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COP28: High expectations as world converges on Dubai for crucial climate negotiations

Around 70,000 people are expected to attend as the 28th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) kicks off in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Thursday, November 30, 2023.

COP28
COP28 facility in Dubai

The year has seen several crunch summits and conferences trying to tackle the climate crisis. Key moments included the G7, the G20, the UN Climate Ambition Summit as well as key bilaterals such as the recent US-China meeting. It has also been an unprecedented year of impacts with the world experiencing its hottest 12 months on record.

Expectations are high ahead of the global summit, which also entails the 18th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP18), and the 5th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA5).

Furthermore, the two subsidiary bodies under the UNFCCC, the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), will convene for SBI 59 and SBSTA 59. These two bodies do not pass decisions themselves, but provide technical information and advice to COP, CMA and CMP.

Fossil fuel phase out/Fossil fuel phase down/CCS

  • The IPCC Sixth Assessment Synthesis report highlighted the need for a rapid phase out of fossil fuels to meet 1.5c. Civil society organisations are calling for this COP to be the one that lands this deal.
  • The EU is supportive of a fossil fuel phase out deal, India has backtracked from its position at COP27, and China has said it is unrealistic. Members of the High Ambition Coalition including Denmark, Chile, the EU, Spain and the Marshall Islands are also supportive.
  • A high ambition outcome would involve countries agreeing to meet percentage targets for reduced oil and gas supply and demand with a minimum 15% reduction by 2030 and a 65% reduction by 2050 as well as commitments to end new production and exploration and ending subsidies.
  • CCS and DAC will feature prominently during any discussions around a fossil fuel phase out / phase down. This useful factsheet from Zero Carbon Analytics looks at the facts versus fiction on CCS.
  • Carbon market negotiations are set to continue under Article 6 to the backdrop of concern over deals being penned between a UAE company and several African countries. The deals could see the UAE take control of African land mass the size of the UK, but if market rules tighten and players like Brazil come in pushing the need for alternative ways to pay for nature, these deals won’t wash. See what’s at stake in this year’s negotiations in this briefing from Zero Carbon Analytics.

GST (Global Stocktake)

  • The findings of the Global Stocktake report from September reminded us how off track we are. The Global Stocktake is an element of the Paris Agreement and this year’s COP is expected to have a “GST decision”.
  • It is hoped that the assessment, carried out every five years, will be used to set a roadmap forward for accelerated action both inside and outside the UNFCCC.
  • The negotiated outcome of GST covers all aspects of the negotiations including Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), climate finance, loss and damage, energy, nature, adaptation and non-party stakeholders.
  • For all things GST keep an eye on updates from WRI. In the meantime this overview and this deep dives are good references.

Finance

  • The gap in climate finance and the ongoing discussions around the reform of multilateral financial institutions are likely to remain a priority.
  • The latest OECD says that the $100 billion goal pledged in 2009 is likely to have been met in 2022 but there is no public data to show this. Calls are being made for increased transparency to avoid a lag in reporting.
  • Watch for pledges to the Green Climate Fund – Australia, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States have announced their intention to also make pledges to the GCF’s second replenishment, which has received $9.3 billion from 25 countries so far. Pressure is also growing on Gulf states, including COP host, the UAE, to become contributors.
  • Organisations are calling for a fossil fuel tax to pay for losses and damages. A recent report from Climate Action Network (CAN) estimated that a fossil fuel extraction levy could raise $210 billion.
  • During the conference, France and Kenya are expected to launch a taskforce on innovative sources of financing.

Adaptation

  • Negotiators hope to launch the framework on the Global Goal on Adaptation at COP28, meaning they hope to agree to various aspects of the framework including its purpose, principles, dimensions, themes, cross-cutting considerations, sources, targets.
  • COP28 could be a turning point to close the growing adaptation financial gap. The Adaptation Gap Report 2023 said that the doubling of adaptation finance would at best reduce the gap by 5-10%. At COP28, leaders can commit to addressing the 15% decrease in international public funding since 2021.

Loss and Damage 

  • The expected outcome at COP28 on loss and damage is the “operationalisation” of the fund.
  • Since COP27 there have been five meetings of the Transitional Committee which has been tasked with making recommendations to COP28. After tense negotiations in November developing countries agreed with developed countries demands that the World Bank would be the interim host of the fund. This is based on certain conditions. It was also agreed that the floor (the baseline for the fund) should exceed $150 billion per year.
  • We could see pledges from the EU, Denmark and the UAE. Some countries may only come forward with pledges after the fund is set up as an entity. John Kerry has said the US “will commit several million dollars”.
  • Expect further announcements and pledged on the Global Shield a V20 -G7 mechanism to unlock funds for loss and damage.

Tripling renewables, doubling energy efficiency 

  • The UAE is hoping to land a deal on the tripling of renewable energy and the doubling of energy efficiency. This would build on the agreement already made at the G20 in India this year. The latest assessment from Ember finds that many countries are already on track to exceed their national targets. So far over 60 countries are on board with the goal.

COP28 sessions include: Opening Session (November 30), World Climate Action Summit (December 1-2), Health/Relief/Recovery/Piece (Loss & Damage, Adaptation) (December 3), Finance/Trade/Gender/Equality/Accountability (December 4), Energy,Industry/Just Transition/ Indigenous People (December 5), Multilevel Action/Urbanisation and Built Environment/Transport (December 6), Rest Day (December 7), Youth, Education and Skills (December 8), Nature, Land Use and Oceans (December 9), Food/Agriculture/Water (December 10), Negotiations (December 11), and Negotiations (final day) = GST release + final communiqué (December 12).

Alex Scott, Climate Diplomacy and Geopolitics Programme Lead E3G, said: “COP28 will see 193 governments negotiate a joint response to the dismal report card they received in the first global stocktake of climate action. They could chart a hopeful way out of this climate crisis even as multiple other crises and conflicts hit. If they can muster the leadership and put aside the green rhetoric.

“We have a real chance to agree new global goals for phasing out dirty fossil energy and scaling up renewables, sign countries up to hasten emissions cuts in their next national climate policies due in 2025, establish a framework to better govern currently fragmented adaptation efforts, and agree to mobilise the scales of finance needed – by backing proposals for transforming global finance institutions to do so and setting up and filling a new fund for climate loss and damage.”

Mohamed Adow, Director at Power Shift Africa, said: “This year is expected to be declared the hottest ever in recorded history.  If ever there was a moment for a UN summit to respond to the signals the climate is sending us, this is it. As emissions continue to rise, and suffering by those that have done the least to cause the crisis worsens around the world, this COP needs to be the moment we set a date for the phase out of fossil fuels. It seems perverse to be holding a climate summit in one of the world’s biggest oil producers, but what more fitting place to call time on the fossil fuel era that has caused this climate catastrophe and prepare the way for a future powered by renewables.”

Romain Loualalen, Global Policy Manager at Oil Change International, said: “We have had enough of endless delays and governments failing to address the root cause of the climate crisis: fossil fuels. COP28’s success will be judged by whether countries agree to immediately end fossil fuel expansion and build a just and equitable phase out of all fossil fuels, enabled by rich countries redirecting trillions in fossil industry handouts to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency.

“We will fight any attempts from petro-states, including the COP28 Presidency, to distract from critically needed negotiated outcomes on the energy transition with non-binding voluntary pledges whose sole purpose is to greenwash the oil and gas industry’s bet on climate failure. We urge governments to be ready at the UN climate talks to show leadership commensurate with what the science is telling us we sorely need: a fast, fair, full, and funded phase out of fossil fuels.”

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