COP28: HOW MUCH PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE?
November 24 , 2023
Annual conference takes place in UAE from 30 November
Another critical week for environmental sustainability is looming with the annual staging of the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
COP28 will take place in Dubai on 30 November to 12 December, the annual gathering of global leaders tasked with finding solutions to global warming caused by unsustainable human activities, in particular, the release of greenhouse gas emissions.
COP27, which took place last year in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt saw continued calls for urgent climate action from world leaders, with a particular emphasis on supporting developing nations most vulnerable to climate impacts.
The most prevalent talking point from the 2022 conference was that there was an abundantly clear emissions gap between current national climate plans and what is necessary. The highly unpredictable climate and record-breaking extreme weather events, from floods in Pakistan to heatwaves in India and the United States, that have dominated the headlines this year, have only added to the urgency and concern.
As the 2023 Conference (COP28) approaches, eyes are fervently fixed on the energy sector. Many observers are left asking - amid all the pledges and promises - has enough meaningful progress been made since the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015?
Or do these extreme weather events indicate the need to significantly amplify both commitments and tangible actions from the UN and communities across Europe? Many regard this year’s conference as the most important since COP21 when governments adopted the Paris Agreement. So let’s assess retrospectively whether enough progress has been made since that landmark date in 2015 and evaluate.
A Brief History of Climate Conferences
The modern Conference of Parties (COP) meetings through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) trace back to the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. These conferences have predominantly focused on reducing emissions and adapting to intensifying climate impacts worldwide.
The 2015 Paris Agreement (set during COP21) was the most significant moment, setting explicit targets to limit global average temperature increases to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. This milestone agreement has 196 country signatories committed to regularly enhancing their climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
However, in recent years, world leaders have stressed the need to restrict global warming to 1.5°C by the end of this century. The UN’s incumbent climate change panel indicates that crossing this 1.5°C threshold risks unleashing far more destructive and severe climate change impacts. Put simply, the Paris Agreement is a landmark in binding nations together in agreed, concentrated efforts to combat climate change.
What to Expect from 2023 Onwards
So what makes 2023 such a pivotal year? For starters, the Paris Agreement stipulated that this would be the first year for a ‘global stocktake’, which will confirm whether the 1.5°C target is reachable within the next decade. This stocktake, in no uncertain terms, will influence the next set of NDCs for each contributing nation, and it has essentially already pinpointed that countries are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement’s mitigation goal.
The overarching aim of the Paris Agreement was to help nations achieve net zero status by 2050 with milestone targets to reduce carbon emissions by roughly 57% by 2030. Therefore, it’s fair to say that a lot is riding on this year’s conference.
Incremental Achievements Since Paris
The years since 2015 have seen some successes and achievements, with countries collectively accounting for most worldwide emissions having now submitted NDCs.
Progress has been made from investors shifting away from the use of coal to a surge in support for global net-zero targets and rising movements of climate awareness action. Wind and solar energy solutions are also growing exponentially, with funding distributed in nations to drive growth and innovation in these sectors. In the last year, discussions about phasing out fossil fuels and increasing efforts in clean energy have also gained significant traction.