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COP28 negotiations warm up; as does the world

By Tim Le Couilliard
08 December 2023
Green & Good (ESG and Impact)

Today began with the Met Office warning us that 2024 is set to be the hottest on record, and likely to be the first in which global warming exceeds 1.5C. This makes next year the 11th year in a row that annual temperatures have been more than a degree warmer than pre-industrial times.

Damning as the Met Office’s warning is, it doesn’t necessarily mean the Paris Agreement would be breached next year – as the agreement relates to a long-term average – but it certainly focuses minds. In the opening speech of COP28 today, delegates were told that this could be the world’s last chance of keeping global heating within safe limits.

COP28 won’t be able to solve this challenge overnight, but progress needs to be made, especially on fossil fuels, with emissions from them largely to blame for causing the temperature rise. Unsurprisingly given its location, and its attendees, COP28 has had a significant focus on fossil fuels, but arguably not much progress as yet. COP28 president, Sultan Al Jaber announced this morning that it would be the Canadian delegation who would be leading on developing the language on the phasing down, or out, of fossil fuels, as the conference enters the business stage of the negotiations.

Canadian Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, said that the final words on fossil fuel reduction may not be “as ambitious as some would want but it would still be a historic moment”. A historic moment as much as global warming exceeding 1.5C? We shall see. So far at COP28, Canada, which has an extractive intensive economy, has been accused of dragging its heels and trying to block an unequivocal agreement on a phase-out by pushing for the global stocktake to refer to “abated” fossil fuels (where efforts have been made to reduce the emissions).

Ambition seems to be a golden word at this stage of proceedings. Simon Stiell, the UN climate chief, called on “governments to give their negotiators clear marching orders – we need highest ambition, not point-scoring or lowest common denominator politics. Good intentions won’t halve emissions this decade or save lives right now.”

Stiell’s comments come as countries and negotiations are locked into days of high-level ministerial dialogues on what might make it into the final declaration from the summit. Under UN, rules, any agreement from the climate talks requires unanimous approval; any single nation can object and scuttle the deal.

There is no weekend for delegates (although they did enjoy a “Rest Day” yesterday), with Nature, Land Use and Oceans Day on Saturday and Food, Agriculture and Water Day on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday next week are scheduled for the “Final Negotiations” but many think that this will overrun.

Meanwhile, attention is already turning towards COP29 before the ink has even been written, let alone dried, on this year’s COP. It has been reported today that Azerbaijan is tipped to host next year’s summit, with the Azeri bid looking set to win support from other nations, both in the region and globally. Convention states that the next host country to host the summit be decided during the previous COP – usually with an “obvious” frontrunner - but this year geopolitical issues have led to unprecedented deadlock and a delay in proceedings. Russia is the main culprit for this – stating that it would veto any EU country’s bid to host. Moldova has also made a bid, and Serbia are said to be mulling one over, whilst Australia who were weighing up a bid seeming to have gone quiet. Azerbaijan, however, would be another interesting choice for COP29 – a significant oil and gas producer, and a member of OPEC Plus. Looks like oil states are both the present and the future for COPs – and it’s there where progress must be made.