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COP28: A pre-event primer for advocates

COP28: A pre-event primer for advocates

Written by

Fabio Cresto Aleina

Published on

November 30, 2023

The next Conference of the Parties for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP28, will take place from November 30 to December 12, 2023, at the Expo City in Dubai. This 28th Conference of Parties represents the most important moment of the year for advocates and the global community to address climate-related issues.

This Donor Tracker Insight is a primer for global development advocates on key climate issues and programming at COP28.

Current discourse

WRI recently published a fundamental report on the state of climate action, in which researchers showed that of all indicators used to measure progress towards 2030 climate targets, only one is on track (share of electric vehicles sold per year). The majority of the other indicators are far off track. These other indicators include lowering the share of coal in electricity (goal of 4%, current levels approximately 36%); reducing the annual rate of gross deforestation (goal of 1.9 Mha per year, current levels approximately 5.8 Mha per year); increasing global climate finance flows (goal of US$5.2 trillion per year, current levels approximately US$850 billion per year).

Despite many climate commitments and declarations regarding climate targets, climate action has not progressed as hoped. Certain indicators have even worsened in recent years.

Global Stocktake and the status of climate action

In September 2023, the United Nations published the first two-year assessment of global progress in slowing down climate change, called the Global Stocktake. The stocktake is the first of its kind, and slated to be repeated every 5 years. The report showed that while the worldwide temperature increase is decelerating, the international community is not on track to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement. Trillions of additional dollars are needed to limit warming to the Paris goal of 1.5 °C. The analysis will likely be a key technical basis for all discussions to be held in Dubai at COP28.

Lack of trust and transparency in financial flows

In light of the GST technical report and the two UNEP Gap Reports for Adaptation and Mitigation, worldwide financial flows need to change drastically in order to address climate challenges. The Adaptation Gap Report suggested that the amount of funds needed to cover the world’s adaptation needs is in the range of US$215-387 billion per year, in stark contrast to the US$21 billion disbursed in 2021 for climate adaptation-related projects. Moreover, the amount disbursed does not consider the needs of LICs and LMICs regarding L&D, which are estimated to require approximately US$290 to US$580 billion by 2030.

Advocates also find the general sense of lack of trust in the commitments made by HICs in past climate conferences concerning, especially regarding financial issues. The failed promises to deliver US$100 billion in climate finance by 2020, despite claims by HICs that the goal has been met, imply that COP28 needs to be the place to explicitly define financial channels to ensure a flow of money to where it is most needed, particularly to communities on the front line of climate impacts. Many LICs and LMICs advocate for parity between adaptation and mitigation finance, hoping that COP28 will accelerate the proposed reforms to the global financial architecture.

Key issues to watch

At COP28, major discussions will arise around multi-year processes embedded in the general policy cycles of the UNFCCC as well as the Paris Agreement.

Key discussions for climate advocates to follow include:

Global Stocktake

The Global Stocktake is designed to raise ambition by showing donor advances in national contributions to Paris Agreement goals. It completed the collection of information and the publication of the technical assessment in September 2023 and will conclude at COP28. Governments will discuss and consider the findings of the GST’s technical phase, what the outcome of the report means for climate action, and how the results of the assessment can flow into the policy process.

A series of high-level events COP28 should generate key political messages, ideally catalyzing action across a range of actors towards the Paris Agreement. Governments will also negotiate a decision and/or declaration. A positive outcome of the process might look like commitments and recommendations driving ambitious climate action, identifying high-impact solutions to drive momentum and international cooperation, and strong commitments related to climate finance.

Global Goal on Adaptation

Governments at COP28 are due to adopt a framework defined in Article 7 of the Paris Agreement: the Global Goal on Adaptation. The GGA is intended to focus efforts enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience, and reducing vulnerability to climate change. However, the Paris Agreement's vague language and absence of quantitative targets became obstacles to measuring adaptation progress. It is hoped that the new framework will more concretely define the goal and offer ways to measure progress towards its achievement.

The GGA discussions will likely formalize the steps of the current adaptation policy cycle and function as an organizing principle for all future adaptation work within the UNFCCC. A positive outcome of the GGA discussion might look like an overarching target, similar to the 1.5 °C temperature goal, that specifies deliverables, means of implementation, and concrete action steps, to galvanize stakeholders at all levels around to catalyze action.

The Global Goal on Adaptation: A primer for advocates

What is the Global Goal on Adaptation? What are climate advocates hoping to achieve with the Global Goal on Adaptation? Who has endorsed the Global Goal on Adaptation?

Loss and Damage

Donor governments must agree on the operationalization of COP27’s main legacy: the Loss and Damage Fund. The fund is a key part of wider L&D funding arrangements. Despite being defined by the UNFCCC as the “third pillar” of climate finance, critical questions were left unresolved: How narrow or broad should its focus be? Which countries will be able to benefit from the fund? Where should the money come from? Where should the fund be hosted?

It is unclear how negotiations at COP28 will provide answers to all these questions. After the excitement around this fund at COP27, recent progress has been hindered by political differences amongst representatives. Strong opposition from HICs, particularly the US, suggests that operationalization of the fund is far from assured. Discussions about the Loss and Damage Fund will likely be part of broader climate action discussions. If an operationalization of the Fund is not part of COP28’s outcome, it will be pivotal for climate advocates to push to define a new, clear, and short-term deadline for the fund.

The Loss and Damage Fund: A primer for advocates

What is the Loss & Damage Fund? How will the Loss & Damage Fund impact climate development?

New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance

At the COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, donors committed to a collective goal for climate finance with the objective of mobilizing US$100 billion per year by 2020 for climate action in LMICs and LICs. The goal was renewed in COP21 in Paris, where parties agreed that donors will need to agree on a NCQG of at least US$100 billion annually by COP29 in 2024.

As with the GGA and L&D Fund, progress towards a NCQG has been slow. A High-level Ministerial Dialogue for the NCQG will take place at COP28, which will be attended by ministers or heads of delegation and other high-level representatives, including from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. During this dialogue, donors are expected to agree on the future structure of the NCQG, fundamental for reaching a common and official decision on the NCQG at COP29.

One of the major issues for the NCQG has been the lack of a quantifiable financial target, despite the financial needs quantified in the GST, the UNEP Adaptation Gap Report and Emissions Gap Report, amongst others. A success in this area could look like a clearer definition of NCQG terms and the quantity of this new “quantifiable” goal.

The New Collective Quantified Goal: What advocates need to know

What is the New Collective Quantifiable Goal? How will the NCQG affect climate financing?

Health Day

During COP28, various thematic days will focus on organizing action and funding towards specific nexus areas. From climate action to finance, from education to nature and land use, and food and agriculture, participants will be able to attend specific events related to these areas of action.

For the first time, at COP28 there will be a Health Day, co-organized by the UAE Presidency, the WHO, and the Wellcome Trust. This specific event will be focused on 5 key topics:

  • Showcasing evidence base and clear impact pathways between climate change and human health;
  • Promoting health arguments for climate action and health co-benefits of mitigation;
  • Highlighting needs, barriers, and best practices for strengthening climate resilience of health systems;
  • Identifying and scaling adaptation measures to address the impacts of climate change on human health, including through One Health; and
  • Taking action at the nexus of health and relief, recovery, and peace.

The first-ever COP28 Health Day is expected to generate a moment for action in the nexus of climate and health. It will convene a wide variety of actors including ministers, climate and health professionals, civil society organizations, youth representatives and business, and to bring the spotlight on the climate-health agenda. Health discussions at COP28 must be action-oriented to be impactful.

Announcements, initiatives, and commitments must come with transparent mechanisms connected to accountability and reporting. Advocates have noted that Health Day has the potential of being a great success if it motivates a rapid acceleration of climate action with a health focus, emphasizing the importance of increasing both adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Further readings

Advocates can find the detailed COP28 program here. The EU will broadcast some side events through its channels. It will be possible to follow most debates online.

More regional context on the different positions in the highlighted discussions:

Fabio Cresto Aleina

Fabio Cresto Aleina

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