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COP28: Shaping the Future of Global Climate Action

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is a crucial international climate change summit that brings together world leaders, policymakers, scientists, and activists to address the pressing challenges of climate change. As we enter COP28, the latest of this global gathering, it is essential to examine the significance of this event and the potential impact it can have on shaping the future of global climate action. COP28, holding in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, comes at a critical juncture where urgent and ambitious action is required to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change.

COP28 is taking place against the backdrop of escalating climate crises and mounting scientific evidence of the need for swift action. In recent years, we have witnessed unprecedented extreme weather events, rising global temperatures, and the irreversible loss of biodiversity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued alarming reports, emphasizing the need for urgent and ambitious measures to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. COP28 represents a critical opportunity for nations to strengthen their commitments under the Paris Agreement and enhance their climate action plans.

According to recent reports, global average concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important greenhouse gas, in 2022 were a full 50% above the pre-industrial era for the first time. They continued to grow in 2023.

The report stated that though the rate of growth in CO2 concentrations was slightly lower than the previous year and the average for the decade, it was most likely due to natural, short-term variations in the carbon cycle and that new emissions as a result of industrial activities continued to rise. It added that methane concentrations also grew, and levels of nitrous oxide, the third main gas, saw the highest year-on-year increase on record from 2021 to 2022.

Experts say that despite decades of warnings from the scientific community, thousands of pages of reports and dozens of climate conferences, the world is heading in the wrong direction. The current level of greenhouse gas concentrations puts us on the pathway of an increase in temperatures well above the Paris Agreement targets by the end of this century. “This will be accompanied by more extreme weather, including intense heat and rainfall, ice melt, sea-level rise and ocean heat and acidification. The socioeconomic and environmental costs will soar. We must reduce the consumption of fossil fuels as a matter of urgency,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

More than 70,000 delegates are expected to attend COP28, including the member states (or Parties) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) including Nigeria. Heads of states and governments, Business leaders, young people, climate scientists, indigenous peoples, journalists, and various other experts and stakeholders are also among the participants.

With its theme anchored on reducing emissions through climate change mitigation and just energy, building climate resilient societies, and investing in solutions to counter the effects of climate change, the COP28 comes at a decisive moment for international climate action. Temperature records are repeatedly being broken by significantly wide margins and climate impacts manifested in unprecedented wildfires, floods, storms and droughts worldwide. Scientists have noted that the earth has been warmer in 2023 than in any other year on record.

It is for this reason that countries around the world are developing their climate action strategies and solutions to save them from climate disasters. Nigeria has witnessed an increase in disastrous events such as devastating floods, drought, desertification and erratic rainfall patterns. Farmlands and settlements have been destroyed.  For instance, in 2022, a flood killed at least 662 people, injured 3,174, displaced about 2.5 million, and destroyed 200,000 houses. Parts of East Africa suffered its worst drought in 40 years, displacing nearly 1.2 million people in Somalia alone.

This brings us to a critical question: what should be Africa’s expectations and how does the continent ensure that it aligns its climate priorities with the objecives set by COP28 in order to attain its climate needs? The starting point is that continent’s position is well pronounced as expressed at the Africa Climate Summit held in September. At that summit, African countries adopted the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action, a strong declaration proclaiming African States’ unified stance on climate action ahead of COP28. Africa’s expectations will only become meaningful when the continent has prepared itself to amortize the benefits of opportunities that COP28 presents. Africa knows its priorities in terms of the impact of climate change facing the continent. We must be very alert to the windows of opportunities that COP28 will present.

African countries will be represented by the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN) through a common position, which is a compilation of decisions by Africa heads of state and government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC), African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN), and AGN.

Africa will be coordinated by Zambia as the Chair, AGN, ministers by Ethiopia as the Chair of AMCEN, and Kenya as the Coordinator, CAHOSCC. The AGN Chair, Ephraim Shitima, said Africa’s approach to these multilateral climate negotiations is underpinned by principles of multilateralism, equity, sustainable development, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

His words: “African countries seek to prioritise Africa’s interests and speak with one voice, while ensuring that their voices, concerns, and proposals are heard and acted upon.

“We are guided by Africa’s development frameworks; Agenda 2063, Africa Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy and Action Plan (2022 to 2032), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and of course Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).”

In 2009, developed countries committed to give $100bn a year, by 2020, to developing countries to help them reduce emissions and prepare for climate change but reneged on the pledge. Thus, the COP27 concluded with a resolution to establish and operationalize a loss and damage fund. The COP28 aims to build on that premise. Generally, developing countries need financial resources, as well as technology transfer and capacity-building, to help them reduce emissions, adapt to climate change and address loss and damage. loss would help fund developing countries’ efforts in addressing climate change; accelerating both an energy and a just transition, as well as closing the massive emissions gap. So, Africa should prioritize the operationalization of the $100 billion Loss and Damage funding. African countries require increased financial resources and access to clean and sustainable technologies to effectively address climate change. The African agenda at COP28 should emphasize the importance of fulfilling the commitments made under the Paris Agreement regarding climate finance for developing nations. But exactly how this will work is still unclear. The US, for example, has ruled out paying climate reparations for its historical emissions.

Given Africa’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, adaptation and building resilience, COP28 should emphasize the need for increased support to enhance the adaptive capacity of African countries.

In this regard, the African agenda at COP28 should highlight the importance of supporting the continent’s transition to renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydropower. This includes promoting investment in renewable energy projects, facilitating technology transfer, and establishing enabling policy frameworks that attract private sector participation in the African energy sector.

Similarly, Africa is home to rich biodiversity and ecosystems that play a vital role in climate regulation and supporting livelihoods. The African agenda at COP28 should emphasize the importance of nature-based solutions and ecosystem conservation as key strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation. This includes promoting sustainable land management practices, forest conservation, and the integration of nature-based approaches into national climate action plans.

The African delegates should emphasize the importance of ensuring that climate action benefits all segments of society, particularly marginalized communities and vulnerable groups. This includes promoting inclusive policies, safeguarding the rights of indigenous peoples, and supporting sustainable livelihoods in the context of climate change.

Also, fostering regional cohesion to address common climate challenges should remain a focal point for the continent’s representatives at the conference as they push to address the outstanding deficit in the delivery of the promised $100 billion per year since 2020 which goes against the will of the developed nations.

In addition, this year’s conference holds immense significance as a pivotal moment in the global response to climate change. The conference represents an opportunity for nations to demonstrate enhanced ambition, foster international collaboration, and mobilize resources to tackle the climate crisis. By focusing on key themes such as ambitious NDCs, adaptation and resilience, just transition, and finance and investment, COP28 can pave the way for a sustainable and resilient future. However, to achieve meaningful outcomes, it is crucial that all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, businesses, and individuals, actively participate and contribute to the collective effort. It is essential to recognize that addressing climate change requires long-term commitment and sustained action beyond individual conferences. The outcomes of COP28 should serve as a foundation for continued progress in the years to come. It is imperative for nations to not only make ambitious commitments but also follow through on implementation and regularly review and update their climate action plans.

Ultimately, the success of COP28 will be measured by the tangible actions and results that follow. It is not enough to merely set targets; meaningful progress requires transformative changes in policies, technologies, and behaviors. COP28 provides an opportunity for the international community to come together, transcend political differences, and prioritize the collective well-being of our planet and future generations.