COP28: What Is It, Who Will Be Going And Why Does It Matter?

Everything you need to know about the biggest climate summit of the year.
COP28 banners in Dubai, UAE
COP28 banners in Dubai, UAE
Sean Gallup via Getty Images

The UN’s annual climate summit starts on Thursday, and there are high hopes that it could trigger real progress on our fight against global warming.

Just before the 28th Conference Of Parties (COP) – known as COP28 – kicks off in Dubai this year, here’s what you need to know.

What is COP28?

The international climate summit, held annually (unless decided otherwise by countries involved), aims to bring world leaders together to address the climate crisis.

This year, it will take place from Thursday, November 30 until Tuesday, December 12, at Expo City, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, although – as always with COP – there is a possibility it could overrun.

The world governments have met at this summit almost annually for nearly three decades.

The 1992 UN framework convention on climate change – which created COP – states that every country must be committed to “avoid dangerous climate change” and try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally.

COP led to the legally binding 2015 Paris agreement where world governments pledged to try and reduce global warming to 1.5C when compared to pre-industrial era temperatures.

Who is hosting COP28?

The summit changes locations each year – COP27 was held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt and COP26 was held in Glasgow, UK.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be hosting the event this year in Dubai.

COP28′s website says: “Since its inception in 1971, the UAE has supported the global climate agenda.

“Situated in a region where heat is extreme and water is precious, the UAE has long viewed climate change as a challenge that must be overcome.”

But, there has already been controversy over the UAE’s leadership of the summit following multiple reports that the country wants to use the opportunity to set up more oil and gas deals.

The allegations come after as calls for the carbon-spewing fossil fuels to be phased altogether continue to grow.

When asked about the leaked documents which triggered the reports, the UAE’s team at COP28 told the BBC “private meetings are private” and did not dispute the claims.

The chief executive of ADNOC – which provides around 3% of the world’s oil – was also chosen as the president of COP28.

Sultan Al-Jaber subsequently became him the first businessperson to be appointed in the role. His job within an oil company has not gone unnoticed, and triggered backlash around the world, but he maintains conversations with the fossil fuel industry are key to fixing the climate crisis.

The president of the upcoming COP28 climate change Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber
The president of the upcoming COP28 climate change Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber
RYAN LIM via Getty Images

Who will be going?

There is always an extensive guest list for COP, as the UN Convention is made up 198 Parties (197 countries and the EU).

At least 70,000 people are expected to attend the conference, including around 140 world leaders.

King Charles III, a prominent environmentalist, will deliver opening remarks and promote peace in the Middle East on Friday – a role he was denied last year.

However, there will a few prominent absences. Pope Francis will not be attending, on doctor’s orders. He was expected to be the first pontiff ever to address a UN climate change talk, but he contracted a bout of influenza and a subsequent lung inflammation over the weekend.

US president Joe Biden is also not expected to be attending, according to a White House official, who says he is balancing the Israel-Hamas war and the next presidential election in November 2024.

The US will be represented by the special envoy for climate change, John Kerry instead.

Chinese premier Xi Jinping is not expected to join either, although China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua will still attend.

UN PM Rishi Sunak will be going this year, following major backlash after he considered not attending last year.

Sunak did choose to miss the UN general assembly this year – becoming the first PM in a decade to do so – meaning he skipped a climate meeting with the UN secretary -general.

World leaders attend the world climate action summit on December 1 and 2, but their representatives will then continue the negotiations through the rest of the meeting.

Why does COP28 matter?

Last year’s COP saw a breakthrough agreement for more equitable management of the climate crisis, with leaders pledging to support those countries who are more vulnerable to extreme weather. That is usually those which have a smaller carbon footprint.

Countries now need to turn this promise into a tangible reality at this year’s summit.

COP28 also has to work on the failures of COP26.

As the targets created in the 2015 Paris Agreement were not strict enough to actually meet the 1.5C target – they would actually see the Earth warm by 3C or more – Glasgow’s COP26 was meant to lay out new, tougher, limits. It failed.

And since then, only more obstacles have appeared.

The Ukraine war created divisions over fossil fuel supplies, saw already rising energy prices skyrocket. Meanwhile, the world is still – in some aspects – trying to recover from the Covid pandemic.

A series of increasingly panicked warnings from experts this year also highlighted the gravity of our current climate emergency.


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