. Because at the moment, no one is compatible with it.

Country progress 2023 Paris Agreement
Source: Climate Action Tracker

But COP28 comes at the end of another year of record-breaking climate events. On top of that, fossil fuel producers aren’t actually slowing down, despite clear warnings that their activities and short-term plans are in no way in line with the 1.5°C limit.

So without further ado, here are the key themes to pay attention to at COP28.

1. Clean energy transition

A coalition led by the US and the EU hopes to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030. The initiative needs a rapid push for decarbonization technologies, like low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, plus eliminating (not just reducing) methane emissions. While CO2 is the main GHG emitted by us humans, methane’s heat-trapping properties make it far more lethal in the long run.

Plus, the topic of phasing out fossil fuels. Again. This time with more tension in the air, perhaps.

2. Climate finance

We were thrilled to read that renewable energy investments surged by 22% (or $358 billion) in the first half of 2023. It’s applaudable sure, but it’s still not all of what’s needed to bridge the financing gap. COP will also be looking to rally multilateral development banks, which play a crucial role in getting more of the private sector involved, and standardize the voluntary carbon market in light of this year’s scandals.

3. Climate adaptation and resilience

It’s important for everyone to develop strategies, but climate adaption and resilience is especially challenging for lower-income countries. Setting up the Loss and Damage Fund was only the start. Many details still need to be hashed out. Who’ll be required to contribute, how much, and when? And who actually qualifies as a recipient? The Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), established at COP21, will be another major discussion as countries are supposed to finalize and adopt a framework this year.

4. Inclusivity

Building on the creation of the youth envoy at COP27, attendees this year include young delegates from island nations and lower-income countries. COP28 is an effort to improve representation in large organizations.


To cap things off

The conference takes place against a complicated backdrop: criticism surrounding its host, new catastrophes brought on by worsening climate change, a slightly improved energy crisis, and a lot of geopolitical tensions.

If there’s one message that seems to repeat itself, it’s being wary of the difference between plans and execution, headline-grabbing goals and actions that make a dent in the urgent issue of global warming. Agreements alone only sound more and more vapid. They need to have a presence beyond paper to be truly impactful.

All that said, COP28 still holds the potential for good work to be done. At least, we hope it does.

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Anna Francesca Macesar

Anna is a writer, sustainable fashion enthusiast, and marathoner in training. From the tropics of the Philippines and Indonesia.

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