Heading into COP28, the United Nations Calls for the Rapid Acceleration of Climate Change Action

Brian McCowan, Zondits staff, 9/26/2023

The first United Nations Stocktake on Climate Change Progress calls for a dramatic acceleration of policy and technical action to combat climate change. The report, released in early September, recognizes that some progress has been made since the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, but states that both “ambition and implementation” must be rapidly accelerated in response to the climate crisis. 

The Stocktake is a report assessing worldwide progress toward reaching the climate goals established in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The report is expected to be front and center during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) taking place in late November. 

A September 8 UN press release describes the Stocktake as both a policy and technical update on progress and proposed actions going forward to overcome challenges. The report is intended to be completed every five years, and data collection for the current report began in 2021. 

According to UN Facilitator Farhan Akhtar, “This global stocktake is taking place at a crucial moment to inspire further global action in responding to the climate crisis.” The technical conclusions and recommendations were developed during three stakeholder meetings convened in 2022 and 2023.  The participants included representatives from developed and developing countries as well as members of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

A summary report on the technical dialogue is not yet publicly available, but the news release states that “many creative and actionable solutions to overcome challenges are ready to be implemented,” and further states, “the report makes clear that there is progress, but much more needs to be done.  While there are well-known gaps, the technical findings highlighted existing and emerging opportunities and creative solutions to bridge these gaps.” 

Looking forward to COP28, the conference President-Designate Dr. Sultan Al Jaber states, “This global stocktake report provides clear direction on how we can meet the expectations of the Paris Agreement by taking decisive action in this critical decade, to keep 1.5 (the Paris agreement goal to limit global temperature increases to within 1.5°C of pre-industrial levels) within reach we must act with ‘ambition and urgency’ to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030. That is why the COP28 Presidency has put forward an ambitious action agenda centered around fast-tracking a just and well managed energy transition that leaves no one behind, fixing climate finance, focusing on people lives and livelihoods, and underpinning everything with full inclusivity. I believe we can deliver all of this while creating sustainable economic growth for our people, but we must urgently disrupt business as usual and unite like never before to move from ambition to action and from rhetoric to real results.” 

The selection of Al Jaber as the President of COP28 has been controversial. He is the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, one of the world’s largest oil producers. Shortly after his appointment, Zeina Khalil Hajj, the head of global campaigning at the climate focused group 350.org, said the decision risked “jeopardizing the entire UN climate progress. We are extremely concerned that it will open the floodgates for greenwashing and oil and gas deals to keep exploiting fossil fuels.” And Romain Ioualalen, global policy manager at Oil Change International, said: “This is a truly breathtaking conflict of interest and is tantamount to putting the head of a tobacco company in charge of negotiating an anti-smoking treaty.” 

But other influential participants in climate policy-making, including British ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair, have been supportive of the oil executive’s role, “Al Jaber brings deep diplomatic and commercial experience through his work as the UAE’s special envoy on climate change and as chairman of (renewable energy corporation) Masdar. I am confident that Dr Sultan has both the standing and the capability to offer groundbreaking leadership for COP28,” said Blair amidst calls for Al Jaber to be replaced.  

Heading into COP28, Al Jaber is quoted in the UN report, “I am calling on leaders from both the public and private sector to come to COP28 with real and actionable commitments to address climate change. We need to rapidly decarbonize both the supply side and demand side of the energy system at the same time. We need to triple renewable energy by 2030, commercialize other zero-carbon solutions like hydrogen and scale up the energy system free of all unabated fossil fuels, while we eliminate the emissions of the energies we use today. We need to protect and enhance nature, safeguard carbon sinks and transform food systems that account for one-third of emissions. And we need fundamental reform of the international financial architecture that was built for the last century.” 

Time will tell if that statement was “greenwashing” or a serious call to action. 

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