COP28 in 10 charts: All that you need to know before Dubai summit

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Summary

  • Global temperatures have already breached the 2015 Paris aim several times this year, and countries’ emission pledges so far don’t add up to a positive outlook for the future. What will it take to make COP28 click?

Come Thursday, Dubai will welcome global leaders at COP28, the annual climate change conference. Once again, the 198 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will discuss—and bicker over—how to stop the Earth from heating beyond redemption. They are likely to discuss methane (an often overlooked greenhouse gas), climate finance (especially following the recently set-up “loss and damage fund"), and the pace of phasing out fossil fuels (which no one quite wants to, or can, let go of, yet). Effective communication of the tricky—and contentious—science of climate again poses a challenge. Can the UN, with its enormous scientific knowledge, generate political will and consensus?

COP through the years

The US and China, the world’s two biggest emitters, have never hosted the annual conference. Germany has been the most frequent host, by virtue of having the seat of the secretariat in Bonn, and hence, the default host if no member comes forward.

 

COP3, Kyoto Protocol (1997)

Treaty requires 37 mainly developed nations and the EU to take the lead in reducing emissions as a reflection of their historical damage.

COP7 (2001)

The US, under the Bush administration, withdraws from the Kyoto Protocol following COP6.

COP15 (2009)

Developed countries make a pledge to mobilize $100 bn/year to help developing countries combat climate change.

COP19 (2013)

Series of walkouts by poor countries as advanced nations insist on postponing discussions on who should pay for climate action.

COP21, Paris Agreement (2015)

UNFCCC members agree to limit warming to 2°C, preferably 1.5°C. This requires halving global emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050. Introduction of a five-year plan called Nationally Determined Contributions by countries.

COP25 (2019)

The US, under Trump administration, withdraws from the Paris Agreement (rejoined in 2021)

COP27 (2022)

Breakthrough agreement on new “loss and damage" fund for vulnerable countries.

On the agenda

The “Global Stocktake": Governments will assess how they are placed to meet the promises of the 2015 Paris deal, and will accordingly chart the actions for the next phase.

Energy transition: The phase-out of fossil fuels will again be in the spotlight.

Climate finance gap: Crucial, especially with progress on the "loss and damage fund". Poorer and vulnerable nations need this money desperately as they face the music from the climate change largely brought upon them by the rich world.

Also: Parties are expected to prioritize climate adaptation and resilience in low-income countries in order to combat climate change.

What’s the latest on climate

The 2015 Paris deal foresaw global warming "well below" 2°C, with an aim for 1.5°C (the extent of “warming" is measured as the increase over levels seen before the world’s industrialization) in the long run. But the mercury has already breached that aim often this year, with record temperatures since July. Countries’ individual pledges for now fall so short that a 2.5-2.9°C warming is on the cards by 2100 unless they show greater will, a new UN report suggests. That’s the context going into COP28.

 

 

The culprits, then and now

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that heat the globe set a new record of 57.4 gigatonnes of CO₂-equivalent in 2022. According to a new UN report, by 2030, GHG emissions could rise a further 3%, instead of decreasing. Rich countries are responsible for the majority of the rise in global temperatures as fossil fuels led much of their industrialization.

 

 

The three pillars of climate action

Climate action and governance revolves around the following three pillars, which focus on not just prevention and cure, but also adjusting better to the grim reality.

Mitigation involves reducing or preventing emissions through new technologies, renewable energy sources, making older equipment more energy-efficient, or changing consumer behaviour.

 

While mitigation involves reducing harmful impact to the planet’s climate, adaptation is about adjusting better to actual or expected changes in climatic conditions.

 

Loss and damage (L&D)

The aim is to address the impact of warming on developing and less affluent nations, especially those highly vulnerable to the effects that cannot be avoided despite mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The concept dates back to 1991, four years before COP1. Vanuatu, representing the Alliance of Small Island States, proposed an international insurance pool to address the repercussions of sea level rise. But it took two decades for the issue to resurface: at COP27, countries finally agreed on a fund to compensate vulnerable nations.

What’s the latest? On 4 November, a panel set up at COP27 came up with a draft framework for funding that will be sent to leaders for adoption at COP28.

Fuelling a disaster

Power generation contributes the most to human-led emissions. Despite calls for a phase-out, investments in fossil fuels far exceed those in renewable energy. Fifteen G20 nations still meet three-quarters of their energy needs from fossil fuels, showed a Mint analysis.

 

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