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Looking Ahead to COP28

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COP27 concluded last weekend in Egypt, with most commentators feeling it was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of progress. With talks running 40 hours beyond the official deadline, representatives came away with an agreement in place that will allow poorer countries to access financial assistance. However, pressure from oil-producing nations saw agreements on the phasing out of fossil fuels watered down and key commitments on greenhouse gases removed, leaving many climate campaigners branding the talks a failure. While some progress was made, time is rapidly running out for the UN to agree to sweeping, comprehensive changes and unified targets for eliminating carbon emissions. Kicking the can down the road for a further year isn’t a luxury the world can afford.

With that said, focus is already turning to COP28, where nations will need to pick up quickly on where COP27 left off and look to get more concrete agreements in place.

The Leadup to COP28

The impact of extreme weather has been one of the most visible impacts of the world’s changing climate, with almost every country experiencing some form of extreme weather event. While Europe experienced a record-breaking heatwave, regions of the globe also battled floods, wildfires and tropical storms.

Many of the countries that are most severely impacted by these extreme weather events have argued, fairly, that they contributed little to the greenhouse gases causing them. Typically these poorer nations, such as the countries making up the Horn of Africa where 37 million people face acute hunger or starvation due to droughts, are also least equipped to cope with the impact of extreme weather. It is here that COP27 make a historic breakthrough, effectively an agreement for leading economies to pay reparations to poorer countries impacted by climate change caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases.

The agenda at COP28 will in some way be shaped in a similar way, although we don’t yet know what extreme weather events will take place between now and then. It seems certain that 2023 will bring just as much weather-related disruption as 2022.

COP28’s location in Dubai, the second Conference of the Parties to take place in the Middle East, will also be a key factor. There have already been accusations that hosting COP28 in the UAE allows the oil-rich nation to greenwash its international reputation, but it will at least bring the issues surrounding oil production and consumption into sharp focus. The UAE is a member of the influential OPEC cartel, and close ally of de facto leader Saudi Arabia. They could play an important role in securing an agreement to limit fossil fuel productions. That is, of course, if that is something they are actually interested in achieving, which very much remains to be seen.

What Needs to Happen at COP28?

One immediate priority will be to agree how the loss and damage mechanism for countries impacted by climate change will work in practice. Which countries pay into it, how much they are expected to contribute and who will be able to access funds is all likely to be hotly contested.

Ultimately, COP28’s success is likely to be judged on whether or not an agreement to further curb greenhouse gas emissions gets over the line. The UK did a good job at setting the stage in Glasgow in 2021, getting countries on board to a revised target of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5C. Now, initiatives such as the phasing out of coal and gas need to be codified and accelerated. Many countries that committed to new, more stringent emissions reductions at COP26 have failed to produce them, and chasing up these holdouts will also be key.

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