20 December 2023, Dubai UAE - The 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP28) in Dubai, UAE, has ended with the adoption of a decision on the Global Stocktake (GST) which recognises the need for deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with 1.5°C pathways.
The decision on the GST was one of the key outcomes of COP28, held from Thursday 30 November 2023 – Tuesday 12 December 2023, where Pacific leaders and their delegations were active in advocating for the survival of Pacific communities who continue to be at the forefront of climate change impacts.
The operationalisation of the new loss and damage fund at the beginning of the conference, with pledges of more than USD 700milion already made, was also hailed as a major achievement of COP28 by the parties.
At the closing of the conference, however, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Mr Simon Stiell said that while the global stocktake showed that progress was not fast enough, momentum is gathering and he encouraged all parties to continue the good work as they now look to Azerbaijan, where COP29 will be held.
“COP28 needed to signal a hard stop to humanity’s core climate problem – fossil fuels and their planet-burning pollution. Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end,” said Mr Stiell.
The stocktake recognises the science that indicates global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut 43% by 2030, compared to 2019 levels, to limit global warming to 1.5°C. But it notes Parties are off track when it comes to meeting their Paris Agreement goals.
The stocktake also calls on parties to take actions towards achieving, at a global scale, a tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency improvements by 2030. The list includes accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power, phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, and other measures that drive the transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, with developed countries continuing to take the lead.
“Now all governments and businesses need to turn these pledges into real-economy outcomes, without delay,” said Mr Stiell.
The Pacific’s presence at COP28, attended by more than 97,372 people from all over the world, was both audible and visible at the Dubai Exhibition City. Pacific leaders advocated for ambitious and urgent climate actions at every opportunity they had to engage with global leaders who attended the conference.
Samoa, as the Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), noted that the decision on GST contained strong and important references to the science complemented by a clear runway with milestones for strengthening party efforts to prepare and submit enhanced NDCs through to 2025.
“The question we have considered as AOSIS is whether they are enough,” a statement by AOSIS, delivered by Ms. Anne Rasmussen, AOSIS Lead Negotiator at the end of COP28, said. “Zoning in on paragraphs 26-29 of this draft decision we have come to the conclusion that the course correction that is needed has not yet been secured. We have made an incremental advancement over business as usual when what we really needed is an exponential step-change in our actions and support.
“In paragraph 26 we do not see any commitment or even an invitation for Parties to peak emissions by 2025. We reference the science throughout the text and even in this paragraph but then we refrain from an agreement to take the relevant action in order to act in line with what the science says we have to do. It is not enough for us to reference the science and then make agreements that ignore what the science is telling us we need to do. This is not an approach that we should be asked to defend.”
Ms Rasmussen reminded that AOSIS at the beginning of COP28 had one objective, to ensure that 1.5 is safeguarded in a meaningful way.
“We must leave here with a set of decisions that meet the magnitude of the climate crisis, that meet the expectations that the world has of us, and that meet what is needed to secure the future of the coming generations,” the AOSIS statement concluded.
COP28 took place during a time when science confirmed that the world is breaking all the wrong records on climate change. According to the 2023 edition of the Emissions Gap Report, greenhouse gas emissions and the global average temperature are hitting new highs, while extreme weather events are occurring more often, developing faster and becoming more intense.
For Pacific countries, this compounds conditions that threaten their very existence.
The IPCC, in its AR6 Synthesis Report, noted that above a global temperature rise of 1.5°C, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) regions face impacts which may be irreversible.
For this reason, more than 400 delegates from Pacific countries attended COP28, advocating for the Pacific’s priorities on climate change.
“The reality is that while we are here talking and enjoying this beautiful city of Dubai, my country is sinking,” Tuvalu’s Minister for Finance, Hon. Seve Paeniu, said in Dubai. “Our communities live with the reality of their land being eaten away by coastal erosion and rising sea levels, their foreshores eroding, some of the islands are disappearing.”
The sentiments expressed by Hon. Paeniu was supported and further amplified by fellow Pacific leaders and delegates at every opportunity afforded to them during COP28. All Pacific countries have a story to tell when it comes to the climate crisis.
A key part of amplifying the One Pacific Voice at COP28 was the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion, which is a Pacific partnership with Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia.
Another key part of the Pacific’s work at COP28 was the Pacific Delegation Office, a partnership with Aotearoa New Zealand. Both the Moana Pacific Pavilion and the Pacific Delegation Office were managed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
More than 80 side events were held across the duration of the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion at COP28, providing the platform for Pacific Islands people to tell their Pacific stories. SPREP’s Communications and Outreach team in partnership with Pasifika TV also provided daily media stories, updates and social media content from COP28, which were shared with all Pacific media, and key networks across the globe.
SPREP’s Director of Climate Change Resilience, Ms Tagaloa Cooper, acknowledged the work of all Pacific leaders, officials, delegates and thanked Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia for their support.
“COP is always an opportunity for the world to come together to look at the mirror to see how much more we need to do to address the climate crisis and COP28 in Dubai was no exception,” said Ms Cooper.
“As the coordinator for climate change action in the region, SPREP continues to lead the region’s response to climate impacts and we are extremely appreciative about the assistance from Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia which once again allowed us to continue to amplify our One Pacific Voice to drive ambitious climate action.
“I want to thank all our member countries, partners and our stakeholders for their work in Dubai.
“As we all know in these negotiation spaces, we don’t always get everything we want and that has once again been reflected in the outcome of COP28. But we also know that in the Pacific, we live and breathe the impacts of climate change and this is why this work matters, it is about our survival. SPREP looks forward to continuing to work with our members, partners and all relevant stakeholders to ensure we keep the fight for 1.5c alive for the sake of our people, future generations and all Pacific communities.”
Photo credit: Photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis