COP28: What's all the fuss about?

COP28 this year is hosted by the UAE and will take place in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December. Since COP27 last year, conflict is still raging, and climate impacts are still worsening. Climate action in support of sustainable peace has never been more necessary.

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COP28 will take place in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December. Photo: Keerthi Ramesh.
What is COP?

COP stands for conference of parties. These are the countries party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), that brings together 198 countries, that have agreed to come together each year and negotiate global policies to tackle climate change. Each COP has a president, Dr Sultan al-Jaber for COP28, who will be joined by an expected 70,000 participants, including heads of state, government officials, international industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, experts and youth representatives.

What is on the agenda?

For the first time in the history of the UNFCCC, a thematic day dedicated to peace will take place on 3 December. The UAE has also issued a Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace, calling for more resilience funding to be directed to highly vulnerable and affected communities, particularly those in situations of conflict.

At Alert we warmly welcome the UAE Declaration that comes at a timely moment, when climate finance needs to urgently reach those affected by the double burden of climate and conflict. We however look forward to hearing about a strong follow up framework that will allow for accountability and to guarantee the Declaration has a legacy at COP29 and beyond.

Peace is far from the only topic to be discussed this year in Dubai.

  • The Global Stocktake (GST) mechanism was established under the Paris Agreement to assess progress made since 2015 in combating rising temperatures. The results of this 5-year long assessment will be adopted in Dubai and should then guide countries to set new, more ambitious climate policies and funding goals.
  • There will be pressure to define deadlines for the fossil fuels phase-out, and about setting a global target for renewables and energy efficiency.
  • The Loss and Damage fund was agreed at COP27 and aims to provide financing for the countries most affected by climate change. The transitional committee, established to guide operationalisation of the fund, came to an agreement in early November that now needs to be approved at COP28. The next step is for developed countries to pledge significant commitments to the fund. The allocation of funds that will sit with the new established board will require special attention from peacebuilding practitioners going forward, to make sure conflict affected settings do not fall through the funding cracks.
  • On climate finance, developed countries need to pledge adequate and predictable funding and the $100 billion a year commitment from 2009, but they will also have to initiate negotiations on a new annual climate finance target to replace (and increase) the $100 billion pledge. The New Climate Quantified Goal (NCQG) is due to be set up by 2024 for the period post 2025.

For more on COP jargon, see our explainer from last year.

What has climate change got to do with peace?

Climate change impacts conflict and conflict impacts the fight against climate change, which is why climate action and finance need to be conflict sensitive.

Countries affected by violent conflict are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but receive the least climate finance to help their populations adapt and address loss and damage. The finance these countries do receive, if poorly suited to their circumstances, can make conflict worse, and make them even more vulnerable to climate impacts. The climate crisis intensifies the vulnerability of populations in conflict situations, and conflicts lower their resilience and adaptive capacity to deal with climate shocks and pressures.

70% of climate fragile countries are at risk of or in a state of conflict. This should be reflected in climate finance negotiations, including those around the loss and damage fund, to allow for tailor made finance to reach those most in need.

What is Alert calling for?

Alert is calling for climate action and climate finance to be conflict sensitive.

The Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius will only be possible if climate action and finance contribute to building sustainable peace. This involves increased access to climate finance for conflict-affected countries; and the introduction of robust measures to ensure such financing is conflict sensitive. This will allow for devolving decision making to the lowest level possible, empowering local CSOs and authorities fostering local ownership and capacity.

The flexibility predictability of finance needs to better consider fast changing political landscapes and volatility, allowing for more adaptability. Donors often consider investing in conflict affected settings as risky due to the political situation of these countries, affecting their return on investment. Carrying out conflict analysis and consultations with local stakeholders will help alleviate this risk by providing a better understanding of local and conflict dynamics.

Significant acceleration is needed if a doubling of 2019 finance flows by 2025 is to be met, as urged by the Glasgow Climate Pact, adopted at COP26 in 2021. Without this, estimated annual adaptation needs are US$160-340 billion by 2030 and US$315-565 billion by 2050.

To find out more about ways to make climate finance fit for all that need it the most, please read our policy recommendations.