COP28 can infuse optimism into world’s climate change battle
The 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP28, will be held between Nov. 30 and Dec. 12 at Expo City, Dubai. The conference has been assembled every year since the first UN climate agreement in 1992. It is the diplomatic meeting of governments with the aim of reaching understandings and making accords regarding policies that aim to limit the global rise in temperature and apply measures to protect the environment from the negative consequences of human-induced climate change.
Setting the tone for COP28 is a recently released report by the UN called the “Technical dialogue of the first global stocktake.” It is a 47-page document that is intended to outline the agenda for the UN conference in Dubai. It employed very strong language. It stated: “Achieving net-zero carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions requires systems transformations across all sectors and contexts, including scaling up renewable energy while phasing out all unabated fossil fuels, ending deforestation, reducing non-carbon dioxide emissions and implementing both supply- and demand-side measures.” There was also pessimistic language in the preparatory report regarding the narrowing window humankind has left to save planet Earth.
These are not just remarks but the principles of how the whole globe can fight climate change. They are expressed through the concept and paradigm of “stocktake.” It is a very sophisticated idea.
The global stocktake is a process for nations and nongovernmental stakeholders to evaluate how much progress they are making toward meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change — and the reasons if they are falling short. COP28 will adhere to the stocktake logic and will supply all the information required to determine who is responsible for the success or failure in cutting emissions of poisonous gases into the atmosphere.
There was pessimistic language in the preparatory report regarding the narrowing window humankind has left to save planet Earth
The conference in Dubai also has substantial political identity to combat climate change in addition to the periodic review. In particular, it will make a general assessment of the third and final phase of the global stocktake. This stage is crucial because it will look into how politics in many countries is either boosting or hampering efforts to overcome the negative implications of climate change. In other words, COP28 will identify the deficiencies and the opportunities as the world seeks to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
COP28 is not just a meeting to discuss the environment as a technical issue. It will attempt to harmonize politics with science for the nations of the world. This is not an easy task and the effort will extend beyond the timescale of the meeting in Dubai. Nevertheless, it will be a demonstration of the sincere efforts and of the honesty of the UAE as it attempts to positively influence how nations can overcome the harmful effects of climate change.
In this regard, COP28 reflects the closeness of the position of the Biden administration with that of the UAE as they seek to secure the success of the conference. The US government wholeheartedly endorsed the Emirati leadership appointed to preside over the conference. Presidential climate envoy John Kerry said: “I think that Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber is a terrific choice because he is the head of the company (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company). That company knows it needs to transition. He knows — and the leadership of the UAE is committed to transitioning. He made it absolutely clear we’re not moving fast enough. We have to reduce emissions. We have to begin to accelerate this transition significantly. So I have great confidence that the right issues are going to be on the table, that they’re going to respond to them and lead countries to recognize their responsibility.”
COP28 will shift the global stocktake from being just a report to a list of priorities. It will utilize the economic tool of cost-benefit analysis and will not end up being just another summary that regrets the failure to save the global environment. It will try to convince everyone present to be an earnest believer in protecting the environment. It will strive to strike an international climate diplomacy consensus. It will affirm the authority of the UN in protecting the climate. It will regulate the energy transition process. For example, there are countries that are very honest in pledging that their economies will make a sizable shift to renewable energy sources.
COP28 will identify the deficiencies and the opportunities as the world seeks to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement
Saudi Arabia is seeking to be a leader in low-carbon hydrogen. This entails the production of derivatives like ammonia, methanol and sustainable aviation fuel. In addition, the Kingdom will enhance the domestic market for low-carbon industrial materials, especially more sustainable steel. Overall, Saudi Arabia’s economic plans call for net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2060. The Saudi experience will likely be carefully studied at COP28. On the other hand, nations such as Iran, Iraq and Libya have not yet declared any long-term decarbonization plans for their economies. COP28 can give these countries guidance on how to develop their renewable energy production.
The stakes are high. A genuinely global mobilization effort could be the outcome of COP28. One problem with previous UN conferences on the environment was the fact that the discourse was the same. The same traditional message to protect the environment was repeated, with little action.
COP28 will emphasize the trend toward interdependence in global environmental policies. This means that there must be unity and a logical connection between all the phases of the global environmental programs and schemes. This necessitates working to create a balance between global ambitions and national obligations. It will not be a response to environmental crises but a forum to submit initiatives to protect the environment. It will formulate roadmaps for many individuals and organizations that are eager to safeguard the public and private environments. It will facilitate the correlation of finance and funding with local technology and the activism of nongovernmental groups to coordinate their sincere environmental campaigns.
Ultimately, COP28 can infuse optimism and ensure that no one who cares about the environment will be excluded. It will make the environment better for the entire world.
- Maria Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist, broadcaster, publisher and writer. X: @bilarakib