Keeping up with COP 28 – COP kicks off

The main event

COP kicks off

The UAE conference began with speeches from senior figures and heads of government, including from the President of COP28 and the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary. Many called on countries to speed up their action on climate change.

  • Sultan Al Jaber was officially appointed as the COP President, taking over from Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry. [COP28]
  • Al Jaber began by publishing a summary of a series of high-level dialogues between world leaders and the International Energy Agency (IEA), held in the lead-up to the conference. The IEA said that it was “encouraged by the consistent level of ambition”. [IEA]
  • However, the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell, said that nations were taking “baby steps” and moving “far too slowly”. He said he was looking for leaders to ‘take responsibility for speeding things up.’ [UN]
  • The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, attended the first day of COP, and addressing the conference called for innovative and pragmatic climate action, as well as announcing £1.6 billion in funding for climate projects. [UK Government]

Early progress?

Delegates quickly got to work, penning an agreement on assistance for countries vulnerable to climate change, as well as a declaration to transform food systems and reduce their impact on the environment.

  • A ‘Loss and Damage’ fund for the developing countries most exposed to the climate crisis, initially agreed at COP27, was operationalised. The UAE has already committed $100 million for the fund, as did Germany, while the US committed $17.5 million.  [COP28]
  • More than 100 countries also signed a declaration on sustainable agriculture, committing to include agriculture in their climate change plans by COP30 in 2025. The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) described it as a “tentative first step”, adding that agricultural was one of the “thorniest” climate change issues.  [IIED]

In the news

Absences from COP

This year’s conference has drawn heads of state and government from around the world, but along with who is in attendance, the media is particularly interested in who is not.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will also be absent from this year’s summit. [Reuters]
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping is also notably absent from the conference; an absence which was brought into focus by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s singling out of China as ‘vitally important’ in achieving the global climate ambitions set to be discussed at COP. [The Times]

King Charles makes impassioned speech

Outspoken environmentalist King Charles III made an impassioned speech during the opening ceremony at COP28, saying the “hope of the world” is at stake during the summit. He urged delegates to consider public and private sector partnerships on climate finance initiatives, in particular discussing the role that the insurance sector could play.

  • King Charles Urges Action to Slow World’s Descent Into Danger. [Bloomberg]

‘We don’t have two planet Earths’

The president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, made a speech to COP28 that urged the conference to make faster climate progress in the interest of protecting humanity.

  • Brazil is set to host COP30 in 2025 and is thus making their voice heard on the world stage. The president, along with other ministers, is urging the Dubai conference to take a more ambitious course of action ahead of their summit which will be hosted in the Amazon. [CNN]
  • Brazil has significantly reduced its levels of rainforest deforestation, which will reach zero by 2030, according to Lula, who is attempting to position Brazil as an example to other countries. Its urgent position on climate negotiations has also been attributed to the intense droughts which have recently affected the country. [DPA]

Other voices

ONE publishes analysis of climate finance commitments from the developed world

ONE, a non-profit advocacy group that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, published new analysis which shows that two-thirds of climate finance commitments from the developed world made between 2013 and 2021 have not been reported as disbursed or had little connection to climate. ONE analysed open-source data to reach the figure, which equated to nearly $343 billion.

  • Some $340 billion of pledged climate cash did not go where needed – ONE Campaign [Reuters]

Ex-Unilever CEO speaks to Bloomberg ahead of COP28

Paul Polman, formerly CEO of Unilever, appeared on the Bloomberg ‘In the City’ podcast ahead of COP28 warning not to expect a “magic wand” at the summit. Polman, who has attended in excess of 15 COP summits in his time, thinks the 1.5C global warming limit is “still alive.” However, he warns that “we are creating problems at a faster speed than we are applying solutions.”

  • Forget about a COP28 ‘Magic Wand’ Ex-Unilever CEO says [Bloomberg]

Activists fear for safety

The Climate Justice Coalition, a collection of activist groups, has said they are “deeply concerned” about people being arrested and detained at COP28. They are also worried about the extent of surveillance by the UAE Government. This comes as a UK academic, who was detained by the UAE for seven months in 2018, has warned attendees not to be “naive like I was”. However, the UAE has pledged to make the summit “inclusive” and welcomes “diverse voices and perspectives.”

  • COP28: Activists fear surveillance and arrests at Dubai climate summit. [Euronews]
  • “Don’t be naïve like I was”: UK academic advises COP28 attenders to stay safe [The Guardian]
  • UAE pledges to allow assembly and expression to be tested by COP28 [Financial Times]

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