COP28 – An Introduction
So what is the COP28 climate conference? In short it is the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. In fact, it is the only international climate change negotiation. The conference is a meeting of countries across the world to try and agree on common actions and pledges to address the issues being brought about by climate change. COP actually stands for Conference of Parties, where parties represent countries.
Cop meetings typically take place at least once per year and then in a different country. The COP28 Climate Change conference will take place from 30 November until 12 December 2023 in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai. It is almost three decades since the COP talks began.
When people talk about climate, they may often think of weather. However the mechanisms that create climate are part of an enormously complex physical global system. That system includes the relatively well know processes of the atmosphere as well as less well known ones of oceans and ice masses. In addition there are the numerous variations occcurring across earth’s land surface. They exhibit complex chemical and biological processes that impact vegetation, animals and ultimately us.
Read on to find out more about what COP28 it is all about. Discover what happened before it, what the conference may or may not achieve, then what happens after it.
What Happened Before the COP28 Climate Conference
The first UN Climate Change conference also known as the Earth Summit was at Rio de Janeiro back in 1992. At the 3rd conference in Kyoto, Japan 1997 countries agreed for the first time to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately the USA, Canada and Russia did not sign up. On the plus side in 2015 at COP21 in Paris 192 countries did sign up to the significant target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Despite pledging to pursue efforts to that limit global, global emissions have continued to rise. Many are saying the COP26 conference in late 2021, where world leaders will meet again, is a make-or-break moment to turn words into action.
In September 2023 the United Nations published its first two-year assessment report on slowing down climate change, in advance of COP28.
COP28 Climate Conference Plans
Who will attend?
As with previous conferences politicians, scientists, lobbyists and industry representatives from across the world will attend. Industry representatives and lobbyists are likely to be from both fossil fuel and renewable energy organisations. Indeed, the president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber has serious interests in both fossil fuels and renewables. A link to who he is, what he represents and his thoughts on the conference is provided in the useful links section later.
Invites have gone out to more than 200 governments, although the leaders of many countries such as the US, China and India are still to confirm their attendance. In all there are expected to be circa 70,000 attendees.
Scientists involved are not just climate specialists but others that can scientifically assess the impact of man-made or anthropological activities on the planet. They include geomorphologists, fluvial geomorphologists, geologists ans glaciologists to name but a few. All are relevant to the subject matter.
An Imbalance of Representatives
Sadly an imbalance of representatives by country is highly likely. Partly due to cost of attendance as well as country size. Just imagine the impact of 70,000 visitors to Dubai on hotel, restaurant and travel prices Apart from the travel costs, there are inflated hotel costs and other expenses to consider. Also smaller countries are less likely to have the number of individuals than larger wealthier ones too. That is more than just unfortunate when you consider it is the poorest and smallest countries typically in the southern hemisphere that climate change adversely affects the most.
Many meetings take place simultaneously so countries with limited delegates may find it hard to attend some important negotiations. Whereas organisations such as the EU that negotiates for all its countries will have an expected ten representatives.
COP28 has two key zones: a fee paying blue zone and an open green zone. Once again the larger and better financially backed attendees are more likely to be able to visit both. The smaller but equally important attendee may not have its voice heard to the same degree as the wealthier.
What Happens at COP28?
While there are a number of inter governmental meetings, the event also hosts a number of additional parallel meetings. Getting the expected 190 or so countries to agree is always going to be difficult. However the parallel or side meetings have produced a large number of positive outcomes over the decades.
The main agenda covers a wide range of discussions. At COP28 they will start with where the world stands now with reference to Climate Change. It examines action, support and gaps. From there discussions will explore a wide range of vitally important topics. This includes;
- limiting the earth’s temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels
- the global transition to clean energy
- vulnerable country help to adapt & recover from the effects of climate change
- a whole range of topics on health, food sustainability and the environment
The overall aim is to help policy makers from around the world to strengthen their own national climate policies. Collaboration to hit 1.5°C by 2100 is also a huge topic. Currently we are at 1.1°C to 1.2°C. Projections have the planet reaching between 2°C and 4°C by 2100.
A huge amount of information on all the planned discussions is available on the COP28 website via the link at the end of this document. You can download the documents, decisions and many other resources free from that link.
The COP28 president states that they must define what success looks like. That includes how to stop biodiversity loss, restore agricultural land, preserve forestation and protect coastlines. The latter is a key point as the majority of the world’s population lives close to the sea. All that has to happen. It is not just about where we live, but food sustainability for the future to ensure no-one goes hungry.
What happens after COP28?
So what happens then? We should hope that not just agreements on policy but a commitment to act on them is a prime outcome. However a difficulty is the sheer number of attendees. For them all to agree on a policy is no mean task. Just imagine getting 200 representatives to agree on a common restaurant to attend, then on what single meal to choose? That is the task the delegates face for every subject they debate on.
Just remember, each country has the potential to have its own individual circumstances. Whether that is not risking employment, whether the country is poor or wealthy, the state on its industrial development, how climate adversity affects it and many more. The national drivers may be numerous and conflicting. Yet cooperation is key. Add into the mix that companies large and small, green and not so green will also send their representatives. They have their corporate interests too. It all adds to the complexity.
Even after agreement, there is then the matter of countries fulfilling what they pledge to do. As we know with Ukraine and the Middle East, other global issues can derail promises.
After COP28 and any pledges, countries will have to complete their new climate change plans by 2025. Only when they submit them can the UN and IPCC work out if the world is heading in the right direction.
On a positive note, while we are still off target with respect to the 1.5°C target, it is true to say that we are much closer to since the 30 years of COP has been in place. So we can see the benefits. However countries, industry and people need to do more and in less time.
COP28 Climate – Encouraging Thoughts
The Ozone Layer Depletion
While we can see there are a number of challenging issues at COP28, it is also reasonable to point to parallels for hope from other equally important worldwide issues. Remember the Ozone Layer issues? Some countries were in a better financial position to take a lead in the cost of actions to resolve the issue. Such enthusiasm of early adopters then paved the way for others.
One of the key messages from the president of COP28 is for the G20 nations to set the lead in moving action forward in order to encourage other nation states to up their game. Such action also includes humanitarian funding to support the countries worst affected. Ironically many of the poorly equipped nations have contributed least to the climate change problem. Yet climate change is and will continue to affect them more. Countries such as Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pacific Islands and many more.
COP28 Climate – Where Are We Now?
So while there is plenty to be positive about, it is clear governments, industry and individuals all need to work together. This is crystal clear when you read the latest United Nations 2023 Emissions Gap Report. With the apt title Broken Record, it brings home the importance of the discussions at COP28 and any activity after it.
It will be extremely interesting to see the outcome of COP28 and just how governments and industry face up to the challenges.