- Parties are likely to call for the tripling of renewable energy, improving energy efficiency and a reduction in methane emissions at the climate conference COP28 that starts on November 30.
- Climate finance for countries to adapt to the effects of climate change fell by $4 billion at a time when developed countries have pledged to double their contributions.
- Parties will either accept recommendations made on the loss and damage fund or renegotiate them at the COP28.
As the 28th annual Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change draws near, countries and Party blocks are evaluating their positions on topics that could signal the future course of climate action globally.
The United States of America and China issued a joint statement agreeing to collaborate on a number of areas ahead of the meeting, scheduled between November 30 and December 12, in Dubai. The areas include advancing the development of carbon capture, utilisation and storage technologies (CCUS), reductions in methane and other greenhouse gasses and a promise to reduce emissions economy-wide. This statement, by two of the world’s largest emitters, indicates they want to talk about these issues – particularly methane – in a big way at the COP28, says Avantika Goswami, programme manager, at the Centre for Science and Environment.
Even though climate change is fast becoming a mainstream topic of interest, with individuals, corporations and governments pledging to take action in their own capacities, outcomes from the UNFCCC negotiations move the needle on climate action at a global scale. The annual climate COP is also an important platform for developing and vulnerable countries to collectively voice their needs in light of escalating climate impacts.
COP28 will also be the first meeting to discuss the outcomes of the Global Stocktake (GST) – an exercise assessing the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Other key issues that are expected to be discussed at COP28 include climate finance, increasing climate mitigation ambitions, and operationalising the loss and damage fund.
The Global Stocktake
Countries will have the opportunity to put forward their views on what political messages should come out of the technical assessment of the GST carried out earlier this year. The GST is meant to inform Parties of progress before they ratchet up their climate goals in 2025.
In its submission to the UNFCCC, India, representing the Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC), which comprises 24 countries, including host United Arab Emirates, said the GST should reflect the UNFCCC’s principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) based on historical emissions. As priority areas, the LMDC has listed including progress on goals made before the Paris Agreement was signed, and a “considerable focus on adaptation,” finance and support, and loss and damage. “Holding historical polluters accountable is something the Indian delegation will want to see through the global stocktake,” Goswami told Mongabay-India.
These interests are likely to diverge from what developed country blocs want to see reflected in the GST. The U.S., in its submission, highlighted the need for greater effort on mitigating climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the U.S., “the scope of countries that are capable of such support has evolved considerably since 2015, and the stocktake should reflect their responsibility in the decade of the 2020s and beyond.” This could mean widening the climate fund donor base to include some developing countries – a proposition that developing countries have called unjust.
The European Union emphasised the need to honour agreements like the Glasgow Pact made at the COP26, which called for the “phase down of unabated coal power” – considered contentious because it singles out coal, of which developing countries like India are a main consumer.
Keeping the ‘1.5 degrees’ alive
Parties are likely to call for the tripling of renewable energy, improving energy efficiency and a reduction in methane emissions – a greenhouse gas that has evaded close scrutiny in the negotiations till recently. All of these points were raised by COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber in a letter issued to all Parties, indicating they will be a priority for the Presidency.
The UN Emissions Gap report said that if all countries meet their pledges, temperature rise would still be between 2.5 and 2.9 degrees above pre-industrial levels – far exceeding the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit warming to “well below” 2 degrees and preferably 1.5 degrees. Since temperature rise has already reached 1.1 degrees, emissions need to fall by 42 percent by 2030 in order for the 1.5 degrees goal to stay within reach, which means more concerted efforts for emissions reduction.
Developing countries are unlikely to agree to increase their climate mitigation goals without adequate finance to back it, said Avinash Perusad, professor emeritus at Gresham College and Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of Barbados. Finance for mitigation, like installing solar, is many times higher in the Global South than in the Global North. “Ambition without finance is empty ambition. Forcing countries to be ambitious is meaningless if you don’t give them the money to do it,” he said during a pre-COP media briefing in Delhi.
The proposition to phase out all fossil fuels – as opposed to singling out coal – was a sticking point between developed and developing countries at the COP27 in Egypt. The COP28 President has said several times that a phase “down” of all fossil fuels is “inevitable,” however, the extent to a the call to phase out all fossil fuels at the COP28 will be supported “will be a major question,” said Goswami.
Climate finance and adaptation
Climate finance is considered a key means to implement the Paris Agreement and other measures to adapt to climate change. Developed countries failed to deliver $100 billion in climate finance by 2020 – a pledge that was made in 2009. A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released last week, says that by 2021 developed countries mobilised $89.6 billion, and that “preliminary and as yet unverified data,” suggested the goal was likely to have been met last year.
The OECD report revealed that contributions towards adaptation – actions that help prepare communities and ecosystems for climate change – had dropped by $4 billion, to $21 billion. The UN’s Adaptation Gap report says contributions to adaptation need to go up by 10 to 18 times to support the adaptation needs of developing countries. The drop in adaptation finance means developed countries will have to mobilise even more funds in order to double their contributions by 2025 – a pledge that was made at the COP26 in Glasgow.
COP28 will also see Parties negotiate a framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) – a global target to improve climate resilience across the world. Unlike climate mitigation, which involves the metrics of cutting greenhouse gasses to limit temperature rise, there are no clear metrics for the adaptive needs of regions and countries. So far, a committee tasked with designing a framework for the Goal has outlined the possible elements the Goal will need to consider, without elaborating on any metrics.
Parties will also discuss the New Collective Quantified Goal on climate finance – a new climate finance goal that will supersede the $100 billion target set in 2009. The deadline to set this goal is 2024.
Loss and damage
Parties will deliberate upon a framework for the loss and damage fund – a fund catering specifically to particularly vulnerable countries facing the irreversible and destructive impacts of climate change. A Transitional Committee has made recommendations for what the fund should look like after nearly a year of discussion.
Developing countries wished to include a quantum of finance needed for loss and damage, as well as strong language on who should contribute to the fund, both of which were countered by developed countries.
The draft proposal suggests the fund be located in the World Bank for an interim period of four years, after which it can be reviewed and hosted elsewhere. The draft proposal stands to be re-negotiated at the COP28 if countries oppose the Transitional Committee’s recommendations. The United States, which made last minute objections to the proposal as it was being finalised, has indicated it will come on board with the Committee’s recommendations.
Banner image: Country flags outside the COP28 venue in Dubai. Photo by UN Climate Change/Flickr.