From November 30th, delegates from 197 countries will gather in Dubai for the 28th World Climate Summit. The two-week COP28 will focus on how the world can work together to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and limit global warming. But that will be a rocky road, if not impossible, climate scientists predict. Progress in climate protection is therefore made more difficult not only by agreements that have not yet been adhered to, but also by the heated global situation and the influence of the gas and oil lobby - especially in the host country.
The COP28 global climate conference will take place from November 30th to December 12th, 2023, in which the 198 parties to the UN Climate Convention - 197 countries and the EU - will take part. The aim of the now 28th summit is officially to “identify and close the gaps in the implementation of the Paris Agreement”. Failures in climate protection should therefore be identified and rectified in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, but a maximum of 2 degrees, compared to pre-industrial levels. This inventory, the so-called “Global Stocktake”, has been running for years but is now due to be completed in Dubai. In the future, stocktakes will follow every five years. There are also already improvement measures in the climate protection of individual countries in the form of voluntary commitments, but these are not enough. Therefore, further and even more concrete milestones should be set at COP28. For example, it could be officially stipulated for the first time that, as demanded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by 43 percent by 2030 so that the 1.5 degree target is achieved.
But the host of COP28 alone raises doubts as to whether it will be possible to set up a concrete timetable, let alone stick to it: The United Arab Emirates promotes and sells fossil fuels such as oil and gas on a large scale. In addition, the President of COP28, Sultan Al Jaber, is managing director of the national oil company Adnoc and, according to leaked documents, used the preliminary negotiations of COP28 to prepare new deals with fossil fuels. Al Jaber rejects a complete exit from oil and natural gas. In view of this and an already strong lobby from the gas and oil industry, these do not bode well for the move away from fossil fuels and the energy transition towards renewables that is being sought at the climate conference.
The starting point: Our world between climate crisis and wars
But it's not just the venue that makes the negotiations at COP28 more difficult, says climate economist Reimund Schwarze from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ), who analyzes the preparations and discussions on site. The world as a whole is in a heated situation that makes it difficult to achieve quick successes, said Schwarze. “The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere continues to rise inexorably to record levels. It is already foreseeable that 2023 will be the warmest year since weather records began - and the first year in which the global community will violate its 1.5 degree target," says Schwarze, summarizing the latest developments. The negative effects this has are shown, for example, by this year's hurricanes, triggered by a sudden rise in sea temperatures.
The last report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and current studies also show that the climate has already reached extreme proportions. The window of opportunity to ensure sufficient climate protection in a timely manner is therefore becoming smaller and smaller. Time is of the essence because, according to the analyses, the current decade is crucial to achieving the 1.5 degree target. This means high standards for the discussions at COP28. “At the same time, the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine and the associated waves of migration are forcing many governments to have different priorities,” says Schwarze. The countries of the north in particular are currently more concerned with their energy supply and protecting their borders than with climate protection.
Business does not invest in climate protection and adaptation
As with previous climate summits, a major topic at COP28 will again be how the energy transition and how to deal with climate impacts will be financed. The focus is on the “Green Climate Fund”. The richer states from the global north actually wanted to fill this pot of money, which was established in 2010 by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), with 100 billion US dollars annually since 2020 in order to support developing countries in climate protection and climate adaptation. However, they have not yet fulfilled this promise; Last year the climate fund contained almost 90 billion US dollars. A point of contention is therefore whether the omissions will be made up for. According to forecasts, the northern states will keep their promise to the countries of the global south from 2023 onwards. That would make the negotiations at COP28 easier and take the “pressure out of the cauldron” so that long-term climate goals and structural reforms of the financial system could finally be discussed, says Schwarze.
A current study on the “Green Climate Fund” shows that there is a need for reform. Theoretically, the private sector should also invest in this fund and thus in the energy transition and climate protection. But the concept has not yet worked, reports study author Thomas Kalinowski from the Research Institute for Sustainability - Helmholtz Center Potsdam. “Most companies currently do not consider such a commitment to be profitable,” he says. The business models for climate adaptation are not attractive and investments are still too risky. Therefore, the private sector only has a share of almost 17 billion US dollars of the currently around 40 billion US dollars that are currently invested in ongoing climate fund projects - and most of this money actually comes from public institutions and not from the industry itself. These numbers dampen hopes , the pace of climate protection could be increased for financial interests.
Big goals, but a lack of willingness to do more climate protection
But climate economist Schwarze currently sees no insight into making their actions more climate-friendly in the future, not only in the economy, but also in states, both industrialized and emerging countries. At least the drafts did not contain any ideas or promises for new climate protection measures or even reforms for the existing, inadequate measures. Manfred Fishick from the Wuppertal Institute, which is presenting research results at COP28, also expects COP28 participating countries to be more willing to drastically step up the fight against climate change. “The conference must honestly recognize that current efforts are far from sufficient and take clear action to close these gaps,” he said. With current climate policy, the world is heading towards global warming of three degrees instead of 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels, according to a current UN report.
In addition to aid for poorer countries, the energy transition in particular needs to be significantly accelerated and renewable energies expanded, says Mr. Felsendick. To do this, however, all states would have to commit to giving up fossil fuels as quickly as possible - ideally immediately, but at the latest by 2050, said Rumpf, referring to calculations by the International Energy Agency. When it comes to the question of the necessary commitment to the energy transition, but also to the influence of current political conflicts and wars on future climate protection, China could tip the scales at COP28, predicts Schwarze. The relations between China and the USA, which have recently improved, play a major role. But host Al Jaber also has a massive influence on the outcome of COP28, says Schwarze.
Sources: Thomas Kalinowski (Helmholtz Center Potsdam), Climate Policy, doi: 10.1080/14693062.2023.2276857; Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ); Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy gGmbH