COP28 beginnings, laying the groundwork hopefully for accelerated climate action

COP28 beginnings, laying the groundwork hopefully for accelerated climate action

Pedro Walpole SJ and Mary Criselle Mejillano

COP28 officially began on 30 November with COP27 President Sameh Shoukry passing the presidency torch to COP28 President-designate Sultan al-Jaber who reminded all to keep the ‘North Star’ 1.5°C within reach even as many planetary tipping points have been breached.

Long lines at the water refill station at COP28

Reiterating his vision for COP28 to be the “most inclusive COP ever” and pledging to run a transparent process, Mr Jaber urged the parties to deliver on the most ambitious Global Stocktake possible, to bridge the climate finance gap, to operationalize the Loss and Damage fund, to put adaptation at the heart of action and agree on a robust framework for the Global Goal, and maximize momentum on mitigation through the establishment of near zero methane emission targets.

“Many oil and gas companies are committing to zeroing out methane emissions by 2030 for the first time. And many national oil companies have adopted net zero 2050 targets for the first time,” he said. “I am grateful that they have stepped up to join this game-changing journey. But I must say, it is not enough, and I know that they can do more.”

These words of encouragement are nothing new but some of the specifics can make a difference. It is important to hold out for the integrity of the process and the urgency that the leadership professes.

Early pledges officially start the Loss and Damage Fund, other pledges and agreements

The first day of COP28 marked a historic agreement on the Loss and Damage fund, with initial pledges adding up to USD 422.5 million, a menial sum from the top contributors of greenhouse gas emissions.

Germany matched the USD 100 million contribution from the UAE to officially put the fund in operation. The UK gave over USD 50 million, with the US offering USD 17.5 and Japan USD 10 million. The European Union and member states further gave USD 145 million.

The Loss and Damage fund is a landmark agreement but mechanisms to equitably mobilize the fund are yet to be set in place. The World Bank serving as the intermediary of the fund needs to be scrutinized to ensure access by vulnerable communities.

Key negotiation actions, pledges, and agreements in the next two weeks include the following:

  • Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action
  • Agreement on phasing out fossil fuels
  • Mobilizing the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage
  • Setting up a robust and realistic Global Goal on Adaptation Framework as mandated in Article 7.1 of the Paris Agreement
  • Fast-tracking a New Quantified Goal on Climate Finance
  • Deliver on an ambitious Global Stocktake that course corrects and accelerates action to 2030
  • Turning the Global Methane Pledge into action towards slashing 30% of global methane emissions from 2020 levels to 2030

Countries are also setting up pavilions to showcase projects and initiatives with some using state-of-the-art technologies that highlight their environmental and technical achievements and communicate care for nature.

Nepal-based civil society group Digo Bikas Institute holds an action on loss and damage at COP28.
(Source: UN News-COP28/Christopher Edralin)

Civil society voices and record number of fossil fuel lobbyists

A few hours before COP28 formally opened, the Climate Action Network (CAN), a global network of more than 1,900 civil society organizations in over 130 countries, held a press conference to lay out challenges and expectations for the next two weeks.

Romain Ioualalen, Global Policy Campaign Manager of Oil Change International, reminded all the need to be vigilant as COP28 is expected to be ‘a festival of distractions’, with carbon capture and storage (CSS) framed as ‘essential’.

Registered fossil fuel lobbyists are at a record 2,456, compared with 636 in COP27, according to a press release by the Kick Big Polluters Out coalition.

Rachel Cleetus, Policy Director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, cited how developed countries are arguing that the loss and damage fund should come in the form of voluntary contributions. However there is nothing voluntary about the loss of lives and livelihood.

Teresa Anderson, Global Lead on Climate Justice at ActionAid International, emphasized that industrial agriculture needs to be put in the spotlight as it accounts for 15% of global consumption of fossil fuels.

These points are nothing new yet the integrity of civil society voices needs to be uplifted and upheld.

A gathering of Catholic actors and the World Climate Action Summit

Unfortunately, Pope Francis’ health sadly curtailed his visit and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State read the Holy Father’s message to COP28 leaders and participants and opened the Faith Pavilion.

On the eve of the World Climate Action Summit, the Holy See delegation headed by the Apostolic Nuncio gathered around 40 Catholic actors participating in the Blue Zone. It was a brief yet insightful meeting, as the Holy See delegation shared their priorities in the negotiations such as the Global Stocktake, education, loss and damage, the climate-food-water security nexus, climate finance, and Article 6.

The Catholic actors shared their calls for the delegation to consider in the negotiation document such as broader representation in loss and damage discussions by those living with the impacts of the climate crisis. They also called for the participation of youth voices in the Holy See negotiation processes. Agroecology, just energy transition, greater concern for the ocean states, and upholding culture-based solutions as the true nature-based solutions, were also areas of concern for consideration in the negotiations.

Statements from heads of state on implementing and transforming key climate-related decisions to actions at the World Climate Action Summit will set the tone for the climate action negotiations. And as UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said in his speech at the COP28 opening:

“The UNFCCC, as custodian of this process, is here as the impartial facilitator. Remember this. Behind every line you work on, every word or comma you wrestle with here at COP, there is a human being, a family, a community, that depends on you. Turn the badge around your necks into a badge of honour, and a life belt for the millions of people you are working for. Accelerate climate action. Teach it to run.”

Reprinted with modifications from the original article published in climatejustice.ecojesuit.com: COP28 Beginnings: Laying down the groundwork.

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