The UN climate chief states that the world is at the forefront of a disaster at Cop28.
The top climate official of the UN has cautioned that world leaders need to take immediate action and make concrete efforts towards reducing carbon emissions. This urgency stems from the increasingly high global temperatures, which have put everyone at risk of catastrophic consequences.
Simon Stiell, who will be in charge of the important Cop28 climate summit starting next week, stated that no nation can consider itself safe from disaster. Numerous global leaders will gather in Dubai for intense discussions on how to address the crisis.
Stiell, in an exclusive interview with the Guardian ahead of the summit, stated, “We are accustomed to discussing safeguarding those on the distant frontlines. However, we have reached a point where we are all on the frontline.” He also expressed concern that many governments are not taking urgent action in the face of this crisis.
Global temperatures have broken new records in recent months, making this year the hottest on record, and perilously close to the threshold of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels that countries have agreed to hold to. Temperatures are now heading for a “hellish” 3C increase, unless urgent and drastic action is taken, but greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise.
According to Stiell, it is still feasible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to remain under the critical threshold. However, any further postponement would pose a significant risk.
“The continuous progress we have made each year with our baby steps requires us to take larger strides in the coming years in order to remain competitive,” he stated. “The evidence is indisputable.”
The annual conference of the parties (Cop) under the 1992 UN framework convention on climate change, known as Cop28, will begin this Thursday in Dubai. The United Arab Emirates, a significant producer of oil and gas, will be hosting the two-week-long event. More than 70,000 delegates, including world leaders, senior ministers, and officials from 198 countries, are expected to attend, making it the largest Cop to date.
The anticipated attendees for the event include UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who will be joined by King Charles, UN Secretary General António Guterres, and UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan for the opening speeches. Other notable figures in attendance will be the Pope and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. An invitation has also been extended to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The leaders of the top two countries responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, Joe Biden of the United States and Xi Jinping of China, are not anticipated to be present. However, their representatives, John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua, have indicated their strong collaboration in advance of the discussions.
Sultan Al Jaber, the leader of Adnoc, the national oil company of UAE, will lead the discussions. Al Jaber has faced strong backlash from environmental activists for holding two positions, but Stiell dismissed this as a distraction.
“This is not the initial time a Cop has been held in a country that produces fossil fuels, and it will likely not be the final. Regardless of a country’s status as a major oil producer, they all have a responsibility to contribute,” stated the speaker. “The crucial aspect is the messages and signals from the newly elected president, which emphasize the urgency for action and a concentrated effort on how to accelerate the shift towards a decarbonized world.”
Executives from the fossil fuel industry are expected to be well-represented at the summit, as they have become more prominent at Cops gatherings in recent times.
Stiell stated that it is crucial to acknowledge the involvement of the fossil fuel industry in finding a solution. The issues at hand are clear, but in order to move forward from identifying the problem to discussing how to address it, the fossil fuel industry must be involved in the conversation.
He maintained that these corporations must demonstrate their commitment to transitioning the world to a zero-carbon economy. He emphasized the importance of their involvement in the process being genuine and addressing the necessary steps towards moving away from our current reliance on fossil fuels to a new business model focused on decarbonization.
At the upcoming Cop28 conference, a significant topic will be addressing the financial support for aiding and rebuilding impoverished and susceptible communities affected by climate disasters. The lack of funding for loss and damage has been a longstanding concern for developing nations, but a plan for the fund was recently agreed upon by countries earlier this month.
Wealthy nations have not committed to providing contributions to the fund yet. Stiell urged global leaders to make pledges. “A fund that is created without the necessary resources will not help us reach our goals. Donors have the chance to show how the fund will be funded and the amount of funding at this Cop,” he stated.
The world’s governments will receive a worldwide evaluation of the limited advancements made in reducing emissions since the 2015 Paris agreement. This assessment will highlight the significant deviation from the goal set in Paris to limit global warming to 1.5C, which experts warn will have catastrophic and irreversible consequences if exceeded.
Stiell emphasized the importance of governments implementing proven solutions, such as utilizing renewable energy, electrifying transportation, and reducing carbon emissions, in order to effectively combat global warming. He stated that there is a high level of public expectation for governments to utilize these tools during Cop28 and address the urgency of taking action towards these solutions.
He stated that while hope is often discussed, it can only truly be realized through action and visible progress. He believes this is what everyday individuals affected by climate change are looking for from global leaders at Cop28.