Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President

Will COP28 live up to the hype and establish an energy transition roadmap leaving no one behind?

With a myriad of decarbonization and climate action hopes placed upon COP28’s shoulders, a lot of fanfare surrounds the run-up to the conference, which will enable the world to take stock of its progress on the road to reach the Paris Agreement goals. During these trying times when climate change, inflation, energy security, and geopolitical challenges are wreaking havoc on the global stage, the UAE plans to spearhead efforts for all parties to agree upon a clear roadmap to step up net zero progress through “a pragmatic global energy transition,” leaving no stone unturned in the search towards inclusive climate action.

Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President

To this end, COP28, taking place at Expo City Dubai, the UAE, from November 30 to December 12, 2023, will deliver the first-ever Global Stocktake – a comprehensive evaluation of progress against climate goals – as mandated by the Paris Climate Agreement. This conference is expected to convene over 70,000 participants, including heads of state, government officials, international industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, experts, youth, and non-state actors, which will aim to find a way to agree on steps to take urgent climate action to reduce rising humanitarian needs.

While the UAE aims to pursue a roadmap towards “a pragmatic global energy transition” during COP28, the world remains divided on the need for more fossil fuels to power the global energy mix. Some believe that oil and gas, primarily LNG, will be needed for decades to fuel the energy transition to a green future. Others insist that a swift phase-out of coal, oil, and gas is the best option to reach net zero by 2050 with the help of accelerated renewable energy deployment to fill the gap left by fossil fuels. However, grid challenges continue to hinder renewables’ growth, as multiple projects are still waiting in line to get connected to the grid.

A new report – published by Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Climate Analytics, E3G, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and UN Environment Programme – warns that 20 governments plan to produce around 110% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C, and 69% more than would be consistent with 2°C.

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Bearing in mind the challenges ahead, the President of COP28 and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) called for urgent action to accelerate climate action in what they describe as “fragile and conflict-affected settings.” Their call comes ahead of the COP28 Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace which will seek transformative measures on the frontlines of the climate crisis. It will be officially launched on December 3, at COP28.

Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, President of COP28, commented: “The COP28 Presidency is deeply committed to putting the lives and livelihoods of people at the center of its efforts. COP28 will be the first COP to dedicate a day to Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace. Climate change affects all humanity but not everyone equally. As the most inclusive COP to date, we will provide a platform where all voices are heard, and no one is left behind. We are making this a priority and are calling upon all governments, private sector and regional and international organizations, to support this cause by endorsing the declaration and committing to enhanced financing, capacity strengthening and partnerships.”

Furthermore, extreme weather events seem to affect three times as many people annually in “fragile and conflict-affected settings” compared to other countries. Despite this, people living in extremely fragile states receive a fraction – up to 80 times less – of climate finance compared to those in non-fragile states. While life-saving assistance following climate-related disasters is crucial, the President of COP28 and the Executive Director of WFP believe it is equally imperative to prepare and build resilience, to break out of the vicious cycle of crisis and response, particularly at a time when the humanitarian system is struggling to keep up with the pace of escalating crises.

Cindy McCain, Executive Director of WFP, remarked: “Many of the world’s most fragile countries are those most impacted by climate change. Already ravaged by conflict, insecurity and poverty, climate change is an accelerator of humanitarian needs. The result is more hunger, more poverty, more insecurity and more migration. Most of these places contributed almost nothing to climate change yet are paying the highest price. The world must come together to support those on the frontlines of this crisis – anything less is simply unacceptable.”

Therefore, more financing needs to be directed to communities and countries for initiatives such as disaster preparedness and anticipatory action, as well as strengthening local systems and supporting smallholder farmers to shield those most exposed to climate shocks. With this at the forefront, the COP28 Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace is currently garnering endorsements from governments, international and regional organizations, international financial institutions, philanthropic entities, and climate, environment, development, humanitarian, and peace actors.

This declaration seeks to make a collective commitment to increase climate action, investment, and absorption capacity in countries and communities affected by conflict or protracted humanitarian crisis, as well as present an accompanying package of finance, policy, programs, and practices to operationalize the commitment.

Recently, the COP28 Presidency also revealed the launch of a new charter to mobilize and encourage the private sector to take further steps towards accelerating and bolstering their net-zero pledges, as this sector accounts for approximately 80% of global GDP, as well as the bulk of the world’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The charter, which is a stepping stone to the UNFCCC’s ‘Recognition Accountability Framework‘, follows a technical report from the Global Stocktake, which showed that the world was off track to keep the goals of the Paris Agreement alive. 

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As the charter is designed to enable the private sector to play a full role in the delivery of the Paris Agreement goals, all signatories will commit to a series of actions, including making net-zero and interim targets with an existing, high-integrity body; producing a credible net-zero transition plan within one year of COP28; and reporting annual progress and committing to robust validations processes.