The Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Conservation on Climate Change (UNFCCC) started its 28th annual conference in Dubai, UAE on November 30 and will continue until December 12. The COP is the highest body of the UNFCCC to decide on climate actions to address global warming to save our planet. This global climate change pact is represented by 198 countries of the world, which are known as the parties of the UNFCCC.
Global warming results from uncontrolled greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from developed countries, particularly during their industrial development in the 1800s, which signifies the historical responsibility of developed countries for global warming. Historically, developed countries have polluted the atmosphere at a level that destabilises the earth's system.
However, nowadays the largest developing countries such as China and India are also on the list of big emitters. At the cost of industrial development, consumption patterns and unsustainable lifestyles, the whole world, particularly developing countries, is suffering the most due to the adverse impacts of climate change. The UNFCCC has included both developed and developing nations to discuss and decide the most burning issue of temperature rise and be able to take measures to address global warming from anthropogenic activities to stabilise the ever-increasing temperature rise since the industrial period.
The first COP was held in Berlin, Germany in 1995, and we are now having COP28 in Dubai to fix the real problems of climate change. I am not sure how long it will take to have a consensus among the global leaders to think rationally and make concrete decisions to arrest the rise in temperature. The COP15 in 2015 made a milestone decision called the Paris Agreement to solve climate change problems by all developed and developing countries based on Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR).
After the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement is the instrument for addressing climate change by all parties. The progress of making decisions and implementing the Paris Agreement is very slow while global GHG emissions are at supersonic speed.
The present scenario of climate change impacts can be best understood from the remarks made by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking at the launch of the World Meteorological Organization's latest State of the Global Climate report. In his words, “We are living through climate collapse in real-time. This year has seen communities around the world pounded by fires, floods, and searing temperature – and the impact is devastating.”
While appreciating the concerns of the UN Secretary-General, the global community is expecting that the UNFCCC process would engender effective decisions to resolve the climate crisis during this COP28.
Let me share with you why the COP28 is so critical for us. What pressing issues would be considered for making decisions in this COP28? To understand the situation of the climate crisis, the Global Stocktake is designed “to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the Paris Agreement and its long-term goals. Those goals include cutting greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and ideally 1.5 °C, building resilience to climate impacts, and providing financial support to tackle the climate crisis.
The Global Stocktake’s technical phase produced a Synthesis Report on the global progress on the Paris Agreement implementation status. The report highlights that global temperatures are now expected to rise by 2.4-2.6 °C by the end of the century, compared to 3.7-4.8 °C in 2010. The Global Stocktake makes clear that greater ambition is unavoidable and urgent to reduce emissions from all fronts to combat the climate crisis.
The Stocktake report emphasised that transitions and underscored the imperative for resilience and equity in all transformative efforts are critical to addressing climate change impacts. The report stressed the urgency of increasing adaptation support and addressing loss and damage, particularly for vulnerable communities. It also emphasized that plans and commitments for adaptation action and support have been poorly implemented, are unevenly distributed, and have progressed only incrementally.
The main point is the need to reorient trillions of dollars in global finance and mobilize significant resources in support of a zero-carbon, climate-resilient and equitable future. It is clear that just transition, equity, and tailoring approaches to local contexts will be key to ambitious and robust outcomes that advance sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.
The COP28 is critical because the Global Stocktake report will be placed before the parties to analyse the situation and take appropriate actions to address the gaps and the advantage of the opportunities identified in the report.
It is obvious that the parties will discuss the Global Stocktake’s technical findings, identify opportunities and challenges, and assess measures and best practices for climate action and international cooperation. We may hope that the parties will collectively produce a summary of key political messages for further actions on the identified issues of mitigation, adaptation, and finance. However, we have to wait till the end of COP28 to see the final decisions to address the climate crisis or not.
The writer is a climate change and environment specialist and the Executive Director of Nature Conservation Management (NACOM)