Shortcuts / 28 November 2023

What’s going down at COP28

World leaders and delegations will be gathering in Dubai this week for the annual United Nations conference on climate change. This year it’s called COP28, and it follows a year of record-breaking weather/climate events around the world. So in this Squiz Shortcut, we look at what COP28 is, what leaders are hoping to achieve, and where Australia is at with our climate policies.

It’s that time of the year again…
Time sure does fly… This year the COP – that’s Conference of the Parties – is scheduled from 30 November until 12 December, and it’s happening in Dubai.

The northern hemisphere’s hot summer will be fresh in many delegates’ minds…
The heatwaves there were epic… At the start of July, the record for the hottest day ever was broken 4 days in a row. And that month turned out to be the hottest on record – ever.

It wasn’t just the heat, though, was it?
Nope – Canada had enormous wildfires, and Greece’s wildfires also made the news along with those in Hawaii. We’ve also been seeing other indicators of climate change, like the record-low ice levels in Antarctica this year.

So there’s a lot of ground to cover… What’s the purpose of these annual COP summits?
The main aim is to push forward global cooperation on climate action in order to slow the change in the climate. And in the past there have been some significant agreements inked at the COP. The biggest one to point out is the 2015 Paris Agreement, which was the international treaty where every country in the world agreed to keep the rise in global average temperature to below 2C, and preferably below 1.5C.

And are we on track?
Not quite… Scientists expect that we’re going to exceed 1.5C of warming next decade, or even as early as this decade.

So COP28 has its work cut out for it…
It does, and the summit has already faced some criticism before it even started. Remember how we mentioned that COP28 is being held in Dubai…?

Well, Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is one of the biggest oil-producing countries in the world. And on top of that, the person that the UAE has appointed as the chair of this year’s talks is a man named Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, who is the chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

How’s that gone down?
Climate activists we not thrilled with that choice – but officials point out that al-Jaber was also the founder of a renewable energy company back in 2006.

So what’s the aim of COP28?
Al-Jaber has outlined 4 priorities for the summit. They include fast-tracking the renewable energy transition, getting commitments from wealthy, high-polluting companies to fund low-income countries that are most affected by climate change, focusing on people, livelihoods, and nature, and making COP28 the most inclusive climate summit to date.

Who’s on the guest list?
There are some high-profile guests this year. Pope Francis is planning on making an appearance, which will be the first time a pope has ever attended a climate conference. King Charles is also scheduled to make an appearance. As for the Aussies, Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen will be leading our delegation. A notable absentee is US President Joe Biden – the White House confirmed yesterday that he won’t be going.

Where are things at in Oz on climate matters?
Well, Labor’s big climate commitment at the 2022 election was that they would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 43% on 2005 levels by 2030. That was up from the Coalition’s target of 26-28% by 2030, and that change has been legislated under the Climate Change Act. The Coalition’s former pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 has remained unchanged.

How are we going with that goal?
Well, the Climate Change Act actually makes it compulsory for the climate minister to give an annual statement on how we’re going when it comes to achieving those targets. And at the end of last year, Bowen said we weren’t on track to reach a 43% reduction.

Has there been an update since then?
On the weekend, Bowen had an update – he said Australia is on track for a 42% reduction by 2030, which is almost at the target.

Given those changes, is Australia still copping heat for our climate policies?
Yep – and the most recent case to point to was the Pacific Islands Forum earlier this month. That was the meeting in the Cook Islands, where PM Anthony Albanese met with leaders from Pacific nations, and climate change was a major topic of discussion.

What was that about?
Australia is the biggest nation at this forum, and we’re also the biggest emitter there… And the Pacific nations are some of the countries that are going to be hardest hit by climate change, especially rising sea levels.

So Albanese got a frosty reception?
He says our climate policies were met with “nothing by positive feedback”. That was, by his telling, a nod to Labor’s policy to lift the emissions reduction target. But there is still pressure on Australia from that part of the world to do more to reduce emissions, like phasing out coal. Vanuatu’s climate minister says he wants Australia to stop expanding its use of fossil fuels as part of our COP31 pitch.

Our COP31 pitch?
The Albanese Government wants to host COP31 in 3 years’ time. The idea behind our bid has changed a bit over the last few years, but the latest thinking is that we’d be making a joint bid with our Pacific neighbours.

So we really need their support…
Exactly. It’s worth noting, too, that the criticism from our Pacific neighbours also aligns with criticism from within Australia – namely from climate activists and the Greens – who say that Australia is letting the world down by approving new fossil fuel projects like coal mines. They say that to stick to below 1.5C of warming, the world can’t afford the ongoing reliance on fossil fuels.

What do the scientists say?
There are always different takes on this, but more and more, there’s a growing view that it will be tough to keep global warming to below 2C, let alone 1.5C. To have a red hot go at it, some climate experts say that we really need to be cutting our emissions by around 75% by 2030 – aka a much bigger cut than our current 43% target.

So why don’t we?
The usual – jobs, the economy, and the practicalities like how do we keep the lights on when so much of our power is generated by coal-fired plants. And that’s just the start of it…

Nothing’s simple…
You got that right.

Squiz recommends:

The Uninhabitable Earth* by David Wallace-Wells

Squiz Kids Shortcut on COP28

*Buy using this link and The Squiz may earn a little commission.

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