COP28 has kicked off in Dubai amid resounding calls for world leaders to accelerate collective climate action and deliver a “high ambition decision”, while the UN secretary general has publicly backed a phasing out of fossil fuels.
As leaders fly into the United Arab Emirates to discuss climate goals, action and find out the results of the first global stocktake since the Paris Agreement, UN representatives have highlighted the transition is nowhere near fast enough to limit warming within the current ambitions and need to be scaled up.
“COP28 cannot be just a photo-op. Leaders must deliver – the message is clear,” said UN climate change executive secretary Simon Stiell (pictured).
“Over 160 world leaders are headed to Dubai, because only cooperation between nations can get humanity back in this race. And as leaders leave Dubai after the opening summit, their message to their negotiators must be equally clear: don’t come home without a deal that will make a real difference.”
Meanwhile, António Guterres, the UN secretary general, has told news agency AFP this year’s COP climate talks should aim for a complete “phase-out” of fossil fuels, insisting the 1.5C climate goal “is not dead, it’s alive”.
“Obviously I am strongly in favour of language that includes (a) phaseout, even with a reasonable time framework,” The Guardian reported.
“We have the potential, the technologies and the capacity and the money – because the money is available, it’s a question of making sure it goes into the right direction – to do what is necessary, not only to keep the 1.5 degrees alive, but alive and well.
“The only thing that is still lacking is political will.”
A report recently published by UN Climate Change shows national climate action plans (NDCs) would collectively lower greenhouse gas emissions to 2% below 2019 levels by 2030, but a 43% reduction is needed.
In his opening speech after officially assuming the role of COP28 president, Sultan Al Jaber also addressed fossil fuels.
“I know there are strong views about the idea of including language on fossil fuels and renewables in the negotiated text. We have the power to do something unprecedented. I ask you to work together,” he urged delegates. “Be flexible, find common ground, come forward with solutions, and achieve consensus. And never lose sight of our North Star of 1.5.”
COP28 has been shrouded in controversy due to United Arab Emirates’ ties with the oil and gas industry, which Al Jaber also appeared to address: “Let history reflect the fact that this is the presidency that made a bold choice to proactively engage with oil and gas companies. We had many discussions. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. But now, many of these 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.”
Stiell added climate finance stands at the heart of the transformation and COP28 should lay the groundwork on creating a more ambitious New Collective Quantified Goal, which must be in place for next year.
It also hoped diplomats will quickly approve a draft deal on the loss and damage fund, announced last year at COP27, with countries pledging donations over the next few days.
COP28 president A Jaber added to the calls for urgency: “We don’t have any time to waste. We need to take urgent action now to reduce emissions. At COP28, every country and every company will be held to account.”
“There can only be one response to the stocktake: renewed ambition and accelerated action – climate action that charts a course to 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and build resilience,” added Stiell.