The Countdown to COP28 – What Should the UK Government Keep in Mind?

This year is forecast to be among the hottest on record. Countries like Spain have experienced record-breaking weather over Easter; other countries like Pakistan have been devastated by floods; the UK has experienced its hottest June on record; many countries, likr Canada, have had record-breaking wildfires. The impacts of these events is unprecedented and is a sign that climate change is running riot in our world.

The 28th UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP28) is now less than six months away and is an opportunity for world leaders to re-affirm their commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and for non-governmental organisations to increase pressure on countries to do more on climate action and not to ignore the devastating impact of these phenomena .

In 2015 at COP21, world leaders came together to draft the Paris Agreement, which is a legally binding international treaty. It entered into force in November 2016, with 194 Parties (193 States plus the European Union) joining it. The agreement aims to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels; it also sets out measures to provide financing to developing countries to mitigate climate change, strengthen resilience and enhance abilities to adapt to climate impacts. This agreement is now on a knife-edge. Graham Stuart, the UK Envoy to COP28, said the meeting would be critical to the race under way to “capture the investment, industries and jobs” needed for the transition. “We must keep momentum towards COP28 because we are running out of time,” he said.

The Emirati presidency of COP 28 has stated that it wishes to focus on solidarity between the countries of the North and the South and the energy transition, when it hosts COP28 in Dubai between November 30 and December 12. In addition, the United Arab Emirates has stressed that the upcoming conference should aim to create a more inclusive and accessible space to push for mitigation solutions, to raise ambition, and to ensure a more equitable access to climate finance.

At a COP28 pre-event, world leaders recently met for the Bonn Climate Change Conference, seen as an important foreshadow to the kind of discussions that will take place in Dubai. Despite significant frustrations, regarding Parties’ failure to agree on an agenda for much of the two-week session, some important headway was made. Parties and representatives of civil society used the meeting to focus on the challenge of post-2030 ambition, by advancing their work on the Global Stocktake that will conclude at COP28. The Global Stocktake is designed to drive the Paris Agreement’s ambitious cycles and will provide the basis for the next round of Parties’ emissions’ reduction targets for 2035 and 2040, as well as new efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change and to raise financial and technical resources to support developing countries.

As a previous COP host, the United Kingdom can play a key role in ensuring that COP28 not only meets – but exceeds – the expectations of the international community. We are seeing the impact of climate change in the UK, with erratic rainfall patterns leading to drought and water shortages, with floods, and with record-breaking summer temperatures causing damage to infrastructure such as roads and railways. In disappointing news, UK fossil fuel imports from authoritarian petrostates surged to £19.3bn in the year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The International Energy Agency has stated that , in order to achieve net zero, the world must achieve “huge declines in the use of coal, oil and gas”, requiring “nothing short of the complete transformation of the global energy system”. The Integrated Review (IR) Refresh makes clear that “the UK’s first thematic priority remains tackling climate change, environmental damage and biodiversity loss, given the urgency of making progress before 2030”.

The Strategic Framework builds on that, setting the direction for the UK’s integrated approach to international action on nature and climate to 2030.

The framework sets out an ambitious vision for 2030, to:

  • keep global warming below 1.5°C by halving global emissions.
  • build resilience to current and future climate impacts.
  • halt and reverse biodiversity loss.

Although the publication of the Strategic Framework is a positive step forward in the UK’s commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, there is significant work to do in fields around climate finance (including for climate-related loss and damage of developing countries), reducing dependency on fossil fuels, lowering carbon emissions, protecting global food systems, and linking actions addressing the climate and biodiversity crises. There is an opportunity for the UK to, once again, be a key leader in this space, building on its experience of hosting COP26 in Glasgow in 2021.

Take Action

At a time when climate leadership is needed more than ever before and with COP28 looming, we are asking supporters to act and email your local MPs as well as Graham Stuart, the Minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero; asking them to ensure that COP28 meets the challenges.

In particular, we highlight the following priorities for the UK government as they ramp up preparations for the conference.

  1. Phase Out Fossil Fuels: We’re seeing an intensification of fossil fuel production in the short term as countries attempt to meet their energy needs. However, we know the technology is there to decarbonise high-emission, high-demand sectors such as steel and concrete if investment is forthcoming. Decarbonising steel provides a unique opportunity to scale up renewable energy and clean hydrogen infrastructure for heavy industries. Wind turbines, solar panels, electric cars, sustainable buildings, and low carbon ships are central to a zero-carbon economy.
  2. Protect Global Food Systems: Food insecurity remains an urgent problem. Extreme weather events, conflict and Covid have exacerbated existing issues, with the2023 Global Report on Food Crises finding that 258 million people are now impacted by acute food insecurity. Current suggestions to ensure that people have access to healthy and nutritious food include the availability of safe and effective transport to reach food markets, and the introduction of technology, which can be adapted to different contexts. For example, research has been undertaken to improve soil management in agricultural yields. For years, harmful chemicals have been injected into the soil, which do more harm than good to people and the environment, killing both the plant and the soil underneath it. As a result of new technological advancements, we now have dependable biological fertilizers that are affordable and effective However, there is more to do especially with disruptive weather patterns affecting food production and food access.
  3. Connect the Climate and Biodiversity Crises: At the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal (COP15), many experts and politicians emphasised the links between these crises and, crucially, the common solutions that can support both. That summit delivered breakthroughs that could have implications for COP28. Progress here will support Sustainable Development Goals and reduce emissions, while supporting climate change adaptation. COP28 provides a crucial opportunity to maintain momentum on the targets of COP15 while driving the climate agenda forward to 2030.
  4. Recognise the Needs of All People in the Mitigation of Climate Change: The Paris Agreement commits parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while considering “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs.” These transitions are also an opportunity to address inequity and inequality. COP28 is an important opportunity to learn how governments are tackling these challenges and what can be done effectively to integrate just transition considerations into mitigation and adaptation efforts. A newloss and damage fund for the most vulnerable countries was introduced at COP27. However, the implementation of this fund is still unclear. Addressing how it operates is one of the vital questions to be answered at COP28.

There are several issues on the agenda of the two-week summit, including a review of the Paris Agreement, an agreement on a global goal for climate adaptation, and the establishment of a finance facility for climate-change-related loss and damage for the most vulnerable countries. But COP28 has the potential to achieve much more than that: it can become a watershed where COP meetings transition from multilateral negotiations to bold decision-making to advance climate action. As people and communities continue to struggle with rising energy costs, food insecurity and extreme weather events, it’s not enough to talk about pledges. Action is needed now, not in a few years’ time when the situation will have deteriorated further.


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