COP28 between aspirations and challenges

Nabil Fahmy
Thursday 30 Nov 2023

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) commences in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) amid highly challenging international political circumstances, exacerbated by the events in Ukraine, European-Russian tensions, and the competitive dynamics between American and Chinese influences over the contemporary international order.


These factors have negatively impacted the essential cooperation among major nations, hindering their readiness to assume the required leadership role on the global stage. This is crucial for successfully addressing complex global issues ranging from technical considerations like the environment and climate change to broader concerns such as sustainable development, resource scarcity, militarization, and polarization among major powers.

The conference unfolds in the Middle East, with Gaza suffering devastation and its people enduring casualties, displacement, and homelessness due to prolonged Israeli occupation and the recent severe attacks on Gaza. This presents an entirely unfavorable environment to rally international and, specifically, Middle Eastern cooperation for the common good or adopt a regional, multi-stakeholder perspective on global issues transcending borders.

 The multifaceted risks, including climate change, necessitate a comprehensive approach within international frameworks, considering the sensitive political conditions and communication gaps in the region even before the events in Gaza.

Despite these challenges, COP28 convenes urgently to address the pressing issue of climate change, reaching a critical juncture as the international community enters a period of "boiling," as articulated by the United Nations secretary-general. Global temperatures are on track to increase by up to -2.6°C, while the desired target remains restricting the increase to no more than 1.5°C.

In light of recent developments, the world acknowledges the commitment of China and the United States to collaborate in reducing hazardous emissions and their impacts on climate change. Particularly, the collaboration aims to reduce methane emissions, the second-largest source of harmful emissions, and triple renewable energy capacity, displacing fossil fuel-generated energy.

In pursuit of progress against climate change, COP28 organizers emphasize five key pillars: technology, innovation, inclusivity, universal participation, and considering the most vulnerable communities. Providing necessary funding for transitioning to renewable energy, ensuring resilience and adaptability in the face of climate-related challenges to the food system, and possibly addressing food security through a dedicated declaration are anticipated outcomes.

The organizers aim to underscore that citizens and nature are central to addressing the consequences of climate change, with a specific focus on highlighting the role of youth, recognizing that the results of these efforts will significantly impact their future interests.

To translate these goals into action, COP28 targets the adoption of new practices and the achievement of various objectives. 

These include the first comprehensive global review of the progress made by nations in combating climate change, assessing the implementation of commitments and national emission reduction goals, even in the face of a grim and perilous reality, as emphasized by the UN secretary-general.

Accelerating the transition to clean energy to mitigate the problem severity requires a new approach to dealing with financing for clean energy transition. This involves providing higher levels of financial support, commensurate with the necessary needs for achieving development goals while respecting the environment. Particularly, developing nations that bear significant responsibility for the current environmental crisis will be addressed, potentially involving a review of the roles of international financial institutions and the private sector.

Efforts are underway to issue a declaration on the management mechanisms of the Loss and Damage Fund (LDF), established for the first time during COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh in 2022. Recent international consultations have shown progress in this area, with indications of the possibility of providing the necessary funding. Europe is committed to announcing tangible support for the fund during the 2023 conference.

Confident that the UAE aims for the success of COP28, mirroring Egypt's successful hosting of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, it is fortuitous to have two Arab states hosting the world climate change conference in consecutive years, reflecting growing Arab interest in international affairs and active engagement.

While Egypt's success in establishing the LDF for the benefit of developing nations stands out as a key achievement, COP28 will be evaluated based on its ability to secure funding to assist these nations, surpassing trillions of dollars annually, meeting current needs to enable their transition to renewable clean energy, and compensating for past damages through the LDF.

Among the criteria for evaluating COP28's success is the international community's ability to agree on specific and sufficient measures to reduce environmental emissions and control temperature rise. Some argue that COP27 did not achieve sufficient success in this regard, given contrasting directions, with energy-producing nations seeking emissions reduction through technological efficiency improvements, while advanced industrial nations prioritize reducing fossil fuel dependency.

Each COP session has its issues, achievements, and failures, shaped by the host nation's determination and enthusiasm for progress.

The outcome depends on the positions of nations and the international community as a whole, impacting everyone positively or negatively in success or failure. A collective, innovative effort is required to address various issues and topics, recognizing that each conference has its developments.

The real decision-making in previous sessions and those to come revolves around two main issues: a substantial increase in funding and controlling gas emissions to regulate temperature rise. Hopefully, a positive movement on these crucial issues will occur amid the turbulent and concerning international landscape.

*The writer is the former Egyptian foreign minister.

*The article is published in collaboration with permission from the Independent Arabia newspaper.

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