The world is gearing up for yet another crucial climate summit, the 28th session of the Conference of Parties, or COP28. With the event set to take place at the end of November, the anticipation is palpable. While some may argue that every COP is vital, it’s hard to ignore the growing urgency as climate impacts worsen, and the window to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C narrows.
In this article, we will explore the 28th session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It outlines the agenda of COP28, which includes fast-tracking the energy transition, transforming climate finance, putting nature and people at the center, and mobilizing for inclusivity. The article also highlights the main takeaways from COP27, which include the creation of the Loss and Damage Fund and the challenges for COP28, such as defining the functioning of the Loss and Damage Fund and addressing climate finance and fossil fuel phase-out issues.
Inside the Conference of Parties: Unpacking Its Role and Activities
COP, or the Conference of Parties, is a yearly gathering of signatory nations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The objective is to address the global challenge of climate change by discussing and implementing measures to combat it. The most significant achievement of the COP meetings is the Paris Agreement, which was adopted at COP21 in 2015. It outlined a collective commitment to limit global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change.
These meetings serve as a platform for countries to discuss, negotiate, and make decisions on global climate action. Here’s an overview of what happens in a COP meeting:
1. Negotiations: The heart of a COP meeting is the negotiations. Delegates from participating countries come together to discuss and agree on various aspects of international climate policy. This includes setting emissions reduction targets, defining the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement, and addressing other climate-related issues.
2. Adoption of Agreements: COP meetings often culminate in the adoption of agreements or decisions. The most notable of these is the Paris Agreement, which was adopted at COP21 in 2015. Agreements outline commitments, targets, and strategies to combat climate change and are legally binding for the signatory nations.
3. Side Events: In addition to formal negotiations, COP meetings host numerous side events. These include workshops, seminars, and presentations organized by various stakeholders, including governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and businesses. Side events provide a platform for sharing knowledge and best practices related to climate action.
4. Exhibition and Displays: COP meetings feature an exhibition space where countries, organizations, and businesses showcase their efforts and innovations in addressing climate change. This provides an opportunity for networking and learning about the latest technologies and initiatives.
5. Civil Society Engagement: Civil society organizations, including environmental groups, youth activists, and indigenous communities, actively participate in COP meetings. They often organize protests, advocate for stronger climate action, and hold their own events to raise awareness about climate change.
1. Blue Zone: The Blue Zone is the area where formal negotiations and high-level meetings take place. It is typically restricted to government delegates and accredited observers, including representatives from intergovernmental organizations and NGOs. The Blue Zone is where the most critical decisions are made.
2. Green Zone: The Green Zone is an area open to the public and designed to engage with the broader community. It hosts exhibitions, educational activities, and presentations on climate-related topics. It’s a space where attendees can learn about climate change, interact with organizations, and participate in discussions.
3. City Zone: The City Zone focuses on urban climate action and is dedicated to showcasing initiatives from cities and local governments. It highlights the role that municipalities play in addressing climate change, with a focus on sustainability and resilience in urban areas.
- State Parties: These are the official representatives of countries that are signatories to the UNFCCC. State Parties participate in the formal negotiations, make commitments, and engage in diplomatic discussions.
- Observers: Observers include non-governmental organizations (NGOs), intergovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders. They attend the meetings, participate in side events, and provide valuable input to the negotiation process.
- Youth and Indigenous Groups: Young climate activists and indigenous communities are essential participants. They bring unique perspectives, advocate for climate justice, and hold events to raise awareness about climate change’s impact on their communities.
- Businesses and Corporations: Many companies attend COP meetings, either as official delegates or as observers. They use this platform to showcase their sustainability efforts, make commitments to reduce emissions, and engage in discussions about climate-related business practices.
- Media: Media organizations and journalists play a crucial role in disseminating information and keeping the public informed about the outcomes of COP meetings and related developments.
COP28’s agenda has been unveiled, and it is framed around four paradigm shifts:
- Fast-Tracking the Energy Transition: One of the key objectives is to slash emissions before 2030. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has underlined the necessity of halving emissions this decade to stay on track for net-zero and limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. A focus on renewables and phasing out fossil fuels will be paramount.
- Transforming Climate Finance: COP28 seeks to deliver on old promises and create a new framework for climate finance. Developed countries have pledged to provide $100 billion annually by 2020 to support climate action in developing nations. However, this target has not been met, leading to concerns about trust and commitment.
- Putting Nature and People at the Center: This shift emphasizes the importance of adaptation, resilience, and addressing loss and damage. COP28 aims to develop a global goal on adaptation and guide national adaptation plans, recognizing the need for increased funding in climate-vulnerable nations.
- Mobilizing for Inclusivity: COP28 aims to be the most inclusive COP ever, allowing participation from non-state actors and people from all backgrounds. Inclusivity is being emphasized despite challenges in some host countries regarding human rights and freedom.
Main Takeaways from COP27
Image: Egyptian Foreign Minister and Egypt’s COP27 President Sameh Shoukry attends an informal stocktaking session during the COP27 climate summit, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 18, 2022.
COP27, the 27th session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, marked another important chapter in the ongoing global effort to combat climate change. While it may not have generated as much international attention as some of its predecessors, it produced several notable takeaways and outcomes:
- Loss and Damage Fund:
- The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund was undoubtedly one of the most significant achievements of COP27. This fund represents a historic step towards addressing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable nations, particularly developing countries. Loss and damage refer to the economic and non-economic losses caused by climate change-related events such as extreme weather, rising sea levels, and other consequences. These losses can overwhelm the capacity of affected countries to cope, making financial support critical.
- The Loss and Damage Fund was created to provide financial assistance to countries dealing with loss and damage from climate-related disasters. This commitment acknowledges the climate debt richer nations owe to those who bear the brunt of climate impacts.
- Emissions Reduction Ambitions:
- The focus on enhancing emissions reduction ambitions was a critical component of COP27. The event aimed to build upon the momentum generated by COP26, held in Glasgow. While COP26 led to renewed commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, COP27 sought to encourage even more ambitious targets. However, there were concerns that the discussions at COP27 did not result in any new or significantly enhanced commitments from participating nations.
- Fossil Fuel Phase-Out:
- Despite growing international pressure to transition away from fossil fuels, COP27 did not produce a decisive commitment to phase out these carbon-intensive energy sources. While some progress was made regarding coal, there was no comprehensive agreement on the phasing out of all fossil fuels. The lack of a firm commitment to ending fossil fuel reliance raised concerns among environmental activists and climate scientists.
- Adaptation Funding:
- Adaptation funding, a critical component of climate finance, remained a key topic of discussion at COP27. Many developing countries emphasized the need for increased financial support to help them adapt to the effects of climate change. This focus recognized that the poorest and most vulnerable nations often struggle to afford the necessary measures to address worsening climate impacts.
- Challenges and Disagreements:
- As with many international climate conferences, COP27 faced its share of challenges and disagreements. These disputes often revolved around issues such as financial commitments, the responsibility of wealthier nations, and the specific mechanisms for funding adaptation and mitigation efforts. Finding common ground on these contentious matters remained a significant challenge.
- Climate Finance and Trust:
- A recurring theme at COP27 was the issue of climate finance. Developed nations had previously pledged to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to support climate action in developing countries. However, the lack of progress in meeting this financial commitment undermined trust among participating nations. Ensuring that climate finance pledges were honored remained a critical aspect of the conference’s outcomes.
In summary, COP27 was marked by both successes and challenges. The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund represented a major milestone in recognizing the need to address the impacts of climate change on vulnerable nations. However, the lack of new and ambitious emissions reduction commitments, the failure to decisively phase out fossil fuels, and ongoing challenges related to climate finance demonstrated that there is still much work to be done in the global fight against climate change. The conference underlined the ongoing importance of international cooperation and commitment to addressing this pressing global issue.
Challenges for COP28
- Loss and Damage Fund: COP28 faces the challenge of defining the functioning and funding of the Loss and Damage Fund. Agreement on contributions and eligibility criteria is essential to make this fund effective.
- Climate Finance: The long-standing issue of developed nations failing to meet their climate finance commitments undermines trust. COP28 must address this challenge to ensure equitable and effective climate action.
- Fossil Fuels: Phasing out fossil fuels remains a contentious issue. While coal phase-out was mentioned at COP27, COP28 must commit to a more aggressive phase-out of all fossil fuels to achieve emission reduction goals.
- Global Stocktake: The Global Stocktake, established by the Paris Agreement, presents an opportunity to assess global progress towards climate goals. COP28 should leverage this tool to influence climate policy and investment decisions.
As COP28 approaches, the world stands at a critical juncture in the battle against climate change. The urgency to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C is growing, and the need for immediate and effective action is undeniable. COP28’s agenda, with its four paradigm shifts, offers a ray of hope in addressing the global climate crisis. Fast-tracking the energy transition, transforming climate finance, putting nature and people at the center, and mobilizing for inclusivity are all critical steps forward.
However, COP28 also faces significant challenges, from defining the Loss and Damage Fund’s functioning to addressing the long-standing issue of climate finance. The phase-out of fossil fuels remains a contentious topic, and the success of COP28 hinges on the commitment to a more aggressive approach in this regard. The Global Stocktake, a tool established by the Paris Agreement, holds the potential to shape global climate policy and investment decisions.
In the end, the world will closely watch the proceedings of COP28, hoping for ambitious and concrete outcomes that can combat the ever-escalating climate crisis. The future of climate action depends on the decisions made at this critical summit, and it is a moment that carries the hopes of millions for a sustainable and resilient planet.