In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was founded as an international treaty to address the issue of climate change. The Conference of the Parties, or COP, is the decision-making body of the UNFCCC and brings together representatives from its member countries to discuss and set out actions to tackle climate change. This year, from November the 30th to the 12th of December, will see the latest meeting, COP28, held in the United Arab Emirates.
The main focus of the treaty is to “stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-induced) interference with the climate system”, thereby helping to achieve its goal of limiting long term temperature rises to 1.5C. It aims to achieve this through the promotion of sustainability, equity and justice.
Since it’s inception, COP meetings have helped achieve several important milestones. The most significant actions have included the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol at COP3, a legally binding emissions reduction target for developed countries, and perhaps the more widely known Paris Agreement at COP21, which established a global framework for countries to set their own nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to mitigate gas emissions and enhance resilience to climate impacts.
The meetings have so far promoted international cooperation and diplomacy to help foster a sense of shared responsibility, set the stage for global action through global climate goals, provided aid to developing countries’ strategies through financial support and technology transfer, conducted research and innovation and helped raise public awareness. For example, between 2020 and 2025, richer nations have pledged to finance developing countries with $100 billion a year.
There is some debate among the public that, ironically, the holding of COP meetings is contributing more to the greenhouse than they are taking away. However, this does assume a negative view the impact of the meetings. In the case of COP28, if its proposals are delivered upon, the emissions savings would prevent 72,200 times more CO2 emissions in 2030 than those associated with the summit itself.
It is true to say, though, that beyond this debate over the summit’s own emissions, there is much more substantial concern surrounding proposal delivery. Many experts agree that despite the efforts being undertaken, especially by major emitters such as the United States and the European Union, the window to achieve the 1.5C target is still narrowing rapidly. Currently it is predicted that global temperatures will reach 2.5C in the near future despite the current pledges to tackle emissions. It is therefore clear that actions being taken need to be increased and at a faster rate.
COP28 aims to address these concerns by fast-tracking the transition to clean energy sources by 2030 and increasing further the financial support for developing countries, to help with their climate action activities. In a world first, the conference aims to push for a phase out of the global use of ‘unabated’ coal, oil and gas. It will also take a first Global Stocktake (GST) of the progress made since the adoption of the Paris Agreement to help decide what measures will be needed to bridge the gap between current progress and climate action targets. This event will, in essence, set the precedent as to whether the UNFCCC can achieve its future targets.
It is clear that COP events have encouraged united collaboration and inspired action on a global scale, placing pressure on businesses and governments to put processes in place to tackle these issues. However, due to the complex nature of the climate actions required and the rate at which climate change is occurring, many challenges still remain.