Party representatives from the Great Ocean States call for greater emphasis on ocean-based climate mitigation and adaptation (source: UNFCCC)
These articles on COP28 require patient reading, as they highlight the technical nature of the process in preparing the negotiation texts. It is important to reckon with the tediousness of the process and to understand the complications of engaging over 180 country delegations in struggling to focus on climate change responses. This is even more important especially at a time where there are many political conflicts that could easily derail such efforts. Recognition of this integrity and sincere efforts shown by each delegation is implicit in establishing an agreed policy procedure and action. It is necessary to acknowledge the frustrations of those calling for action world where loss and damage is an ongoing reality.
A simple celebration of hope and welcome
It is now Day Eight of COP28, and negotiations immediately resumed after a day of rest. Far from the main halls of COP28 there was a simple eucharistic celebration with the Catholic community in Dubai and participants of COP28. Archbishop Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis who is the Apostolic Nuncio, with Archbishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, Negros Occidental in the Philippines, and Fr Pedro Walpole SJ, Ecojesuit Global Coordinator, led the celebration. The gathering gave much hope for the remaining days of COP with the community’s warm and prayerful welcome.
Ministerial Pairings press conference
A press conference was held afterwards in the main halls of Expo City with the ministerial pairings chaired by COP28 Dr. Sultan Al Jaber. The ministerial pairings are assigned by the COP28 presidency to oversee and facilitate the remaining days of negotiations. The pairing should also consist of two environmental ministers from the Global South and North.
The assigned ministers are geographically representative yet the question arises, what makes it difficult in the selection process, is it language skills, as to why no ministers from least developed countries were appointed? The ministers overseeing the process are: for mitigation, Singapore and Norway, adaptation by Chile and Denmark, the Global Stocktake by South Africa and Australia, and means of implementation by Egypt and Canada. They committed to deliver on the COP28 Presidency’s vision of the “highest possible ambition.”
During the Q&A, three different people from the audience asked the same question to the COP28 president: With his vision for COP28 to deliver the highest possible ambition, how can he guarantee the rest of the world that is watching that the final agreement will reflect ‘fossil fuel phaseout.’ He did not directly respond to the question by reiterating his role of enabling and facilitating the process to keep the ‘North Star’ of 1.5°C in sight. Moreover, as he assured the Presidency’s commitment to keep this goal alive, the words the COP28 president used were “just, fast, and rapid energy transition”, and not phaseout.
At this rate, it is still uncertain if the final agreement will reflect ‘fossil fuel’ phaseout as repeatedly called by scientists to limit warming below 1.5°C.
Process of integrity: Global Stocktake consultation
A robust and ambitious Global Stocktake (GST) is the most critical outcome of COP28, as this will inform the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) due in 2025.
Later in the evening, the Heads of Delegation gathered for an informal consultation on matters relating to the GST. A third iteration of the draft text was released on the morning of 8 December that finally recognizes “the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change” (p.2). This is generally viewed by civil society as a good step. The text however had a more expanded roster of options for each final negotiations in the coming days, which means the process can be slow.
The consultation process was facilitated by co-chairs from the UNFCCC Secretariat in which Party representatives were invited to share their views on the draft text. The Secretariat will then consolidate all inputs and ensure a balanced text before submitting to the GST Ministerial pair.
Due to time constraints, not all of the Party representatives had a chance to speak. What follows are some of (but not limited to) the common main inputs across the Parties
- A stronger articulation and emphasis on differentiation between developed and developing countries in relation to mitigation, adaptation, and finance to ensure that developed countries fulfill their historical responsibilities, and developing countries would not have to be burdened.
- Expressed concern that references to the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement was not made prominent. This should not just be an option for negotiation but an imperative;
- All Parties that had a chance to speak expressed their support for “fossil fuel phaseout” and not a “phasedown” or “phaseout of unabated fossil fuels.” It was also emphasized that fossil fuel phaseout should not be listed as a negotiable option;
- A more robust integration of human rights, Indigenous peoples, women and children, and youth is critical in all workstreams;
- Expressed concern that Article 2.1 (c) on financial flows does not articulate the differential responsibility between developed and developing nations;
- The draft decision text needs to lay out clearly guidelines for the next round of NDCs that indicate how the Global Stocktake has informed the process; and
- Oceans-based climate action and mitigation needs greater integration and articulation, as voiced out by representatives of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).
There is a need to be vigilant given that phasing out of unabated fossil fuels is listed as one of the options for the GST negotiation, and can potentially be a fall back if an agreement is not reached. This was highlighted by the COP28 president as a legitimate inclusion of US Climate Envoy John Kerry’s statement during an interview with POLITICO, a European news media: “the bottom line is this COP needs to be committed to phasing out all unabated fossil fuels.”
However, this introduces an undefined term that may come out as a filibustering process instead of an understanding on the urgency raised by science. The IPCC has reiterated many times that phasing out all fossil fuels and subsidies is the only way to keep 1.5°C alive.
It was an extensive process, yet the negotiators shared their inputs with integrity and keenness in ensuring that realistic and ambitious action is delivered. This is source of hope as the stakes for humanity become increasingly higher as the final days approach.