What happened at COP28 and why is it important?

What happened at COP28 and why is it important?

The 28th annual Conference of the Parties (COP) has drawn to a close in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Our sustainability team has been keeping a close eye on the proceedings, while also bringing COP to the wider team at Beyondly by holding a mock COP28 style event in our office. The conference covered many critical negotiations between global governments and opened the platform for keynote speakers such as Great British monarch King Charles and Pope Francis to inspire action. This article explores the key decisions undertaken at COP28. 

King Charles addressed the conference with a clear and powerful message –  

“Unless we rapidly repair and restore nature’s economy, based on harmony and balance, which is our ultimate sustainer, our own economy and survivability will be imperilled.” 

The key themes of decision making throughout COP28 included: 

  • Climate loss and damage funding
  • A just transition of energy systems
  • Food and agriculture
  • Youth involvement and education 

Loss and Damage Fund 

This agreement is seen to be the beacon of success for the conference, with support agreed for the nations most vulnerable to climate change impacts. Many of the worlds wealthier, more economically developed countries came together to pledge a total of over $650 million to support nations which face temporary or permanent loss and damage through the increasing threat of climate change. The development of national response plans for vulnerable nations is of paramount importance to mitigate impacts for their natural resources as well as the homes and lives of their population. 

Energy Systems Transition 

Being held in a gulf state and presided over by the CEO of UAE’s Oil Giant, ADNOC, the transition from fossil fuels to more renewable energy sources was destined to be a hotly debated topic. Whilst the science points towards the use of fossil fuels to generate energy as the major contributor to climate change, the negotiations were not straight forward. 

The Global Stocktake (GST) was a main focus within negotiations along with the need to phase down / out fossil fuels. The GST is a five yearly process in which progress against climate goals informs the next round of pledges towards an energy transition. COP28 marked the first time fossil fuels were explicitly called out during negotiations. 

Food and Agriculture 

Given that 30% of greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the food production sector, COP28 marked the first time a COP had a day dedicated to food. It is imperative that climate positive food be given priority. The signing of the Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action by 152 countries was a significant result. It will incorporate agriculture into climate policies and encourage stakeholders from the food and agricultural sectors to work together positively. 

Food is affected by climate change through varying food security due to extreme weather such as droughts, floods, wildfires and desertification of landscapes. The negotiations aimed to reduce emissions while providing a basis for increased food security and resilience globally. 

Youth Involvement and Education 

While decisions and negotiations are undertaken at COP28 by experienced climate organisations and government officials, they accepted the importance of involving the youth to educate and inspire the next generation, including an announcement for an International Youth Climate Program that aims to increase youth participation in COP. 

A total of 38 nations pledged to include climate education in their Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans by signing the Greening Education Partnership Declaration. Greening Schools, Greening Learning, Greening Capacity, and Greening Communities are the four main pillars on which the partnership is centred. 

Looking Onwards 

Although these were the areas of high importance for negotiations, the list of declarations and agreements made at COP28 does not end here. Overall, the conference reached landmark agreements on loss and damage and a clear ambition to transition away from fossil fuels. This year’s event will be seen as a success, but it is not immediately clear whether it will live up to previous events including Copenhagen 2009 and Paris 2015 where the most impactful reports and negotiations were performed. 

Forest with skyline