Cop28: Six months to go before crucial Dubai summit tackles climate crisis

Crunch talks in the UAE aim to shape efforts to protect the planet for future generations

Abdulla Bin Touq, Minister of Economy, speaks during a Road to Cop28 event held in Dubai this week. Pawan Singh / The National
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The countdown to Cop28 is gathering pace with only six months to go until world leaders, ministers, officials and campaigners on the front lines of the fight against climate change descend on Dubai.

About 70,000 delegates are expected to attend the global gathering at Expo City Dubai, as the international community meets to outline action aimed at safeguarding the planet for future generations.

The UN has repeatedly warned time is running out to tackle the emergency.

With just months to go, here is what to expect from the key environment summit.

Building on Cop27 in Egypt

Cop27 took place at Sharm El Sheikh in 2022. Countries agreed to establish a loss and damage fund that, in theory, could be paid by developed countries to developing nations as compensation for damage caused by climate change. Who pays into it and other key questions were left for discussions at Cop28.

Majid Al Suwaidi, director general of Cop28, told attendees at the end of the talks there was a “steep hill” to climb before Cop28 with some delegates at Cop27 saying not enough was done on cutting harmful warming emissions and scaling up climate finance.

Others called for action in securing the $100 billion a year promised more than a decade ago by richer countries to help poorer nations tackle climate change.

The UAE’s global listening tour

As part of the UAE plans to host Cop28, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, President-designate of the summit, has embarked on a global listening tour to hear the views of everyone involved in the Cop process.

In March, Dr Al Jaber, who is also Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, warned at the Copenhagen Climate Ministerial summit the world was “way off track” in its efforts to limit global warming.

Dr Al Jaber, who serves as UAE special envoy for climate change and chairman of Masdar, said Cop28 needed to advance the loss and damage fund and ramp up climate finance.

He also spoke at May's Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Germany emphasising the need to make progress on finance discussion.

Dr Al Jaber told the UK’s Guardian newspaper the scale of the problem needed everyone “working in solidarity”.

“We need partnerships, not polarisation, and we need to approach this with a clear-eyed rationale and executable plan of action,” he said.

Two Cop28 events point the way forward

The first Cop28 presidency event took place at Expo City Dubai in March where it was announced that the UAE is to sponsor 100 international youth delegates to attend the summit. It will prioritise delegates from the least developed countries, small island developing states, indigenous peoples and other minority groups.

A second event, organised by the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions and the Dubai Chambers in collaboration with the Cop28 Presidency, on Monday, aimed to galvanise non-state actors, such as companies and non-governmental organisations, into tackling climate change. It underlined the UAE’s drive to involve all segments of society ahead of the climate summit.

Six months to Cop28: Here's what to expect at the climate summit in Dubai

Six months to Cop28: Here's what to expect at the climate summit in Dubai

Support for UAE as hosts

The US and EU have reiterated their support for the UAE after some members of the US Congress and the European Parliament called for the influence of oil and gas lobbyists to be curbed at the talks.

“Dr Sultan Al Jaber is an experienced diplomat and business leader, including as chairman of renewable energy company Masdar,” a US government official told The National.

“The UAE is a crucial partner in advancing our joint efforts to combat the climate crisis, including through their Cop28 leadership.”

Frans Timmermans, the EU’s senior negotiator on climate change, said vilifying and ignoring private energy concerns would not help the green transition.

US climate envoy John Kerry has also backed Dr Al Jaber.

Crucial German summit marks halfway stage

The next key global climate meeting takes place in Germany from June 5 to 15.

The Bonn Climate Change Conference marks the crucial halfway point to Cop28 and will reflect on progress made since Cop27. Key areas for discussion will include loss of damage, mitigation, adaptation (dealing with the effects of climate change), scaling up climate finance and global stocktake.

Mandated under the 2015 Paris Agreement to take place every five years, the first stocktake began at Cop26 in Glasgow and will conclude at Cop28. Each stocktake is a two-year process and will assess how countries are doing in their pledges made to meet the 2015 deal.

The Paris Agreement aims to try to limit global temperature increases to 1.5ºC on pre-industrial levels and keep them below 2ºC.

The UN has said the world has much work to do to meet these goals but Dr Al Jaber has said the 1.5ºC goal remains a top priority for Cop28.

What to expect at Cop28 and can the public attend?

Cops are typically divided into a blue and green zone. The blue zone is managed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and is open to only accredited party and observer delegates.

This is where the negotiations take place, along with discussions, speaking events and cultural events.

The green zone is managed by the Cop28 presidency and is typically open to the public. Youth groups, civil society, the private sector and indigenous groups hold events in the area to promote their message about climate change.

Cop28, which also takes place during the UAE's National Day celebrations, will also have a programme of thematic days to raise awareness about climate issues.

A provisional list for Cop28 includes, for the first time, a day focused on the climate crisis’ consequences on health and well-being. Other days are set to focus on food and water systems, youth, and cities,

The programme is expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Updated: May 31, 2023, 2:43 PM