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COP28: What to expect from Dubai

30.11.23 | Written by Luca Difato

Today marks the commencement of the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, commonly known as COP28, held in Expo City, Dubai.

Over the next two weeks, more than 7,000 delegates, including heads of state, experts, and activists, will converge to focus their efforts on combating global warming while evaluating countries’ progress in reducing emissions. What will be the key takeaways from the fortnight ahead?

Host Scrutiny

Firstly, it’s nigh on impossible to overlook the United Arab Emirates’ role as hosts of this year’s climate summit for a number of reasons. Not only is the UAE a major carbon emitter, and the location has meant the majority of the attendees have no choice but to fly to the Gulf state, and in the case of the UK’s representatives King Charles III, Rishi Sunak and Lord Cameron have all opted to take their own private jets, but leaked documents have revealed that the UAE had aimed to use it’s platform as host to strike oil and gas deals with 15 nations. These actions would contravene the standards expected from a COP president, but they are consistent with the non-traditional diplomacy that the UAE has become very effective at using, such as ‘sports diplomacy’. This concept, often simplified as ‘sportswashing’ has seen UAE’s hosting of mega-events creating dialogue between leaders, to bridge cultural differences and use the international language of sport as a middle ground and as a platform for trade agreements and legislation. Nonetheless, COP28 President Sultan al Jaber has criticised the ‘false’ allegations and believes they are rumours designed to undermine the COP28 presidency.

Global Stocktake 

A landmark aspect of this year’s summit is the first-ever global stocktake which will see attending parties signing off on a document tracking the progress to emission reduction. The global stocktake has been compared to taking inventory and will take place every five years as a way of identifying the shortcomings in relation to the Paris Agreement’s implementation. What follows the stocktake should, and will hopefully, be an increased global response with elevated transparency and accountability from those involved.

Loss and Damage Fund

Last year, one of the highlights of COP27 was the establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund Almost. This year, 200 nations are set to agree on the intricacies of the fund which aims to help poorer countries deal with the impacts of global warming. The UAE, UK and EU are all set to provide seed money to start operations, with the World Bank hosting the fund on a trial basis. Many believe that securing a consensus on the funding details will be seen as an early win for the summit which will then translate into political goodwill as we enter the latter parts of COP28 and begin to tackle more divisive topics such as…

Fossil Fuels

The unofficial main event of these talks looks to be the issue of fossil fuels, with Mark Carney believing that the success of COP28 entirely relies on challenging the fossil fuel industry, and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calling for talks to agree to a complete phase-out of fossil fuels. The UAE is home to some of the world’s largest oil reserves, and COP president Sultan al-Jaber is the CEO of its national oil company. The UAE, as host, will be tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the conversations and Jaber has already prioritised building support to triple renewable energy capacity, as opposed to a commitment to ending fossil fuel usage that so many would like to see.

Finally, there is of course the domestic implications and there will certainly be a lot of eyes on Rishi Sunak following his recent back-stepping on some of the UK’s key Net Zero policies that has caused many to doubt the likelihood of the UK reaching Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. There is a valuable chance for Sunak to win back some climate credentials early on in the conference by taking a leading role in contributing to the aforementioned Loss and Damage Fund, but only time will tell whether the UK delegation walks away from the summit with its head held high.

Sunak’s performance on Net Zero issues will be scrutinised even further as the UK enters what is likely to be an election year. Our recent insight report, Election 2024: Election priorities and the battle for Net Zero, takes a deep dive into Net Zero, considering how both Labour and the Conservatives are positioned on the environment, and examining the challenges of balancing the economic priorities of the UK with the need to deliver Net Zero.

COP28: What to expect from Dubai