COP28 opens in Dubai with calls for urgent action to address climate crisis

Urgent action is needed to keep the 1.5 degree goal alive. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 has opened with a resounding call to accelerate collective climate action

More than 70,000 delegates, including heads of state, business leaders, young people climate scientists, indigenous peoples and other experts and stakeholders are expected to attend the event, taking place in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December.

COP28 is a decisive moment to act on climate commitments and prevent the worst impacts of climate change. This year’s COP marks the conclusion of the “global stocktake”, the first assessment of global progress in implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement. The findings are stark: the world is not on track to limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of this century. It does recognise that countries are developing plans for a net-zero future, and the shift to clean energy is gathering speed, but it makes clear that the transition is nowhere near fast enough yet to limit warming within the current ambitions. It lays out actions on how to accelerate emissions cuts, strengthen resilience to climate impacts, and provide the support and finance needed for the transformation.

A report recently published by UN Climate Change shows that national climate action plans (known as nationally determined contributions, or ‘NDCs’) would collectively lower greenhouse gas emissions to 2% below 2019 levels by 2030, while the science is clear that a 43% reduction is needed.

“Over 160 world leaders are headed to Dubai, because only cooperation between nations can get humanity back in this race. But COP28 cannot be just a photo-op. Leaders must deliver – the message is clear,” said UN Climate Change executive secretary Simon Stiell. “And as leaders leave Dubai after the opening summit, their message to their negotiators must be equally clear: don’t come home without a deal that will make a real difference.”

Climate finance stands at the heart of this transformation. Replenishing the Green Climate Fund, doubling financial resources for adaptation and operationalising the loss and damage fund are key to keeping 1.5°C within reach while leaving no one behind.

“The reality is that without much more finance flowing to developing countries, a renewables revolution will remain a mirage in the desert. COP28 must turn it into a reality,” Stiell added.

This year will be the hottest year in human history, the head of the United Nations has said, at the start of the COP28 climate summit.

UN secretary-general António Guterres reminded delegates at the start of the summit that this year will be the hottest in human history. "We are living through climate collapse in real time."

“We don’t have any time to waste. We need to take urgent action now to reduce emissions. At COP28, every country and every company will be held to account, guided by the north star of keeping 1.5°C within reach,” said COP28 president Dr. Sultan Al Jaber.

“All parties should be prepared to deliver a high ambition decision in response to the global stocktake that reduces emissions while protecting people, lives and livelihoods,” Al Jaber added.

In his opening address Al Jaber said, "This Presidency is committed to unlocking finance to ensure that the global south does not have to choose between development and climate action. Let this be the year that climate finance meets the magnitude of the moment. Let this be the COP where we deliver on our promises, from the US$100 billion to loss-and-damage."

In a promising development, the first day of COP28 saw delegates agree to operationalise the loss and damage fund, a “positive signal of momentum”, according to Dr al-Jaber. The UAE announced its commitment of US$100mn to the Fund, which aims to provide financial assistance to countries at extreme risk from climate change, to support climate change mitigation and recovery. Other countries making notable commitments included Germany, which committed US$100mn, the UK, which committed £40million for the Fund and £20mn for other arrangements, Japan, which contributed US$10mn and the USA which committed US$17.5mn.

Al Jaber commented that this Presidency had made a bold choice to proactively engage with oil and gas companies, with many of these companies committing to zeroing out methane emissions by 2030 for the first time and many national oil companies adopting net zero 2050 targets for the first time. 

“It is not enough, and I know that they can do more. They can lead the way, and others must catch up. At the same time, as part of this presidency’s action agenda, we are engaging with other high-emitting sectors like heavy transportation, aluminum, steel, and cement to accelerate decarbonisation at scale. I’m calling on all industries to innovate, modernise and invest in clean technologies.”