cop28 leader


The first days of the COP28 in Dubai have been hectic and full of twists and turns.  A Conference of the Parties at the centre of criticism since its first announcement, weighed down by an extremely critical geopolitical scenario and in a global context in which the impacts of global warming, or ‘global boiling’ as it has been called by UN Secretary General António Guterres, are alarming. 

The question seems legitimate: are the increasingly media-driven and monumental COPs really serving any purpose? Indeed, some progress, albeit slow, has been made: in 2015, the year the Paris Agreement was signed, global emissions were estimated to have increased by 16% by 2030, compared to 2010. Today, this has been reduced to +9% by 2030 compared to the same base year, 2010. Moreover, as imperfect as the process is, it is still a multilateral process and the only time when 196 countries can come together and talk face-to-face, and where even the smallest and most vulnerable countries have a negotiating weight. 

However, progress remains highly insufficient and, as the UNEP report confirms, in order to keep the hope of staying below 1.5°C alive all countries must significantly increase their climate commitments. This is why COP28 is crucial, as it will see the first global stocktake of progress to date in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In a critical scenario and with these bad premises, however, the conference opened with a lightning adoption: the Loss&Damage Fund, created last year during COP27, has already taken its first steps (as explained in Jacopo Bencini’s article). This decision is the result of an enormous compromise: the vulnerable countries had to accept disadvantageous conditions, above all the temporary management of the fund at the World Bank with all the risks that this entails, such as the exacerbation of the already unsustainable debt of the least developed countries and the greater decision-making power of countries like the United States. 

One of the most resonant news items in the Italian press was the promise of 100 million for Loss&Damage, announced by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni during the first day of the World Climate Action Summit. In the rest of her statement Meloni reiterates the need for a pragmatic ecological transition and announces Italy’s desire to become a clean energy ‘hub’, although recent agreements with countries in North Africa and the Middle East signal an intention to focus mainly on gas.

What stands out, on the negative side, is the amount committed to the Loss and Damage Fund by the United States, 17 million, largely insufficient from the country that has emitted the most in history. President Joe Biden is one of the great absentees from this conference, replaced by Vice-President Kamala Harris who announced a new US contribution of USD 3 billion to the UNFCCC Green Climate Fund to support developing countries in the transition, probably a move designed to compensate for the meagre contribution to the Loss and Damage Fund.

The other heavy absence at this COP is that of Chinese President Xi Jinping. In his place, Vice Premier and special envoy, Xuexiang Ding, reiterated the duty of the countries historically most responsible for global emissions to increase their financial support to emerging countries. The world’s leading emitter believes, in fact, that countries that have begun to industrialise and, consequently, to emit sooner should lead the efforts in both mitigation – i.e. reducing emissions – and financial aid.

The lack of financial support to date to help emerging countries is precisely at the source of the mistrust of the global South. Distrust that has created an increasingly evident rift at the negotiations. Industrialised countries are accused of unambitious climate action in light of their historical responsibilities and the resources at their disposal. Harsh criticism of Western countries came from Brazilian President Inácio Lula da Silva, who emphasised the gulf between funding for climate action and military spending. Lula also reiterated his commitment to halt deforestation in the Amazon by 2030. 

This criticism was echoed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who pointed out that the level of ambition of emerging countries exceeds that of the richest. Indeed, India, like China, is pushing for greater recognition of the responsibilities of Western countries. For example, the US surpasses China and eclipses India when it comes to historical emissions or per capita emissions. To confirm its ambition, it has announced its willingness to host COP33 in 2028.

Another voice of denunciation came from Pope Francis, who had to forego participation on the recommendation of the doctors and instructed Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, to convey his message. The Pontiff appealed for debt relief for vulnerable countries: they pay the consequences of the actions of the richest and largest emitters, who have an ‘ecological debt’ to them. He also reiterated the need for the abrupt abandonment of fossil fuels.

Despite the historic decision on the Loss and Damage Fund, the outlook is not the best for tackling the usual ‘elephant in the room’ of all climate conferences: the phase-out of fossil fuels, which has not yet made it into any final text. This issue will probably not find resolution even at this conference, given the interests of the presidency itself, which seems to want to focus on the expansion of renewable energies and still experimental technologies such as carbon capture and storage, while avoiding tackling fossil emissions at source. Some countries, most notably Saudi Arabia and Russia, continue to block any mention of the phase-out in the negotiating texts, and not even the US and EU seem willing to abandon fossil fuels at the speed required by the Paris Agreement.

Mistrust in the process is therefore understandable, especially on the part of civil society, given also the increasingly difficult participation of observers, who are denied access to many negotiating rooms. But the progress both on the more technical issues (let us not forget the adoption of the emission reporting tables that will come into force by 2024, a great achievement of COP26) and on the more difficult issues such as the adoption of the Fund, show that it is still possible to iron out differences in order to arrive at common solutions. In this sense, non-governmental associations such as the Italian Climate Network play a key role: it is vital to continue advocacy to put pressure on governments, in the hope of one day seeing this last phase-out taboo in the negotiating texts broken down.

Article by Teresa Giuffrè, Italian Climate Network Volunteers

You are donating to : Italian Climate Network

How much would you like to donate?
€10 €20 €30
Would you like to make regular donations? I would like to make donation(s)
How many times would you like this to recur? (including this payment) *
Name *
Last Name *
Email *
Additional Note