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What do we want to see from COP28?

We asked members of our Network - from our expert Fellows to our Youth Advisory Council - to share their predictions ahead of COP28.

Here is what some of them they had to say...

Angela Zhong

CGLN Member and Intern at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

As I go into COP28, I expect to see greater collaboration and leadership from the US and China, a focus on methane reductions, as well as a focus on financing for developing countries and emerging technologies.

I am looking forward to seeing, more literally, the community of tireless advocates who will be present as well. Excited to see how everything unfolds!

Dame Professor Henrietta Moore

CGLN Fellow and Director of the UCL Global Prosperity Institute

Ahead of COP28, I am optimistic that progress can be made following the previous COPs. However, the present situation in the UK is particularly concerning, not only regarding our goal to reach to net-zero by 2050, but the implications of this for sustainable prosperity and future flourishing. In September, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the UK will effectively water down its key pledges, delaying the urgent action needed to reform our carbon-intense economic system. This is dangerous at a time where the climate and biodiversity crises have reached tipping points.

The UK Government’s position is sustaining an assumption that climate action and economic prosperity are incompatible, and the current dependency of the most vulnerable members of society on a carbon-intense economic system perpetuates this idea. However – as Simon Stiell pointed out at last year’s conference – the cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of action. Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz as well as other prominent economists and academics have argued that tackling climate change can enhance our growth and societal wellbeing. I hope to see this point reemphasised at COP28, to make clear that climate action is essential for ensuring progress towards social and economic systems characterised by longevity, diversity and flexibility.

Earlier in September, I joined the inaugural Africa Climate Summit (ACS) 2023 in Kenya, which focused on ecological adaptation and resilience, renewable energy, sustainable development, and financing for climate action. Conferences like COP and ACS provide an important floor upon which to bring together a variety of perspectives, and these discursive spaces should reflect the experiential and epistemic diversity that we wish to cultivate on a planetary level. This means not only representing indigenous participants and vulnerable communities around the COP table, but building upon these alternative frameworks and worldviews, by way of reshaping the direction and accessibility of COP28 and climate policies.

Ecological and social change should be tackled hand in hand, and must address the intersection of the climate emergency with the legacy of colonial expansion – as this has maintained the dependency upon fossil fuels and exploitative capital growth across the globe. Therefore, the glaring dominance of northern worldviews, knowledges and scientific approaches over efforts to decarbonise and mitigate is an irony that remains prevalent and alarming.

I hope it will become increasingly clear that climate injustice manifests itself in many forms including racism, capitalism, colonialism, gender-based discrimination and violence, and displacement of indigenous populations. This impacts dynamics between urban and rural life, technology and population health, bringing a complex set of intersecting challenges and creating new landscapes of vulnerability. These need to be tackled through a whole-systems approach which I hope will be a key feature at COP28, complementing measures such as the loss and damage fund announced last year. This way, we can continue refining our work towards a new vision of achieving shared prosperity for both people and planet.

Shraddha Nair

CGLN Member and YOUNGO Energy and Governance Coordinator

COP28 set to happen in the Oil & Gas hub of the world, as we know, has sparked a few conversations among climate activists.

But I believe that this a great opportunity for fossil fuel giants and some of the biggest emitting companies to come together to commit to curating an emissions reduction strategy (from all sectors) to limit the global temperature rise by 1.5°C and parallelly phase out fossil fuels by 2050.

Until COP27, policy makers have just addressed the need to have a strategy and only a few individual parties have made come forward with a strategy such as the EU. This COP, the world hopes to see an ambitious yet unifying commitment to reducing emissions and having a robust plan by COP29 for all parties.

Professor David Barling

CGLN Fellow and Co-director of the Centre for Agriculture, Food and Environmental Management Research at the University of Hertfordshire.

COP 28 has food high on its agenda, moving the focus to a vital element of both humankind's very existence and of its climate change emissions.

A key step will be to link the consumption of food to it's production. Agreeing both key goals and specific steps to change the balance of the consumption of foods will provide signals right along the food chain to producers, generating the kind of changes in the workings of food systems necessary to meet the climate reduction targets.

Sofia Barbeiro

CGLN Youth Advisory Councilmember for Climate Finance

Keeping in mind that 2023 will be approximately 1.4°C above pre-industrial average temperatures, I’m going to COP28 fearful about the future, but also hopeful about what it can deliver. I’ll be paying closer attention to the following topics:

The first is without surprise the global stocktake that aims to review collective progress in the implementation of Paris Agreement and guide the course of further climate action. As the target of staying well below 2 degrees Celsius and ideally below 1,5 degrees seems ever more remote, we risk looking away from mitigation, as countries are still falling short to turn their promises into on the ground action. A shift from government pledges to governments policymaking establishing concrete targets is crucial to avoid the failure of the mitigation work plan and to guarantee that emissions peaking before 2025.

Last year’s COP in Egypt confirmed that world leaders still lack the courage to commit to disinvesting in fossil fuels and thus a clear roadmap for the phase out of all fossil fuels is highly needed and expected this year.

COP27 also closed with a breakthrough agreement to deploy a Loss & Damage funding facility for vulnerable countries and to support victims of severe climate disasters, after decades of plead by small-island nations. This is a step in the right direction and I’m hopeful COP28 will deliver on the concrete way to operationalize this fund.

In addition, provision of finance towards achieving climate pledges is key. Besides the funding and operationalization of Loss & Damage as well as advances on the materialization of Article 6 – a mechanism intended to create instruments for a global carbon market, there is expectation on a new collective quantified goal on climate finance to strengthen current financial mechanisms for climate action, particularly in what pertains narrowing the gap between mitigation finance and adaptation finance.

Finally, it is worth noting that ocean has been gaining momentum for the past couple of years at COPs and the recognition that ocean action is climate action cannot go unnoticed. I thus hope that COP28 will reinforce our ability to look at marine and costal ecosystems as key enablers for both climate mitigation and climate adaptation and coastal communities’ resilience.

Maurits Dolmans

CGLN Fellow and Partner at CGSH

COP28 fears and hopes

What I expect to happen at COP28 is quite different from what I would like to see happen at COP28. The IPCC Synthesis Report is out, and it and the Global Stocktake are not happy reading. We are seeing global warming of 1.1 degrees already, with climate impacts more severe than expected, inadequate finance for adaptation, and we are on a path to 2.7 degrees warming. The UK Institute of Actuaries expects 50% of GDP destruction somewhere between 2070 and 2090. Re-read that sentence, and think about what that means for you, your children, and your grandchildren.

A fossil fuel fest?

There are serious indications that in spite of the UAE investing many billion in green and renewable energy, they will also use COP28 as an opportunity to sell even more in new oil and gas projects. And oil and gas companies are buckling down on fossil fuels, instead of using their windfall profits to become clean energy companies (as they should, if they want to survive). This, even though the International Energy Agency has made it clear that we will blow the world’s carbon budget if we do. Indeed, it appears we have only seven years of carbon budget left if we wish to stay within the Paris Agreement goals. This, and the outsized presence of the fossil fuel industry, are worrying.

But I refuse to give up hope, if only because last year’s experience suggested that some of the side events and ideas are truly inspiring, and a lot of connections are made that could accelerate transition. And the IEA and IPCC confirm we can still keep 1.5 alive, to survive.

Room for compromise?

There will be vigorous debate on the ongoing shortfalls in the Loss and Damage Fund, combined with debates on which countries have to reduce emissions first, and whether fossil fuels should be phased out. There should be room for compromise here: contributions from the richest economies in exchange for transition by the emerging technology (from everyone benefits). Clearly, the richest 10% that is responsible for 50% of emissions should carry most of the burden of transition. I also sympathise with the idea that every country should compensate for at least a portion of historical emissions (including in former colonies). It is odd, though, that the list of contributors to the Loss and Damage Fund would exclude countries that qualified as developing economies 25 years ago, but that have developed in the meantime, like oil and gas economies of the Middle East, as well as China and India.

China emits almost 30% of global emissions (twice that of the US, although the US emits 2x as much per capita than China). I do not think that past emissions (at a time when we didn’t know the consequences, and had a significant carbon budget left) are an unqualified excuse for newly emerged economies to keep emitting, now that we know what the consequences are, and there is very little carbon budget left. Past emissions by one group don’t justify the same volume of future emissions by another. But they do justify demands for proper transition of north-western economies, contributions to Just Energy Transition Partnerships, payments to a Loss and Damage Fund, and realistic transition planning with the strongest moving fastest. There should be room for common ground for humanity. This is the biggest task at COP28: a phase-out; and at least an end to fossil fuel subsidies. Like only Nixon could go to China, I am hoping against fear that Sultan Al Jaber can make this happen. His reputation depends on it

What I would like to see is a worldwide agreement on carbon taxation, with proceeds going to Loss and Damage, and Just Transition. That won’t happen. But why can’t Western countries do what Canada does: A carbon tax, the proceeds of which go to families, businesses, farmers and indigenous groups in the same province where it was collected? Most taxpayers will get more money back than they pay in carbon taxes. This gives them the right economic incentives to reduce consumption of energy from fossil fuels, and to use the money more wisely.

Glimmers of hope at the horizon.

I take some comfort that China and United States were able to have a dialogue in spite of geopolitical tension; a temporary compromise was found to manage the Loss and Damage Fund; there is a methane summit to curb methane emissions (such a strong greenhouse gas); the financial sector is thinking about Macro Stewardship and fiduciary duties; there is a growing coalition to stop the financing of new unabated coal and fossil fuel projects; there is a plan to triple global renewable electricity capacity by 2030; and energy innovation is taking off, like thorium molten salt power generation that could be a sea change for the climate crisis (to be discussed at a COP28 Nuclear Day). There is also the inspiration of the Pope, King Charles, and teams like Christiana Figueres’ Global Optimism (who podcast “Outrage and Optimism”, and help arrange events like Later Is Too Late: Tipping the Balance from Negative to Positive).

So I will go, with trepidation and some hope, to talk about my little corners of sustainable antitrust and climate technology innovation, and to learn about others’ work (with my travel guilt a bit assuaged by responsible tree planting and soil restoration to absorb 20x my emissions courtesy of the lovely Alana Lea of iGivetrees and the inspired shipbuilders and treeplanters at Astillero Verde).

Fingers crossed.

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