Road to COP28: will this be the most important COP to date?

June 15, 2023

About the Authors

Elena Gramatica

Managing Partner


Emma Barber

Senior Communications Director

In this crucial decade for climate action, the upcoming COP28 aims at being remembered for uniting everyone into action. “A COP of unity, solidarity and impact” as said Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, President-Designate for COP28 UAE.

It’s six months until the world’s leaders, heads of state, senior government leaders, and delegates descend on the United Arab Emirates for COP28. With its position at the crossroads of the world, the UAE is seeking to unite countries and leaders with practical and ambitious solutions to the global climate crisis.

Taking a step back for a moment; COP is the Conference of Parties, an annual international climate meeting hosted by the United Nations, attended by representatives from 199 Parties (negotiators from 198 States and the EU). Member countries have committed to take voluntary actions to prevent dangerous human-caused interference with the climate system. During the two-week summit – this year held at Expo City Dubai in the UAE – government representatives will once again report on progress, set intermediate goals, and make agreements to share advancements in research to benefit humanity and the global ecosystem.

The first COP meeting was held in Berlin, Germany in 1995, and over the decades, it has evolved from a small group of government negotiators to global mega-events attracting thousands of political leaders, business leaders, and climate experts. The upcoming COP28, from 30 November to 12 December, is expected to attract over 70,000 participants.

A critical moment for climate action

Rising global temperatures and changes in weather patterns are causing more frequent and intense droughts, hurricanes and flooding in many regions around the world, which is driving more people into severe hunger and poverty. In only the last year, we have seen devastating impacts of climate change in Pakistan, in South Asia, with heavy rainfall causing flooding and landslides affecting nearly 33 million people. Today, 14.6 million people are experiencing severe hunger across the country as a result of last year’s heavy rainfall.

In Sahel – a region that spans across Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea and includes Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali – residents are experiencing increasing temperatures and unpredictable rainfall patterns leading to droughts, wildfires and flooding. This is exacerbating existing challenges including poverty, and hunger for nearly 13 million people in the region.

Throughout the dry corridor, a region in Central America; droughts, hurricanes, and floods have led to crop failure and forced migration. Due to prolonged dry spells and excessive rains, farmers in countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are unable to grow enough food.

In 2015 at COP21 in France, the Paris Agreement was made – a collective action to keep the increasing global temperatures well below 2°C and limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C by 2030. Scientists have identified that an increase of 1.5°C is a key tipping point, as beyond which, the chances of extreme flooding, drought, wildfires and food shortages will increase dramatically.

For the past eight years, global temperatures have been steadily increasing year on year and in 2022, the planet was 1.2°C warmer than the pre-industrial average.

This is why the outcomes from the upcoming COP28 are so critical. With global temperatures steadily increasing, the risk of rising over 2°C is moving ever closer, and the results of this would be catastrophic to the world. We could potentially see irreversible impacts including pushing three billion people into chronic water scarcity.

What to expect from COP 28 UAE?

As the first country in the region to ratify the Paris Agreement, the first to commit to an economy-wide reduction in emissions and the first to announce a Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative, the UAE is committed to raising ambition in this critical decade for climate action.

COP28 UAE will be transparent, pragmatic, and results-oriented and in addition to prioritising the slowdown of the global temperature, it will build on the outcomes of COP27 in Egypt in 2022, commonly referred to as the ‘African COP’. This session reflected on the needs and priorities of the most vulnerable countries with the highlight of COP27 being the historic decision to establish a fund for responding to loss and damage. Yet to be agreed upon, however, is the operational side and funding for this fund.

Speaking at the 14th Petersberg Climate Dialogue last month, which brought together ministers and climate experts from more than 40 countries to discuss future steps towards achieving climate goals, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, President-Designate for COP28 UAE reminded the audience that COP 28 will for the first time see a ‘global stocktake’ – an assessment of the progress made on set goals since the Paris Agreement. It will also provide tangible solutions to help people adapt to climate change, and manage growing climate impacts.

He added, “We must aim to make COP28 remembered for uniting everyone into action. Together, let’s deliver a COP of unity, solidarity and impact. A COP of action and a COP for all. And let’s unite a divided world, for the planet, for our people and for lasting sustainable development. The world demands transformational progress. And the world needs transformational action.”

In November, the world will be looking at the UAE as it supports the COP members to make decisive and practical agreements, and it would be wise not to underestimate the country and its commitment to making changes.