COP28 Thematic Day One and Two: Reflections on World Climate Action Summit
December 3, 2023
You drag yourself out of bed at dawn, still bleary-eyed from the long journey the day before. But excitement courses through your veins as you realise where you are – the COP28 in Dubai. This is it, the event you’ve been anticipating for a year.
I had to participate virtually as it was closed to most of us. However, wide shots of the Expo interior and the narrow walkways already bustling with attendees from all over the globe, sharing my passion for tackling the urgent issue of climate change. You could feel the energy in the massive plenary hall. World leaders, scientists, activists, and CEOs are gathered together in one place with a single purpose: taking action now to safeguard our planet for future generations.
And so it begins
As global leaders gathered in Dubai this December for the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28), the world watched in anticipation of decisive action on the climate crisis. The annual COP was the flagship international climate negotiations, assessments, and policymaking event. COP28 was the first global stocktake since adopting the Paris Agreement in 2015.
The World Climate Action Summit kicked off the two-week December 1st and 2nd conference. This opening high-level segment set the vision and tone for the complex negotiations. As climate change escalated in urgency, the Summit brought together key stakeholders to catalyse inclusive, accountable collaborations for breakthrough climate initiatives.
The Genesis of the World Climate Action Summit
Since the first COP in 1995, these meetings have steadily built momentum for coordinated climate action. Milestones like the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement emerged from such gatherings of heads of state, civil society leaders, and climate experts. COP26 two years ago in Glasgow kept 1.5°C of warming within reach if promises were realised. COP27 in Egypt established the loss and damage fund.
COP28 offered the chance to implement those bold pledges. The World Climate Action Summit was uniquely positioned to spur governments and non-state actors into action. Initiated by the COP26 high-level champions Nigel Topping and Mahmoud Mohieldin, the Summit was conceived to turn political and corporate commitments into tangible strategies.
I found myself with so much content that I had to reduce this summary; however, when the conference concludes, I will write much more to cover the enormous detail the thousands of delegates discussed. Bear with me, please!
Day One of the Summit
Day one kicked off with the World Climate Action Summit with bold ideas.
Top line statements
Italy and France led the charge, each pledging up to 100 million euros to help developing nations deal with the devastating effects of climate change like droughts, floods and storms. UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced the country will allocate $30 billion to fund renewable energy projects and new technologies that reduce emissions over the next seven years.
During a high-level ministerial meeting on adaptation, Egypt and the UN urged countries to double the money allocated to helping communities adapt to changes that can no longer be avoided. Mountains and small island nations are particularly vulnerable, with leaders calling for more global support.
While pledges are encouraging, developing countries stressed that actual dollars must start flowing immediately. The $100 billion per year promised by developed nations has yet to materialise, with data for 2021 expected to show again the goal was missed
All parties agree the science is clear: we must cut emissions in half by 2030 to have a shot at limiting warming to 1.5°C.
Presidents, prime ministers and ministers came together to rally behind the goals of the COP conference.
- President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE: Emphasized UAE’s commitment to net zero by 2050 and announced a USD 30 billion fund for climate solutions by 2030.
- UN Secretary-General António Guterres: Called for drastic emissions cuts, ending fossil fuel use, and accelerating a just transition. He highlighted the need for Global Stocktake (GST) to support multilateral bank reform.
- King Charles III, UK: Advocated for combining public and private finance with innovative tools like risk guarantees.
- President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil: Spoke about inequalities exacerbating climate change effects and committed to ambitious national climate goals.
- Isabel Prestes Da Fonseca, Instituto Zág: Stressed the importance of protecting nature and Indigenous Peoples.
- UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell: Noted the urgent nature of climate change in this hottest year ever.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India: Mentioned India’s progress in meeting its NDC targets and called for fair sharing of the global carbon budget.
- Dennis Francis, President of the UN General Assembly: Discussed the impact of sea-level rise on small island states.
The Sharm el-Sheikh Mitigation Ambition and Implementation Work Programme saw various parties express views on improving the programme, such as expanding dialogues to include additional sectors and organising regional dialogues.
Loss and Damage
At the beginning of COP28, there was a significant focus on loss and damage, which refers to the irreversible and permanent harm caused by climate change that cannot be adapted to. This was a major breakthrough, as loss and damage had previously been a contentious issue at climate negotiations.
On the first day of COP28, countries unexpectedly adopted a framework for setting up a fund to help the most vulnerable countries cope with loss and damage. This was a historic moment, as it was the first time countries had agreed to establish a concrete mechanism to address loss and damage.
Long-term Finance discussions revolved around tracking the USD 100 billion commitment, with developing countries expressing disappointment over unmet goals.
The first Global Stocktake involved discussions around a “tool” developed for negotiations, focusing on human rights, Indigenous Peoples, gender, and intergenerational equity.
Reporting from Non-Annex I Parties was discussed, focusing on supporting developing countries in fulfilling obligations under the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF).
Parties discussed capacity building under the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement, focusing on addressing implementation gaps and ensuring equitable geographic representation.
Discussions on Climate Action on Agriculture and Food Security showed divergent views on the basis for discussions.
In the Corridors
The first day concludes with reflections on the contrasting atmospheres in the venue, where world leaders showcased unity against the climate crisis. At the same time, negotiators struggled to find common ground, especially in finance discussions.
Day Two of the Summit
Day two kicked off with the World Climate Action Summit with the heavy-hitting comments out of the way and onto details.
High-Level Roundtable on Mountains and Climate Change
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepal: Emphasized the need for collaboration among mountain countries to incorporate mountain-related issues into all UNFCCC frameworks and negotiation processes. The importance of the GST and Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) in prioritising mountains and the cryosphere was highlighted.
Sharm el-Sheikh Mitigation Ambition and Implementation Work Programme: Discussions centred around a note prepared by Co-Facilitators Kay Harrison (New Zealand) and Carlos Fuller (Belize) to assist with consultations. Parties could not agree to use the note as a basis for consultations.
Article 6 Guidance
Discussions focused on operationalising cooperative approaches and Article 6.4 (mechanism) of the Paris Agreement. Parties debated the definition of a “cooperative approach” and the recommendations on activities involving removals.
Glasgow–Sharm el-Sheikh Work Programme on the Global Goal on Adaptation: Co-Facilitators Mattias Frumerie (Sweden) and Janine Felson (Belize) noted areas of convergence, including overarching statements on GGA’s global aspirations, avoidance of additional reporting burdens, and the importance of means of implementation.
- Guidance to the Global Environment Facility (GEF): Developing countries expressed concerns over access restrictions and called for more direct access modalities. Discussions included gender responsiveness and Indigenous Peoples’ issues.
- Standing Committee on Finance (SCF): Debates on financial flows consistent with low GHG emissions and climate-resilient development. The African Group emphasised just transition pathways for developing countries.
Parties debated providing financial and technical support for reporting under the Paris Agreement.
Discussing capacity building under the Convention, Kyoto Protocol, and Paris Agreement, developing countries proposed adding a reference to CBDR and responsibility for financial support.
Delegates discussed climate action on agriculture and food security. There were differing views on the approach to workshops and the legacy of the Koronivia joint work programme.
Gender: Deliberations on draft conclusions and the future of the work programme. There were disagreements on the findings of mandated reports.
In the Corridors
The size of the event, with over 103,000 people registered, posed challenges in terms of capacity and logistics. However, GST was the foremost topic of chatter amongst the delegates, again a pervasive topic in and outside negotiation rooms.
Looking Ahead: Day Three of COP28 – Health plus Relief, Recovery, and Peace Day
COP28 will host the first Health Day and climate-health ministerial to build consensus on priority actions for the health system’s response to climate change, paired with financing commitments for implementation.
Health & Relief, Recovery, and Peace Day will focus on accelerating adaptation, preventing and addressing loss and damage in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, which face severe barriers to accessing climate finance and strengthening climate action.
Join me tomorrow for an in-depth daily report on these pivotal discussions and their implications for our global climate agenda.