Editorial Feature

COP28: Highlights and Key Takeaways of the United Nations Climate Change Conference

COP28, the official grand United Nations Climate Change Conference, took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 30 November 2023 until 13 December 2023. The COP is a global forum where nations convene to establish measures addressing the climate crisis.

cop28

Image Credit: d.ee_angelo/Shutterstock.com

Objectives include limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius, assisting vulnerable communities in adapting to the effects of climate change, and attaining net-zero emissions by 2050.

COP28 presented an ideal platform to identify worldwide strategies for minimizing global warming effectively, guide nations in enhancing their Nationally Determined Contributions (national climate plans) by 2025, optimize the ongoing transition toward sustainable energy sources, and ultimately fulfill the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.

The Importance of COP28

COP28 focused on implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement, with crucial details negotiated and agreed upon in previous years. The primary emphasis was on escalating ambition and action.

Recent findings from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have revealed that reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 is necessary, compared to 2019. Taking crucial steps is essential to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, including increased frequency and intensity of droughts, heat waves, and rainfall. COP28 served as the platform for all the world's countries to work together and devise a unanimous plan to battle climate change.

A Brief Overview of the Global Climate in 2023

The World Metrological Organization has recently published a report providing an overview of the global climate in 2023. The report has declared 2023 as the warmest year in the previous recorded 174 years, while the worldwide mean sea level reached a record level, indicating a severe increase in the melting of glaciers.

global mean temperature difference, COP28

A graph indicating the global mean temperature anomalies (Range: 1850 to 2023). Image Credit: World Metrological Organization. Available at: https://wmo.int/sites/default/files/2023-11/WMO%20Provisional%20State%20of%20the%20Global%20Climate%202023.pdf 

Furthermore, the concentration of greenhouse gases, particularly the leading three gases, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, reached their highest-ever levels.

Globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 417.9 ± 0.2 parts per million (ppm), methane (CH4) reached 1923 ± 2 parts per billion (ppb), and nitrous oxide (N2O) reached 335.8 ± 0.1 ppb. These levels are 150%, 266%, and 124% of pre-industrial levels, respectively. The rate of increase for CH4 was the second-highest on record, following 2021, and the rate of increase for N2O was the highest on record.

COP28 Agreement: No More Fossil Fuels

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) concluded with an agreement marking the start of the end of the fossil fuel era. The accord emphasized a rapid, fair, and equitable transition, focusing on significant emissions reductions and increased financial support.

Acknowledging the imperative to fulfill the collective objective of the Paris Agreement, which involves limiting global warming to well below 2 °C and striving for 1.5 °C, it is crucial to intensify the adoption of renewable energy and enhance energy efficiency on a substantial scale by 2030. This acceleration is pivotal for transitioning toward energy systems devoid of unmitigated fossil fuel usage.

The two-week conference, attended by 154 Heads of State and Government, set targets for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) and its framework. This framework outlines the global consensus on adaptation objectives and underscores the necessity for financial, technological, and capacity-building assistance to attain them.

Green Climate Fund: Center Stage at COP28

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) experienced increased support during COP28, securing new pledges from six countries, bringing the total to a record USD 12.8 billion from 31 countries, with more contributions anticipated.

Eight donor governments also committed over USD 174 million to the Least Developed Countries Fund and Special Climate Change Fund. New pledges of nearly USD 188 million were made to the Adaptation Fund at COP28. However, despite these pledges, the global stocktake emphasized that more substantial financial commitments are required to meet the extensive needs of developing countries for clean energy transitions, national climate plans, and adaptation efforts.

To secure the necessary funding, the global stock take highlighted the need to reform the multilateral financial structure and accelerate the creation of innovative financial sources.

During COP28, ongoing discussions focused on establishing a “new collective quantified goal on climate finance” by 2024, considering the needs and priorities of developing countries. Commencing with a baseline of USD 100 billion per year, this new goal will serve as a cornerstone for shaping and subsequently executing national climate plans, due by 2025.

COP28: Official Establishment of Funding for Developing Countries

The COP28 meeting led to the establishment of new funding opportunities aimed at helping developing countries battle the hazards of global warming. The Fund seeks to assist countries in enhancing their efforts, particularly in responding to loss and damage by environmental effects. These include climate-related emergencies, rising sea levels, displacement, relocation, migration, insufficient climate information and data, and the necessity for climate-resilient reconstruction and recovery.

It also supports the global pursuit of sustainable development goals and poverty eradication.

The Fund will be overseen and managed by a Board, serving as its decision-making entity. The Board will be tasked with establishing the strategic direction of the Fund and overseeing its governance, operational methods, policies, frameworks, and work program, which includes making pertinent funding decisions.

Initiatives, projects, and other endeavors backed by the Fund will undergo regular assessments to gauge their impact, efficiency, and effectiveness. A framework for measuring results, accompanied by guidelines and suitable performance indicators, will be formulated, deliberated upon, and endorsed by the Board.

The performance of initiatives, projects, and other activities against these indicators will be periodically examined to facilitate ongoing enhancements in the Fund's impact, effectiveness, and operational performance.

Global Cooling Pledge at COP28: Aim to Reduce Emissions from Cooling Equipment

Implementing strategic measures to reduce the energy consumption of cooling systems could result in a substantial 60% reduction in projected 2050 sectoral emissions, as per the report published in COP28.

This initiative would facilitate universal access to critical cooling services, easing the burden on energy grids and yielding trillions of dollars in savings by 2050.

The comprehensive plan focuses on sustainable cooling practices in three key areas: passive cooling, enhanced energy efficiency standards, and an accelerated phase-out of refrigerants that contribute to climate warming.

The current trajectory indicates that cooling equipment consumes 20% of total electricity, a figure expected to increase by more than 40% by 2050. This dangerous trend forecasted by experts highlights increased greenhouse gas emissions from power consumption and the release of refrigerant gases, which often possess higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

Cooling-related emissions are anticipated to constitute over 10% of global emissions by 2050. Implementing the COP28 recommendations could substantially reduce projected 2050 emissions by approximately 3.8 billion tons. This initiative would result in a noteworthy reduction in electricity bills for end users, amounting to US$1 trillion in 2050 and a cumulative US$17 trillion between 2022 and 2050.

In particular, the COP28 report highlights that passive cooling measures have the potential to decrease the growth in demand for cooling capacity by 24% in 2050, generating capital cost savings by avoiding the need for up to US$3 trillion in new cooling equipment and reducing emissions by 1.3 billion tons of CO2.

COP28 Focusing on Agriculture and Food Sector: A Golden Solution for Climate Problems

Climate change and food security are closely linked, and global agri-food systems are crucial in addressing climate challenges. The climate crisis impacts the world's ability to produce an adequate food supply.

Various effects on water, soil, biodiversity, and the frequency of extreme weather events are contributing to increased food insecurity by reducing crop yields, livestock productivity, and the potential of fisheries and aquaculture as food sources.

Despite increased global climate finance, support for agri-food systems remains below 20% of climate-related development finance in 2021. The Emirates Declaration, launched at COP28 and signed by over 130 countries, outlines goals such as expanding resilience efforts, advancing food security, and supporting workers in the sector.

COP28 UAE Climate and Health Declaration: Future of Climate-Resilient Health Systems

On 2 December 2023, the COP28 presidency, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, introduced the 'COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health' to expedite actions safeguarding public health from escalating climate impacts.

This groundbreaking Declaration, endorsed by 123 countries, recognizes the imperative for governments to shield communities and enhance healthcare systems to address climate-related health challenges, including extreme heat, air pollution, and infectious diseases.

The goal is to promote cooperation on challenges related to human, animal, environmental, and climate health, including the implementation of a One Health approach, addressing environmental factors influencing health, enhancing research on the connections between environmental and climatic elements and antimicrobial resistance, and intensifying endeavors for the early detection of zoonotic spill-overs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to pandemics is forecasted to be achieved.

New financial commitments supporting these commitments were disclosed, including a USD 300 million pledge by the Global Fund, USD 100 million by the Rockefeller Foundation for climate and health solutions, and up to GBP 54 million announced by the UK Government. This announcement responds to the rise in annual deaths from polluted air, increasing heat-related illnesses and fatalities, and the exposure of 189 million people to extreme weather-related events each year.

COP28: Aim to Protect Forests

COP28 continued the momentum from the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forests and Land Use, where over 140 world leaders committed in 2021 to halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by the decade's end.

This year, signatories issued the Joint Statement on Climate, Nature, and People, pledging to increase finance, involve Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and enhance data collection to address the dual challenges of climate and nature.

Several new financing mechanisms were announced during the World Climate Action Summit, including $2.5 billion mobilized for nature protection and restoration, Brazil's proposal for a global Tropical Forests Forever fund, and agreements by the LEAF Coalition with Costa Rica and Ghana for jurisdictional REDD+ credits exceeding $60 million.

Nuclear Energy at COP28

At COP28, history was made as, for the first time since the inception of the annual climate summits in 1995, 198 signatory countries to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), officially advocated for expediting the deployment of low-emission technologies, including nuclear energy.

This call aims to facilitate deep and rapid decarbonization, particularly in challenging sectors such as industry and the low-carbon production of hydrogen.

More than 20 countries declared their intention to triple nuclear capacity, urging international financial institutions, including the World Bank and regional development banks, to incorporate nuclear energy in their lending policies. The declaration also emphasized the importance of secure supply chains for scaling nuclear technology deployment.

At COP28, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and French President Emmanuel Macron announced the organization of the world's inaugural Nuclear Energy Summit, scheduled to take place in Brussels in March 2024. This summit aims to capitalize on global support for nuclear power.

Anticipating the participation of around 30 countries, along with industry leaders, experts, and civil society representatives, the summit will also feature the IAEA's Atom4NetZero initiative. This initiative provides decision-makers with comprehensive, data-driven energy scenario modeling, incorporating the complete potential of nuclear power in achieving net-zero emissions.

In short, COP28 brought the world leaders together on a global platform to battle global warming, climate change, and several issues related to these hazards.

References and Further Reading

COP28 UAE, (2023). COP28 UAE DECLARATION ON CLIMATE AND HEALTH. [Online] Available at: https://www.cop28.com/en/cop28-uae-declaration-on-climate-and-health [Accessed 18 December 2023].

COP28 UAE, (2023). Over 120 countries back COP28 UAE Climate and Health Declaration delivering breakthrough moment for health in climate talks. [Online] Available at: https://www.cop28.com/en/news/2023/12/Health-Declaration-delivering-breakthrough-moment-for-health-in-climate-talks [Accessed 17 December 2023].

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, (2023). COP28: Global agrifood systems are the climate solution, FAO Director-General tells world leaders. [Online] Available at: https://www.fao.org/newsroom/detail/cop28-global-agrifood-systems-are-the-climate-solution--fao-director-general-tells-world-leaders/en [Accessed 17 December 2023].

International Atomic Energy Agency, (2023). Nuclear Energy Makes History as Final COP28 Agreement Calls for Faster Deployment. [Online] Available at: https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/nuclear-energy-makes-history-as-final-cop28-agreement-calls-for-faster-deployment [Accessed 18 December 2023].

UNFCC, (2023). Operationalization of the new funding arrangements, including a fund, for responding to loss and damage referred to in paragraphs 2–3 of decisions 2/CP.27 and 2/CMA.4. [Online] Available at: https://unfccc.int/documents/636558 [Accessed 15 December 2023].

United Nations Climate Change, (2023). About COP 28. [Online] Available at: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/conferences/un-climate-change-conference-united-arab-emirates-nov/dec-2023/about-cop-28#Why-is-COP28-important [Accessed 14 December 2023].

United Nations Climate Change, (2023). COP28 Agreement Signals “Beginning of the End” of the Fossil Fuel Era. [Online] Available at: https://unfccc.int/news/cop28-agreement-signals-beginning-of-the-end-of-the-fossil-fuel-era [Accessed 16 December 2023].

United Nations Environment Programme, (2023). Key measures could slash predicted 2050 emissions from cooling sector. [Online] Available at: https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/key-measures-could-slash-predicted-2050-emissions-cooling-sector [Accessed 16 December 2023].

World Metrological Organization, (2023). Provisional State of the Global Climate 2023. [Online] Available at: https://wmo.int/files/provisional-state-of-global-climate-2023 [Accessed 14 December 2023].

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Ibtisam Abbasi

Written by

Ibtisam Abbasi

Ibtisam graduated from the Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering. During his academic career, he has worked on several research projects and has successfully managed several co-curricular events such as the International World Space Week and the International Conference on Aerospace Engineering. Having won an English prose competition during his undergraduate degree, Ibtisam has always been keenly interested in research, writing, and editing. Soon after his graduation, he joined AzoNetwork as a freelancer to sharpen his skills. Ibtisam loves to travel, especially visiting the countryside. He has always been a sports fan and loves to watch tennis, soccer, and cricket. Born in Pakistan, Ibtisam one day hopes to travel all over the world.

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