The 28th United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP28) will undoubtedly be one of the most important in history after COP21 in 2015 in France. The Dubai meeting opens on 30 November with two key topics: the global assessment of the Paris Agreement and the finalisation of the debate on the "loss and damage" fund. The aim is to enable a fresh start to be made in relations between North and South, so that together we can combat climate change.
The 28th United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP28) opens this Thursday 29 November 2023 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Over 12 days of debate and negotiation, representatives from 196 countries and the world’s leading international organisations, including the European Union (EU), will once again play a decisive role in shaping the future of the planet. The stakes are twofold for this edition. Firstly, because the first Global Stocktake, designed to evaluate the Paris Agreement adopted at COP21 in 2015, will be presented for universal validation. Secondly, because the participants in Dubai will be finalising discussions on the details of the loss and damage fund approved in November 2022 at COP27 in Egypt.
On the subject of the Paris Agreement, there will be an in-depth examination of its implementation by the 174 signatories, including South Africa, Namibia, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Ivory Coast, to name but a few African countries. As a reminder, this international treaty recommends “keeping the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and continuing efforts to further limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius”. This approach should make it possible, for example, to avoid more frequent and severe heatwaves and precipitation.
What stage has been reached in the Paris Agreement?
Eight years after the French COP, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (GIEC) estimates that the current pace will take us straight towards +3°C by the end of this century. Indeed, the energy transition is the universal solution advocated by analysts in favour of renewable energies. Except that many countries are not ready to give up coal, oil and gas, which exacerbate global warming. And this is the main stumbling block to the Paris Agreement. On all five continents, hydrocarbons still dictate the law, with ever higher levels of pollution.
Senegal, for example, has no plans to turn its back on its gas, while the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is exploiting its mining potential at breakneck speed. Germany, Europe’s industrial champion – which has a vast ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030 – has nevertheless reactivated up to 12 coal-fired power stations in the third quarter of 2022 “to deal with the energy crisis” exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. It’s a plan that undermines the progress made in Glasgow, and doesn’t sit well with the negotiators at the forthcoming COP28. The first Global Assessment will therefore be no picnic for all the delegations, especially as the host kingdom is itself being criticised for oil extraction.
The COP of the energy transition?
However, some nations have invested massively in solar and hydroelectric power stations since 2015. Their efforts to diversify the electricity mix should be highlighted at the Dubai meeting, with the aim of encouraging those who are lagging behind to follow suit. In its Global Energy Architecture Performance Index report, the World Economic Forum ranks Ethiopia (94%), where the controversial construction of the continent’s largest dam is still under way, ahead of Iceland (90%), Kenya (86%), Nepal (84%) and Paraguay (80%).
It should also be noted that the United States of America, which generates 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, withdrew from the Paris Agreement as the world’s largest economy under Donald Trump in 2017, before rejoining in 2021 under Joe Biden. The voice of John Kerry, the US special envoy for the climate, is therefore likely to carry weight in the negotiations, particularly those on the geopolitics of green hydrogen, but more so on the new world economic order envisaged to finance the ambitious recommendations of the Paris Climate Agreement.
The never-ending issue of climate financing
COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh enabled progress to be made on the issue of climate financing, with the creation of a “loss and damage” fund to help developing countries, most of which are African, adapt to climate change.
The Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting closed with a commitment to work out the details of this new financial mechanism in the United Arab Emirates. In concrete terms, the 197 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will have to agree on the size of the new fund, who will finance it and how much. A difficult equation, given that even the choice of the World Bank as the “provisional” headquarters is not yet unanimously supported. Moreover, the institution based in Washington D.C. has still not managed to reform itself to respond fairly to the challenges of a new world economic order.
There are also claims that are not insignificant and are arousing keen interest. This is the case of France, for whom there is no question of China and the Gulf States (Saudi Arabia and Qatar, among others) escaping the “loss and damage” fund because of their high carbon footprints. But none of this can be explored without the Copenhagen agreement resurfacing in Dubai. The debate on global climate finance began at COP15, which Denmark hosted in 2009. Governments pledged to mobilise $100 billion a year to “help developing countries gradually reduce their GHG emissions”.
A promise that has not really been kept to date. In 2020, for example, contributions were in the region of 83 billion, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In the meantime, the need for funding has risen considerably in view of the energy consequences of the war in Ukraine, natural disasters and inflationary pressures across the globe. Faced with these international challenges, the climate negotiators will have no choice but to find a compromise on all the sticking points between 30 November and 12 December.