Cop28: What's happened so far and what happens next?

First in-depth look at the impact of the climate crisis on health is on Sunday

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The World Climate Action Summit has finished, the leaders have left and, on Sunday, the crucial talks move to the next phase. Cop28 has reached day four.

The summit has seen so far a series of striking pledges on finance, food systems, renewable energy, cutting use of coal, backing the use of nuclear power, and vows from major oil and gas companies to cut C02 and methane that have garnered international support. At least $1 billion in grant funding will also go towards efforts to reduce the amount of methane in the Earth's atmosphere.

The pledges are separate from the consensus-driven negotiations at the heart of the Cop, which are continuing at the Expo City Dubai venue.

So what has happened so far and what can we expect over the next few days?

Promising start

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Cop28 President, led the opening session on Thursday that launched the loss and damage fund with countries then stepping up with financial pledges.

The same session saw the early adaptation of the Cop28 agenda. Cop delegates often frequently squabble over this, delaying crucial talks, so the move meant negotiations could begin from day one.

By Friday, a first early draft text of the “global stocktake” was out.

The stocktake is the world’s first assessment of the Paris deal that aims to try to keep temperatures from rising by 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels. The text was very basic but did leave open options on fossil fuels, which are expected to be one of the key sticking points in any eventual agreement.

Cop28 is also on track to be the biggest ever with UNFCCC data showing more than 80,000 registrations to attend.

Cop28's loss and damage fund is historic, so why isn't everyone cheering?

Cop28's loss and damage fund is historic, so why isn't everyone cheering?

Raising ambition

Global leaders endorsed a UAE declaration on food and climate action, while a separate $30 billion climate finance pledge was made by the UAE that aims to find solutions to the world's funding challenges.

The food initiative included a vow to cut emissions from farming – about a third of the world’s greenhouse gas footprint – by shifting to a more climate friendly way of operating.

There was a series of other announcements. Fifty oil and gas companies, representing more than 40 per cent of global oil production, made pledges on methane and carbon dioxide on Saturday while around 116 countries committed on Saturday to triple renewable energy capacity worldwide by 2030. It was also announced that countries, philanthropies, and industry unveiled over $1bn in grant funding for methane reduction.

Negotiating teams

The two-day World Climate Action Summit that concluded on Saturday drew leaders and royalty from around the world. The speeches grab the headlines but they are also important in galvanising the negotiation teams.

King Charles of Britain said he was praying “with all my heart” that Cop28 would be a “critical turning point” in the fight against climate change.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged countries to stop burning fossil fuels, while Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva rebuked those who were spending a fraction on climate compared with weapons.

UK's King Charles III 'prays with all his heart' for Cop28 success

UK's King Charles III 'prays with all his heart' for Cop28 success

Difficult talks

Negotiations among the close to 200 parties are at the heart of every Cop. These take place in rooms off limits to the public, where talks often continue long into the night. They are consensus driven, meaning every party must agree, and are separate to the pledges.

We already know teams are working on the stocktake text. This is likely to undergo numerous revisions before the end of Cop before an agreement – if any – is made.

Cop28 might also see some of separate political declaration on the stocktake but it remains to be seen what negotiated outcome will emerge or what form it will take.

Cops also tend to feature what is known as a cover decision. This is usually an announcement made at the conclusion of the summit that outlines what has been achieved by the parties. Last year’s cover decision included an agreement to establish a loss and damage fund.

The Cop28 Presidency has said this is not mandatory and it is up to the parties to decide if one is needed. Again it remains to be seen how this will play out as a cover decision may not be needed if a stocktake text is agreed. Negotiators will now step up efforts to reach agreement on issues from fossil fuels to finance before ministers typically arrive in the summit’s closing days to clinch a deal.

“It is essential that countries agree to ramp up investment in clean technologies and infrastructure, particularly in emerging market and developing countries,” said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the London School of Economics.

“They should also agree to an ambitious date for the phase out of all fossil fuel consumption which results in the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It might be difficult to reach agreement on these issues, but they are an essential response to the deeply worrying main finding of the global stocktake that the world is way off track from meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

Thematic agenda begins

Sunday marks the start of seven themed days looking at crucial climate issues. It begins with the first in-depth look at a Cop on the impact of the crisis on human health.

The spotlight turns to finance on Monday and then to energy, a “just transition” and indigenous peoples on Tuesday.

This continues until the final two days of the summit, December 11 and 12, which are reserved exclusively for negotiations.

Also expected over the next few days are protests by climate advocates from the across the world.

The Cop president has said the UAE is welcoming all voices to the summit.

Updated: December 05, 2023, 6:31 AM