COP 28 – The Key Moments

December 20, 2023
4 min read

Hundreds of world leaders and climate experts gathered at this year’s UN climate conference in Dubai. States attending the 2023 Conference of the Parties or COP 28 were under pressure to adopt a new climate agreement amid controversy over the fact it was held in a major oil producing nation as well as the appointment of Sultan al-Jaber as president due to his ties with the fossil fuel industry. Countries were also found to be falling behind in the first review of their progress towards reducing emissions to keep global warming in check.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • An agreement was reached for the first time to “transition away” from fossil fuels, although there was controversy over this ambiguous language being used, rather than “phase down” or “phase out”, which were also hotly debated. In addition, the UNFCCC’s process requiring consensus among nations took a hit as it was reported that representation for 39 small island states most affected by global warming were not in the room when al-Jaber signalled acceptance during the closing plenary. Middle-income developing countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Colombia and others also argued that they needed to use revenues from the sale of coal, oil and gas to ensure they could pay for the transition to greener energy.
  • The ‘loss and damage’ fund, first tabled at last year’s conference in Egypt, was approved. The fund is meant to support vulnerable communities and developing nations which are struggling to cope with the impact of climate disasters such as the destruction of crops caused by floods. However, developed nations have been criticised over the amount of money they are willing to extend.
  • COP President Sultan Al-Jaber was accused of denying climate science: The Abu Dhabi national oil and gas company chief hit out against what he said were “repeated attempts to undermine” his presidency. He said his questioning of climate science in a leaked video was “taken out of context with misrepresentation”. Jim Skea, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said al-Jaber “has been attentive to the science as we have discussed it and I think has fully understood it”.
  • COP 28 was a significant moment for climate and health. COP28 was an opportunity to put health firmly on the global climate agenda through the first ever dedicated ‘Health Day’ which acknowledged that climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. For the first time, over 120 health ministers came together with a clear desire to accelerate climate and health action, backed by the global healthcare community. This resulted in a new Climate and Health Declaration acknowledging the need for governments to protect communities and prepare healthcare systems to cope with climate-related health impacts such as extreme heat, air pollution and infectious diseases. This political commitment was backed up by a new set of finance commitments on climate and health – which will be essential to deliver the change needed.
  • Nature got a more prominent place at the table at COP 28. Nature is humanity’s biggest ally in the struggle to limit global warming. Forests, oceans and fields absorb and store about half the annual heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning oil and gas and other industrial and agricultural activities. The final COP28 statements prominently emphasised the importance of nature, and not just forests.
  • There were criticisms of the final text, for example the head negotiator for Samoa, an island state, said that shifting away from fossil fuels needs to have a wider basis in the whole economy, not just energy systems. Other concerns she had about the text were that carbon capture and storage might be a license for some operators to continue producing oil and gas. Also that natural gas, while cleaner-burning, might be construed as an acceptable replacement for coal and oil for long-term usage.

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