Home » All eyes on Dubai: Crucial COP28 launches with much work to be done & a call to be guided by ‘1.5°C North Star’

All eyes on Dubai: Crucial COP28 launches with much work to be done & a call to be guided by ‘1.5°C North Star’

by Madaline Dunn

In 2023, as the world experiences the hottest year on record, the world’s leaders, the private sector, NGOs and think tanks are convening in Dubai, for a COP that must deliver on climate action to maintain global warming at 1.5°C, a goal that is currently in serious jeopardy. 

The 1.5°C ‘north star’ is the best-case scenario, and even if it is achieved, something which climate scientists are increasingly doubtful about, the world will still face devastating consequences.

At the opening of what is being called the “most important Cop” since the Paris Agreement, COP27 President Sameh Shoukry and COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, shared their optimism that it is still achievable, while recognising the difficult road ahead. Meanwhile, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Simon Stiell called for bold action. 

Conveying the message that this year’s COP shouldn’t just be more lip service, and pleasant sounding pledges, Stiell said: “Yes, this is the biggest COP yet – but attending a COP does not tick the climate box for the year,” adding: “The badges around your necks make you responsible for delivering climate action here and at home.”

Stiell also outlined the UNFCCC’s commitment to track all announcements made and initiatives launched at COP, to further ensure accountability: “So that long after the cameras have gone, we can ensure our promises continue to serve the planet.”

“Signal terminal decline of the fossil fuel era or welcome our own terminal decline”

Over the years, COPs have come and gone, but little progress has been made. Last year’s climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh has been widely dubbed a failure, and the previous COP in Scotland is remembered in a similar vein. This year’s COP will hold the first Global Stocktake (GS), when, for the first time since the Paris Agreement, countries will reflect on the progress (or lack thereof) towards achieving climate goals. This is pivotal, as it will inform climate policies and funding allocation.

At the opening ceremony, before COP27 President Sameh Shoukry handed over the baton of responsibility for global climate action to the UAE, he highlighted “worrying signs” we must take seriously, drawing attention to both decreased financial flow into developing countries and the expansion of fossil fuel exploration.

When COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber took to the stage and was formally appointed COP President, he spoke specifically about the inclusion of fossil fuel companies in the climate conversation. 

“This is the presidency that boldly chose to engage with oil and gas companies. We had many hard discussions that weren’t easy. Today, however, many of these companies are committing to cutting their methane emissions for the first time. National oil companies have adopted Net Zero 2050, and I’m glad they have stepped up to this game-changing journey. They (oil and gas companies) can do much more; they can lead the way,” he added.

Al Jaber, who is simultaneously Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology of the United Arab Emirates, head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), and chairman of Masdar, has been the subject of controversy since his appointment. 

This has only intensified following the recent leak of briefing documents that allegedly showed plans to discuss fossil fuel deals at COP. Yesterday, Al Jaber refuted the allegations: “These allegations are false, not true, incorrect and not accurate,” he said. 

Speaking at the opening ceremony today, however, Al Jaber called to “look for ways to ensure the inclusion of the role of fossil fuels.” 

“I know there are strong views about the idea of including language on fossil fuels and renewables in the negotiated text. We have the power to do something unprecedented. I ask you to work together,” he said. 

Adding: “Be flexible, find common ground, come forward with solutions, and achieve consensus. And never lose sight of our North Star of 1.5.”

Stiell, meanwhile, issued a stark warning: “If we do not signal the terminal decline of the fossil fuel era as we know it, we welcome our own terminal decline. And we choose to pay with people’s lives.”

Loss and damage agreement a “historic decision”

On the first day of the summit, countries approved a climate disaster fund, described as a “monumental step” towards delivering meaningful results for the world’s most vulnerable. 

Years in the making and established last year in Sharm el-Sheikh, COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber said the fund’s approval sent a “positive signal of momentum to the world and to our work here in Dubai, and a number of countries have already made financial commitments.

The UAE committed $100 million, as did Germany, part of the $245m from the EU, while the UK committed $40million for the fund and $20million for other arrangements. Meanwhile, Japan dedicated $10 million, and the U.S. committed $17.5 million – an amount called “embarrassing” by Mohamed Adow, Director of the environmental group Power Shift Africa.

Indeed, while approval of the fund is a promising start, it is nowhere near the amount required, with figures pointing to at least $400 billion a year. Further, despite operationalising the fund, the details surrounding it were decidedly scarce.

Big ambition must be matched with bold action

As 70,000 descend on Dubai, some of whom have flown in on private jets, it’s imperative, as Stiell noted, that attendance isn’t just for show. The number of delegates has ballooned in recent years, more than tripling since 2019, but participants must make their attendance count. 

The decisions made at this summit will have a ripple effect all over the world, for better or worse, and it’s crucial that delegates understand the privilege of their representation at COP and the power it has. 

As Stiell noted: “Remember this, behind every line you work on, every word or comma you wrestle with here at Cop, there is a human being, a family, a community, that depends on you.”

Despite some celebration at the early adoption of the fund, and the formal adoption of the COP28 agenda, there’s a long road ahead and many disagreements that must be resolved for COP28 to be a success. 

Stay tuned for more coverage on the ground from ESG Mena.

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