COP 28 – what can we expect?

I was lucky enough to attend COP 26 in Glasgow and experience it first-hand. As a leader in sustainability, I always look forward to these COP’s, the discussion points and most importantly, the outcomes.

What has happened since COP 26 and 27 and what is COP 28 seeking to achieve?

COP 26 saw leaders agreeing to the Glasgow Climate Pact, countries committing to limiting global warming to 1.5°, enhancing climate finance for developing nations and setting a framework for addressing the damage caused by climate change. There were also agreements on deforestation, methane reduction and phasing down coal.

COP 27 in Egypt’s key outcomes included committing to a Dedicated Fund for loss and damage, maintaining a clear intention to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees and holding businesses and institutions accountable for their actions, as well as mobilising additional financial support for developing countries.

What happened on the first day, and what’s to come?

Loss and damage were the first day’s big talking points. Commitments to investment sought for the loss and damage fund had some success with $420m pledged to it in the first few hours, with Germany, the UK, the EU, the US and Japan making pledges (with pledging being kept open for the next two days).

The World Bank will be the interim host for the first four years, and it will have an independent secretariat with representation from across developed and developing countries. Developing countries have said the fund needs to see investment close to $400bn annually, so some way to go yet, the cost of loss and damage for climate breakdown was about $1.5tn in 2022.

In his opening speech yesterday, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutierrez, said “the talks should aim for a complete phase out of fossil fuels”, insisting the 1.5-degree climate goal is not dead, it's alive. Scientists are increasingly warning the goal of restricting global warming to 1.5 degrees looks ever more unlikely. Which would be disastrous for us all.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the attendance of King Charles as the opening speaker. He told the summit: “We are all connected. Not only as human beings, but with all living things and all that sustains life. The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth”. He is deeply worried about the state of nature and how far off track the world is when it comes to protecting biodiversity.

We are also going to see a first for a COP – a statement on food and climate from world leaders. The expectation is that more than one hundred countries will commit to making transformations to their food and agricultural systems – there is a real positivity around this from small scale farmers and indigenous groups and food campaigners - so will be very interesting to see the outcomes.

The pressing issue for COP will be how they take these discussion points and turn them into meaningful action. The continuing rise of emissions from fossil fuels and the return of El Niño (2023 saw global temperature hit 1.4C above pre-industrial levels) is bringing the internationally agreed limit of 1.5C (2.7F) ever closer.

When all the dust has settled and COP ends, just what action on adaptation, mitigation and strong fossil fuel reduction targets have been committed – and what will be the lasting legacy for the planet?

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