Understanding the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference (COP 28) in November 2023


The 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP 28, aka Conference of Parties 28, is scheduled to take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from November 30 to December 12, 2023. This summit gathers all the countries that have ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a global treaty initiated in 1994. The purpose of COP meetings is to assess the progress of the Convention’s implementation, along with any additional legal agreements adopted during these sessions. Decisions made during the conference aim to enhance the effective execution of the Convention, encompassing institutional and administrative aspects. As we approach this significant event, it is an opportune time to reflect on its history and its contributions to climate change mitigation. (History of the Convention , 2023)

History of Conference of Parties (COP)

Back in 1992, countries came together to establish the UNFCCC as a framework for international cooperation to address the growing concern of climate change. The primary goal was to limit the increase in average global temperatures and cope with the inevitable impacts (Hub, n.d.).

By 1995, negotiations were underway to strengthen the global response to climate change. Two years later, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, legally binding developed countries to emission reduction targets. The Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ran from 2008 to 2012, followed by a second commitment period from 2013 to 2020.

Fast forward to 2015, and the landmark Paris Agreement marked a significant milestone. Adopted on December 12, 2015, it built upon the foundation laid by the UNFCCC and aimed to accelerate actions and investments for a sustainable, low-carbon future. Its central aim: to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration to limit it further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Agreement also emphasized the importance of helping countries cope with the impacts of climate change.

What struck me most about the Paris Agreement is its commitment to financial support and capacity building for developing and vulnerable countries. The pledge to mobilize financial resources and enhance capacity building is crucial for ensuring equitable participation in climate action.

To support these ambitious goals, there’s a plan to set a new financial target beyond the initial USD 100 billion commitment by 2025. Additionally, an Initiative for Capacity Building is in the works. The Agreement also aims to enhance transparency in climate action and support through a robust transparency framework (Hub, n.d.).

Throughout this journey, the UNFCCC secretariat has played a crucial role in supporting the various institutions involved in international climate change negotiations. These include the Conference of the Parties (COP), the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties (CMP), subsidiary bodies that advise the COP/CMP, and the COP/CMP Bureau, which handles procedural and organizational matters, along with technical functions (Hub, n.d.).

It’s evident that the global community recognizes the urgency of addressing climate change and is taking concrete steps towards a more sustainable future. As I reflect on these developments, I’m hopeful that international cooperation and commitment will continue to drive progress in the fight against climate change.

Timeline of Events

Here’s a condensed summary of the key developments from COP3 in Kyoto, Japan to COP19 in Warsaw, Poland: (L, n.d.).

COP3 (Kyoto, 1997) saw the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, with commitments for wealthier nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2007. COP4 (Buenos Aires, 1998) aimed to finalize details but faced difficulties, leading to ongoing negotiations through COP6 (2001).

COP7 (Marrakech, 2001) finalized Kyoto Protocol details, while COP8 (2002) and COP9 (2003) required developed nations to assist developing countries in climate adaptation. COP10 (2004) discussed emission reductions beyond 2012.

COP11 (Montreal, 2005) saw the Kyoto Protocol enter into force. COP12 (Nairobi, 2006) refined support for developing countries. COP13 (Bali, 2007) set a timeline for post-Kyoto negotiations and established a new working group.

COP14 (Poznań, 2008) aimed for a Kyoto Protocol successor. COP15 (Copenhagen, 2009) failed to reach an agreement. COP16 (Cancún, 2010) created the Green Climate Fund.

COP17 (Durban, 2011) initiated negotiations for the Paris Agreement, to take effect post-2020.

COP18 (Doha, 2012) created the Doha Amendment for a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period.

COP19 (Warsaw, 2013) faced disputes over burden-sharing, while COP20 (Lima, 2014) laid the groundwork for the Paris Agreement’s adoption in 2015. These conferences mark significant steps in addressing climate change, with ongoing debates on responsibilities and agreements for emission reductions (L, n.d.).

Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement, born from discussions initiated at COP17 in Durban and concluded at COP21 in Paris in 2015, is a globally ratified accord involving 194 parties, with the aim of limiting global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, ideally targeting 1.5°C. To achieve this, global emissions must halve by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. The Agreement mandates countries to submit Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) every five years, with each subsequent NDC being more ambitious. It is the final international climate change agreement, legally binding and enforceable. Some countries and oil companies face climate litigation for violating it. The Paris Agreement entered into force in November 2016, with further work on implementation occurring at subsequent COP meetings. The details of Article 6, which governs international carbon markets, were settled at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021 (L, n.d.).

Article 6

Carbon markets play a pivotal role in tackling global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and combating climate change. They facilitate the trading of carbon credits generated by GHG reduction or removal activities, incentivizing climate action. These credits can result from transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources or conserving carbon stocks in ecosystems like forests. By trading carbon credits, countries and companies can reduce the cost of implementing their climate commitments, potentially saving up to $250 billion by 2030 and removing an additional 5 gigatons of carbon dioxide annually. As countries work toward achieving net-zero emissions, carbon markets are expected to become less necessary over time (What you need to know about Article 6 of the Paris Agreement , 2022).

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is a crucial component of international climate efforts. It allows countries to cooperate voluntarily to achieve their emission reduction targets outlined in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Article 6.2 specifically enables the trading of GHG emission reductions among countries, under the oversight of the Conference of Parties. Article 6.4, similar to the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, establishes a mechanism for inter-country trading of emission reductions. Article 6.8 supports non-market approaches to mitigation and adaptation, promoting cooperation through finance, technology transfer, and capacity building without trading emissions (What you need to know about Article 6 of the Paris Agreement , 2022).

Article 6 directly supports carbon markets by creating an international compliance system for trading carbon credits under the rules of the Paris Agreement. It ensures that emissions reductions can be transferred from one country to another but avoids double counting, preventing overestimation of global emissions reductions. Corresponding adjustment, a crucial accounting mechanism, is put in place to prevent double counting. This mechanism extends to voluntary carbon markets as well, impacting markets driven by private sector commitments to reduce emissions, like CORSIA, the carbon offsetting scheme for international aviation (What you need to know about Article 6 of the Paris Agreement , 2022).

In summary, carbon markets are essential for cost-effective climate action, and Article 6 of the Paris Agreement plays a vital role in supporting these markets by facilitating the exchange of carbon credits among countries while ensuring the integrity of emissions accounting.

COP 27 in 2022

COP27, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, concluded with a call for urgent climate action and an acknowledgment that time is running out, as emphasized by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The conference produced five key takeaways that will shape climate action priorities going forward: (Five Key Takeaways from COP 27, n.d.)

  1. Loss and Damage Fund: COP27 achieved a historic breakthrough by establishing a dedicated fund for loss and damage caused by climate disasters in vulnerable countries. This marked the first-time nations recognized the need for financial support to address catastrophic climate effects.
  • 1.5°C Target: The urgency of limiting global warming to 1.5°C was underscored, with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emphasizing that emissions must peak before 2025 and be reduced by 43% by 2030. However, current efforts are insufficient to meet this crucial goal.
  • Accountability: There is a renewed focus on holding sectors, businesses, and institutions accountable for their climate commitments. COP27 emphasized the importance of not forgetting these commitments once the cameras are gone.
  • Climate Finance: Adequate financing is essential for climate mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage response, and technology development. COP27 outlined a pathway to align financial flows with low emissions and climate-resilient development.
  • Implementation: COP27 shifted the focus toward implementing climate pledges. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell urged aligning all human activities with the 1.5°C goal, emphasizing that COP27 marked a move from planning to concrete action in the fight against climate change (Five Key Takeaways from COP 27, n.d.).

COP 28 Commencing on November 30, 2023

This November 30th until December 12, 2023, nearly 200 countries will convene for “The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference” also known as COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).  The COP will focus on clean energy transition, climate adaptation, climate finance, and inclusivity.

The UAE volunteered to host the event due to its vulnerability to climate change, marked by extreme heat and humidity. The country has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and has invested significantly in clean energy. However, the choice of Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, as the conference president sparked controversy due to his ties to the fossil fuel industry. Concerns have also arisen regarding the UAE’s attempts to shape its image and manage criticism, including allegations of greenwashing and restricting freedom of speech during the event. Despite these challenges, the conference aims to address global climate issues and promote international cooperation (United Nations Climate Change Conference, n.d.).

Environment Next will keep our audience informed about the outcomes of this historic event, which aims to benefit our climate and planet for future generations.

By Jarett Emert