November 30, 2023

COP 23 Explained

This blog was jointly written by three members of our brilliant Policy and Engagement team - Fergus Lamb, Apaar Mangat, and Joe Gascoyne-Thompson.

It outlines how Hope for the Future can support you to engage with your politicians ahead of COP and help ensure this year's conference delivers for people and the planet.

‘This weather isn’t for humans’ - An intro to COP28

As reported by human rights research and advocacy group FairSquare in September of this year, migrant construction workers – predominantly from South and Southeast Asia or Africa – have been working outside in Dubai in temperatures as high as 42 degrees - temperatures which, when combined with manual labour, can, and routinely do, turn deadly. “Of course, I get headaches and feel dizzy. Everyone in this heat does. This weather isn’t for humans, I think,’ one worker commented. As heat related deaths skyrocket in tandem with global temperatures, the right to refuse work in inhuman temperatures emerges as one of the key intersections of worker’s rights and climate adaptation. The cruel irony is that these workers were constructing facilities for COP28, this year’s meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

For many, images of the global poor sweating in deadly conditions to build air-conditioned facilities for world leaders to pontificate and prevaricate over tackling climate change, whilst hobnobbing with fossil fuel industry lobbyists, is very on the nose symbolism for what COP has become. This years COP has come under especially heightened criticism for being held in the United Arab Emirates – a petrostate with an abysmal human right’s record – and for being chaired by chaired by Sultan Al Jaber, the head of the UAE’s national oil company, ADNOC (which is set to increase production from four million to five million barrels a day by 2027). Given all this, it is unsurprising that many are protesting this year's event.

At the same time, there is something refreshingly honest about this year’s COP. As Greta Thunberg commented, fossil fuel lobbyists have been influencing the UN’s conferences ‘since, basically, forever’. The appointment of Al Jaber ‘just puts a very clear face to it’. Faced with this level of lobbying and greenwashing it is easy to feel powerless, and even apathetic. However – whether we like it or not – international organisations such as the UNFCCC remain crucial for coordinating a just transition. You only have to consider the groundbreaking, legally-binding Paris Accords from COP 21, or last year’s founding of the Loss and Damage fund to grasp this significance. Importantly, both achievements were possible only on the basis of mass mobilisation across the globe to pressure politicians into taking action.

It is this ‘people power’ that we need now more than ever if we are to counterbalance the privileged access of the fossil fuel lobbyists. Amongst many other possible tactics, one particularly powerful means of influencing COP comes through the system of political representation – speaking to your MP about the need for the UK to push for a just transition at this year's conference.

In the rest of this blog, we will run through some of the key issues for COP28, and then, at the end, we will leave you with a suggestion for how you can productively engage with your MP in advance of the 30th of November - this year’s start date.

Key issues for COP28

Loss and Damage

As mentioned above, at COP27, following decades of people advocating for specific funding to help countries in the global south cope with the impacts of the climate crisis, it was agreed that a new loss and damage fund would be created. This would be intended to help with floods, droughts, storms and other climate related events in countries that are more vulnerable. This year, the focus will move to how this fund will become operational and able to receive contributions to be effective in mitigating damage.

Related to this fund, climate finance will also be high on the agenda with developed nations discussing if and how they can reach their target of generating $100 billion of public and private climate finance for developing countries. This was a target that they pledged to reach annually, which was agreed in 2009 and supposed to start in 2020 but was and has not been fulfilled.

Global Stocktake

One key discussion point will be the Global Stocktake, which takes place every 5 years. It is supposed to measure progress against the goals established in the Paris Agreement. The first one will culminate at COP28, but it is unclear what will be delivered from it - there needs to be action, rather than just a recognition that we are off track.

Fossil Fuels

Although fossil fuel phase out does not have a dedicated negotiation point, it is likely to come up in a range of different discussions including in the Global Stocktake (GST).

At COP27, a coalition of over 80 countries pushed for the language that had been agreed on coal (a ‘phase down’) at COP26 to be extended to all fossil fuels. While this was not agreed upon, it shows that pressure is mounting for the issue to be addressed. In responding to fears that fossil fuel phase out would be pushed aside, the president of the COP28 called the phase out ‘inevitable,’ but emphasised that this would rely on renewable energy capacity and oil and gas companies being a part of the solution. He and many others support carbon capture and storage technology but this is likely to be a polarising discussion point.

Food Systems

Food systems are expected to be key discussion points as for the first time, agriculture made it onto the list of thematic days and the COP28 Food Systems and Agriculture agenda was launched in July. Agriculture produces a third of greenhouse gas emissions and consumes 70% of freshwater worldwide.

How you can get involved

Rishi Sunak recently stated, at an interview at the G20 summit in New Delhi, that ‘the net zero story [...] shouldn't be kind of hair shirt story of giving everything up and your bills going up.’ However, the working conditions in Dubai demonstrate how climate change can create conditions worse than a hair shirt – here and worldwide.

With the dramatic backdrop of COP28, there has never been a better opportunity to emphasise the urgent need for the UK to stick to its climate commitments, and this presents good opportunities to engage their MP’s on this issue.

On October 17th, Andrew Mitchell presented how the government changed the rules on how it would calculate it’s £11.6bn International Climate Fund (a commitment held since 2011/12). This change has been criticised by Climate Action Network UK as a way of “cynical 'creative accounting' rather than living up to the UK's responsibilities for climate change and actively supporting the needs of countries and communities that have been made vulnerable to climate change”. Some officials have suggested this move has moved the UK in line with other countries more liberal climate finance definitions. However, many critics believe this is a poor excuse, and that the UK should be leading the way in meaningful financial support for addressing the impacts of climate change internationally.

Therefore, we believe the global stage of COP28 can be used as a way to shift the conversation to the UK’s role in the international response to the climate crisis. As well as Rishi Sunak attending, Graham Stuart has announced that he will be attending, and Therese Coffey has already been meeting with the Commonwealth Environment and Climate Ministers Meeting (CECMM) to outline key priorities to take forward to the conference. Getting your MP to mount pressure on these MPs to reconsider sidestepping the UK’s international climate responsibility is a great way to use the momentum of this event to the benefit of further climate action.

Our SMART asks for your MP:

You could ask your MP to submit a written or oral question to James Cleverly MP, before COP28 to reconsider issuing International Climate Finance as loans, rather than grants, as this could further burden many debt-laden developing countries

You could ask whether your MP would submit a written or oral question to Graham Stuart/Theresa Coffey/James Cleverly requesting that they include in their COP28 a push for more global north countries to increase their country-led climate investment over private finance initiatives.

As ever, we encourage you to get in touch with us if you would like any help contacting your representatives.

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