World leaders, governments and other organisations will once again attend the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), or COP28.
The event will take place in Dubai at the end of this month and is expected to focus heavily on the first of the Global Stocktakes agreed upon in the Paris Agreement of 2015.
So what are the Global Stocktakes, what can we expect as the legacy of COP28 and how will this trickle down to impact business in the UAE?
What is the Global Stocktake?
The Global Stocktake (GST) is an assessment of progress made toward mitigating global warming which will take place every five years. The mechanism was established under Article 14 of the Paris Agreement in 2015 but took shape at COP24 in 2018.
While the goal is not to assess the progress of individual countries on climate change but rather review the aggregated global achievement on mitigation, adaptation and finance goals set out in the Paris Agreement, whilst motivating governments to take stock of their individual progress and trigger the collective ambition to do better over time.
The Global Stocktake is designed “to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of [the Paris] Agreement and its long-term goals. Those goals include cutting greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and ideally 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F); building resilience to climate impacts; and aligning financial support with the scale and scope needed to tackle the climate crisis”.
The GST is made up of three phases:
- The first phase, information gathering, has been taking place since COP26 in November 2021 and concluded at the Bonn climate talks in June of 2023. In this phase, reports from individual countries, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations (UN) and the UNFCCC are collected and used to produce several synthesis reports.
- The second phase is the technical assessment of the reports produced in phase one. A scientific synthesis report was published in September 2023 to be discussed ahead of COP28.
- The final phase, which is the political phase and consideration of outputs, will take place at COP28 in Dubai, 30 November–12 December 2023.
The outcome of the political discussions is expected to be published at the end of COP28 and could set out how the outcomes of the GST will be actioned and taken forward.
What can we expect as the outcome of COP28?
After the GST, individual governments will have two years to submit their updated NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) outlining how they intend to take stronger action.
Current climate actions are not nearly enough to keep climate change below the 1.5 degrees C target. In fact the GST Synthesis Report released in September 2023 highlights that global temperatures are now expected to rise by 2.4-2.6 degrees C by the end of the century (compared to 3.7-4.8 degrees C in 2010).
The report makes clear that greater ambition and urgency are needed on all fronts to combat the climate crisis, and so resolutions from COP28 could offer a unique opportunity for course correction.
While the GST Synthesis Report laid bare just how far we are from achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, it did put forward a roadmap for system wide transformations to combat the climate crisis.
The most pressing reforms is the need to phase out unbated fossil fuels, scale renewable energy, shift transport and industry, reduce non-CO2 emissions such as methane, preserve nature, end deforestation and adopting sustainable agriculture.
But most critically, the GST report puts people at the heart of the transformations and underscored the need for resilience and equity.
The sticking points of course have been the phasing down of fossil fuels and disagreement on the financial responsibility for climate change mitigation and adaptation in poorer nations.
In the most recent meeting in New Delhi, G20 leaders failed to address some of the most critical aspects of climate change including a timeline for the phasing out of fossil fuels.
Could a lack of resolution be on the cards for COP28? Or could we have strong political messaging, but a lack of follow through from countries in the development of climate actions and support?
Whatever the outcome, COP28 will be a critical moment for the world.
How will COP28 impact business?
COP28 is highly relevant to business of all sizes. The decisions and agreements made here will cascade down to countries’ national policies, laws, regulations, and investment plans.
Business will need to act on three fronts:
- To get ahead of any resulting regulatory changes (arising from NDCs) by preparing for a more sustainable model, thinking about quantification, reduction and mitigation strategies across its operations and supply chain.
- To respond to investor demand to demonstrating your ability to mitigate sustainability risks or capture opportunities.
- To respond to consumer, customer, and employee demand for demonstrable commitment to good Environmental Social Governance (ESG).
Read our blog on current ESG reporting requirements in the UAE and how you can start to future-proof your business.
As the World Resources Institute puts it COP28 is “a moment both for accountability and action”.
“The time for rhetoric and posturing is over. For this COP28 to be a success, governments, corporations and others must come prepared to take definitive actions that benefit people, nature and the climate.
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- Promoting financial inclusion: Providing access to financial services for underserved communities, fostering economic empowerment and reducing poverty.
- Enhancing employee well-being: Offering financial wellness programs and financial literacy training to improve employee financial security and overall well-being.