Flags from different countries above the COP28 sign

Five key issues for COP28

by Dave Griggs, President of the Royal Meteorological Society


"We can say with near certainty that 2023 will be the warmest year on record, and is currently 1.43°C above the preindustrial average.”

That’s the stark finding from a recent report from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, setting the backdrop for the 28th United Nations Climate Change conference, held from 30 November to 12 December 2023 at Expo City in Dubai.


COP28 Dubai


So what are some of the key issues at COP28 expected to be?


1) Global Stocktake (GST)

I think it is fair to say that the biggest issue at COP this year will be the Global Stocktake (GST). The GST is the mechanism by which progress against the Paris Agreement is assessed. In other words, how are countries’ commitments stacking up against the Paris target of limiting warming to less than 1.5°C. The GST consists of three components. The first phase focused on collecting information on climate change and climate action. The second phase assessed progress made towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. The third and final phase, the so-called “political” phase, concludes at COP28, the outcome of which will be a document that reflects on countries’ efforts so far and lays out what needs to happen going forward. At the moment, it is no surprise that countries’ current commitments will fail to meet what is required and so the hope is that the GST outcome includes commitments and recommendations to ramp up action and ambition.


2) Energy targets

The UAE who host COP28 have made “fast tracking the energy transition” one of their key priorities. Among the GST submissions from countries there are several energy sector related proposals, such as phasing out, or at a minimum, phasing down fossil fuels. On the flip side there are also a number of proposals including one from the International Energy Agency, which has been adopted by the UAE, to triple renewable energy production. So, energy transition will be a key discussion area at COP28.


3) Loss and damage

In my closing report from COP27 last year I said that getting loss and damage (where richer countries compensate poorer countries for the damage caused by climate change) onto the agenda was the biggest achievement and that expectations were exceeded as agreement was reached to set up a fund. Of course, that was only a first step, the fund has to be set up and countries have to put money in. And which countries should put money in, what for and how much, and who will receive money from the fund will be a major discussion at COP28.


COP28 Dubai


4) Climate finance

As always, money will be at the heart of all the discussions at COP. In 2009, developed countries pledged to mobilise $100 billion annually from 2020. The fact that this has never been achieved has always been a sore point with developing countries to say the least. A new climate finance goal to replace the $100 billion commitment is scheduled to be agreed next year at COP29, but making significant progress at COP28 is vital if agreement is going to be reached next year.


5) Food systems

In the lead up to COP28 there has been growing attention on food systems and agriculture. The UAE COP28 presidency and the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub launched the COP28 Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda in July. It calls on countries to align their national food systems and agricultural policies with their climate mitigation and adaptation plans and emphasises the inclusion of targets for food system decarbonisation in national biodiversity strategies and action plans. The COP28 Presidency is pushing for commitments of funding and technology including the need to tackle difficult systemic issues such as demand-side measures, land use change and deforestation. 


As always there will be so many issues discussed at COP28 that it is impossible to highlight them all. Others worthy of mention include carbon markets, just transition pathways, climate impacts and early warning systems.

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