Thousands of world leaders, scientists, and climate activists met in Dubai for the the COP28 meeting on climate change (UNCTAD, Wikimedia Commons)
The COP28 meeting—the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—was recently held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The goals discussed include tackling fossil fuels, net zero emissions, loss and damage funding, and global stocktake.
A new record for the most attendees at a COP conference was set in Dubai, with a reported 84,000 attendees (more than double the 38,457 attendees at COP26, the previous record holder). Key attendees included Britain’s King Charles III, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and Former CEO of Microsoft Bill Gates. Also in attendance were many government representatives, climate experts, business leaders, scientists, and activists. Notably, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping did not attend the meeting.
Nearly 200 countries agreed to transition away from fossil fuels, marking the first agreement of its kind in the 28-year history of climate negotiations. The implementation of this agreement acknowledges the need to reduce global consumption of fossil fuels and shift towards renewable energy. The agreed-upon deal aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, triple the global renewable energy capacity, and double energy efficiency by 2030. The deal also urges the phase-down of coal power and the phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
The Loss and Damage Fund was also put into operation on the first day of the Dubai Summit. Its goal is to help climate-vulnerable countries, or countries that would be largely impacted by climate change, deal with severe climate impacts. While approximately $700 million was pledged in funding towards the Loss and Damage Fund, there are still concerns that more is needed. It is projected that climate-vulnerable countries may face up to $580 billion in climate-related damages by 2030.
The agreements went further to establish the world’s first ‘global stocktake’ to help quantify progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and to see where countries are falling behind.
At COP28, the president of the conference, Sultan al-Jaber, sparked controversy with his comment regarding the phase-out of fossil fuels. He stated that there was no scientific evidence to support the need for such a phase-out. He was faced with significant criticism from climate scientists and environmental advocates, who argue that a complete phase-out of fossil fuels is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Many argue that this comment by Sultan al-Jaber was in part biased due to his involvement in commercial oil and gas.
Regardless, while there is criticism about the loopholes in the agreement that could allow fossil fuel producers to continue business as usual, an agreement was reached, marking significant progress. Controversies such as the one surrounding al-Jaber’s comments only highlight the divide caused by the role of fossil fuels in the current climate crisis.
Setting a Precedent
COP28 was a historic conference that set a precedent in the global effort to combat climate change. The agreement that was reached at COP28 established the need to transition away from fossil fuels, marking the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era. This agreement is important because it explicitly called for the cutback of all fossil fuels, rapid reductions in emissions, and the phase-out of coal power while aiming to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. COP28 also established a historic precedent by recognizing the urgency of transitioning to renewable energy sources and adopting measures to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. While some critics argue more action is needed, COP28 serves as a significant milestone towards a greener planet.
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