The 28th annual meeting of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) commenced in Dubai, marking the latest round of UN-facilitated climate talks. The urgency of the planetary crisis was underscored by UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell, who cautioned that the world is taking “baby steps” in addressing the daunting challenges posed by climate change.
Slow Progress and Urgent Action
Stiell expressed concern about the sluggish pace of progress in tackling climate impacts, emphasizing the need for bold and swift action. He noted that humanity is at a critical juncture, facing the hottest year ever recorded and grappling with the devastating consequences of extreme weather events. The UN weather agency’s provisional report, released just before COP28, highlighted the alarming climate records shattered and the widespread devastation caused by recent weather phenomena.
Stiell issued a stark warning, indicating that the planet has approximately six years before reaching a point of no return, where the Earth’s capacity to cope with emissions would be exhausted, pushing beyond the 1.5-degree limit set by the Paris Agreement. Against this backdrop, he urged countries to take immediate action to align with a 1.5-degree world and avoid the perilous trajectory leading to a 3-degree temperature increase by the end of the century.
Ambitious Climate Contributions
A central focus of COP28 is the call for ambitious new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) from all nations. NDCs are critical components of the Paris Agreement, outlining each country’s plans for financial, adaptive, and mitigative measures to combat climate change. Stiell emphasized the necessity for commitments in 2025 that align with the 1.5-degree target, stressing the gravity of the situation and the collective responsibility to secure a sustainable future.
Global Stocktake and Critical Choices
COP28 is set to culminate in a ‘Global Stocktake,’ evaluating progress on key provisions of the Paris accord, including emissions reduction, climate resilience, and financial support for vulnerable nations. Stiell presented COP28 delegations with two options: acknowledging the lack of progress and adjusting existing practices or committing to a transformative shift in energy systems and a just transition. He warned against the consequences of failing to signal the terminal decline of the fossil fuel era, emphasizing the potential for a terminal decline for humanity itself.
Accountability and Climate Justice
Stiell underscored the importance of accountability for climate promises, asserting that attendance at COP28 does not merely serve as a checkbox for the year. He committed the UNFCCC to track all announcements and initiatives, ensuring that promises made during the conference continue to serve the planet long after the cameras have gone.
The procedural opening on Thursday set the stage for the conference’s earnest beginning on Friday with a ‘climate action summit.’ This summit will feature the UN Secretary General and world leaders presenting national statements outlining their governments’ actions to address the global climate crisis. As COP28 unfolds in Dubai, the world awaits critical decisions and commitments that will shape the future of our planet in the face of an escalating climate emergency.