How to Mobilize Global Action at COP28 Climate Talks amidst Intensifying Disasters

The Paris Agreement signed eight years ago, aimed to limit global warming to 1.5°C. However, since then, greenhouse gas emissions have increased and climate disasters have become more prominent. In 2023, the world is at 1.2°C of warming over pre-industrial levels, with less than 10 years until we reach 1.5°C. The COP28 climate talks will begin this week, with warnings from climate scientists and world leaders.

United Nations chief António Guterres has warned that climate action is “dwarfed by the scale of the challenge” and that we have “opened the gates of hell.” Pope Francis has criticized African bishops for referring to the climate crisis as a “tragic and striking example of structural sin.”

The global stocktake, a key mechanism designed to ratchet up climate ambition under the 2015 Paris Agreement, will assess each nation’s emission cut targets and benefits from climate adaptation or economic diversification plans. The stocktake indicates that if all national emissions pledges are implemented, global warming could peak between 2.1-2.8°C, leaving a 22.9 gigatonnes emissions gap by 2030.

The worst-case scenarios of unchecked warming and 4+ degrees of global heating by 2100 are now unlikely, but a 2°C world would bring unacceptable harm and irreversible damage. To reach net zero CO₂ emissions by 2050 globally, we need more ambitious targets and support to cut global greenhouse gas emissions 43% by 2030 and 60% by 2035 compared with 2019 levels. A major measure of COP28’s success will be whether major emitting nations agree on more ambitious emission reduction actions.

The new Loss and Damage Fund is close to finalizing arrangements, and it will be the second major issue for negotiators at COP28. Governments have drawn up a blueprint for the fund, but debates are expected over who will manage it and whether emerging economies like China will provide funds. The blueprint must be officially adopted at COP28 before it can commence its operation.

A major issue in climate negotiations is how countries can transform their economies to be “climate ready,” with lower emissions and boosted resilience. For developing countries, this requires massive levels of investment and new technologies to “leapfrog” fossil fuel dependency. Climate finance has flowed too slowly, with rich countries promising to provide funds of A$150 billion a year every year under the Paris Agreement.

Significant progress on climate finance, including making the Loss and Damage Fund a reality and meeting existing commitments, is essential for progress on other key issues such as emission cuts under the stocktake mechanism, phasing out fossil fuels, and preserving biodiversity.

The COP28 climate change conference is set to begin with a debate on the phasing down of fossil fuels, with President Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, a former head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, leading the discussion. The focus is on conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of nature to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The conference shares similarities with the Global Biodiversity Framework, a major global biodiversity pact aimed at preventing species extinction and ecosystem degradation. Healthy ecosystems store carbon and help people adapt to climate change. As nations prepare for the conference, the stakes are higher than ever, and the question is whether the world community can seize the moment.

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