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Cop28: Everything you need to know 

What is a Cop? 

The Conference of the Parties is the decision-making body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The annual Cop summits bring together the 198 parties – 197 nations plus the European Union – that signed the UN convention to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system”. The first Cop summit was in Berlin in 1995. 

What do Cop summits aim to achieve? 

The aim is for governments to negotiate and agree on strategies and targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, curb global warming and repair economic and environmental damage caused by climate change. One of the primary tasks is to examine the national reports, action plans and emissions inventories submitted to the UN by participating countries, contained within nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Countries must update these documents every five years to ensure they align with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

What is the Paris Agreement? 

A legally binding treaty that commits to keeping the rise in global average temperature by 2100 to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels – and ideally 1.5C. It also pledges to strengthen nations’ abilities to adapt to climate change and provide financing to build climate resilience. The Paris Agreement, adopted at Cop21, has been ratified by 194 countries and the EU. Three Cop nations – Iran, Syria and Yemen – have not ratified the treaty. Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement, but this was reversed by his successor Joe Biden.

Why is the 1.5C target important? 

The target is based on scientific consensus that the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and irreversible effects from climate change will increase significantly if global temperatures rise by more than 1.5C. The Paris Agreement is a binding piece of climate action alongside the Kyoto Protocol, which was signed at Cop3 in 1997 and compels nations to meet emissions reduction targets. 

Why is Cop28 particularly significant? 

The Paris Agreement mandated a five-yearly evaluation of nations’ emissions-cutting progress, called a Global Stocktake. The first stocktake was completed this autumn and is due to be discussed at Cop28. The UN’s initial findings in September concluded that the world is “not on track” to meet the Paris Agreement goals. In its pre-Cop28 progress review in November, the UN said action set out in countries’ NDCs would increase emissions by 8.8 percent over 2010 levels by 2030. The main hope for Cop28 is that governments will come up with a roadmap to accelerate climate action. 

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What else will happen at Cop28? 

Other critical tasks include setting up the loss and damage fund to help vulnerable countries recover from climate-related damage and upwardly revising the pledge made by developed countries at Cop26 to double finance for climate-vulnerable countries by 2025. Negotiators are also expected to thrash out nations’ conflicting ambitions on scaling back use of fossil fuels and discuss issues including energy transition, food security and water usage. 

What does the Cop28 presidency do? 

The Cop presidency rotates each year among the five recognised UN regions. The choice of the UAE as Cop28 host has been criticised by the environmental lobby because it is a major oil producer, but the Emirati government argues that there can be no meaningful debate without all parts of the energy sector. Cop28’s president Sultan Al Jaber is the UAE’s minister of industry and advanced technology as well as group chief executive of its state oil company Adnoc. 

What is Cop28 UAE’s action agenda?

The presidency’s action plan is based on four pillars: fast-tracking a just and orderly energy transition; fixing climate finance; focusing on people, nature, lives and livelihoods; and fostering inclusivity.

Who can participate? 

One of the biggest international gatherings of 2023, Cop28 UAE is due to host more than 70,000 delegates, including heads of state and world leaders, non-governmental organisations, companies and youth groups. It is taking place at Dubai’s Expo City, the huge site that housed Expo 2020.

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