The 2023 Dubai climate negotiations (COP28) is perhaps the most pivotal summit since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015. Every major workstream requires a definitive decision, if world leaders are still serious about limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
It can be regarded as an “accountability” COP, especially with the findings of the Global Stocktake intended address the gaps that are hindering more effective global solutions. After three decades of slow progress and inadequate action, Parties are more than obligated to come up with concrete ways forward to enhance every facet of addressing the said crisis.
Many observers have presented their insights on COP28’s critical issues, including on fossil fuel phaseout, defining the global goal of adaptation, setting up the loss and damage (L&D) fund, and unlocking more sources of climate finance.
Yet there are numerous matters that also need more attention and must be discussed in Dubai, all of which would contribute to tackling numerous impacts of this global threat.
IPCC report on loss and damage?
While L&D has emerged as the third pillar of climate action, along with mitigation and adaptation, there remain many questions about how to assess when risks and impacts have exceeded the capacities of communities and ecosystems to respond to them. There have also been concerns about how to measure L&D, especially the non-economic aspect.
A potential solution to this is if the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publishes a special report on L&D, the development of which may be announced at COP28 for a more meaningful impact. As it has done with the issues on 1.5°C, lands, and oceans, a definitive report would provide more standardized general guidance regarding the technical aspects of defining L&D, especially at the local levels.
Such a report should include how to determine whether the soft or hard adaptation limit of a system has been reached. It should also explore the strengths and weaknesses in attribution science in the context of L&D, which would be of utmost significance for the most vulnerable nations and communities, as well as current mechanisms for addressing L&D.
The IPCC has been an influential force in the history of the negotiations, such as helping elevate adaptation to be on the same level of importance and urgency as mitigation in the eyes of policymakers. A special report on L&D would likely strengthen global actions for this issue in a similar manner.
The need for rapidly increasing accessible and available finance applies to practically every workstream of climate action. It would contribute to eventually determining a new collective quantified goal (NCQG) that succeeds the USD100 billion pledge for developing countries made years ago, yet is slated to only be completed this year.
What must be included in finance-related priorities is the creation of a funding mechanism for programs, projects, and activities aligned with advancing Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE). Strengthening endeavors aligned with its six elements – climate change education and public awareness, training, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation – would help scale up the impact of mitigation, adaptation, and other aspects of climate action.
This funding can also be used to address existing gaps under this theme, including the development of National ACE strategies, and scaling up programs, projects, and activities aligned with the four priority areas under the Glasgow work programme on ACE: policy coherence, coordinated action, tools and support, and monitoring, evaluation, and reporting.
This would also indicate a stronger commitment by Parties to empowering the youth, the sector that is associated most often with ACE. Aside from the intergenerational lens, said activities to be financed under this mechanism must also account for human rights and gender perspectives, as they would go a long way towards instilling behavioral changes that would boost climate solutions and holding policymakers and implementors accountable, especially at the local levels.
The ‘sideline’ promises?
Recent COPs have seen an increase in ‘sideline deals’ or ‘sideline pledges’, which are declarations of further commitments of Parties outside the decision text itself for increasing ambition and action against the climate crisis. Ideally, they are indicators of nations taking the initiative for accelerated implementation of solutions, given the slow pace of the negotiations.
For instance, during the Glasgow climate talks, the Global Methane Pledge was made, led by the USA and the European Union, to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. Another joint commitment consisted of 46 countries and non-state organizations involved in a transition from coal to clean power, albeit with some nations agreeing to only parts of the overall pledge.
Yet the question is how to ensure that those who gave their word under these pledges would follow through with concrete actions. This is why it is vital for observers, even those who are part of these commitments, to maintain a close eye on the progress of Parties and non-Party stakeholders if they are fulfilling their end of these bargains.
Whether within the COP decision text or on sideline deals, accountability must never be overlooked, diminished, or ignored in the discussions. Without policymakers and implementors being required to justify their decisions that decide our collective present and future and take this responsibility seriously, the path to a 1.5-degree-warmer world would remain a rocky, if not a fully closed one.
No one expects these negotiations to go smoothly, yet it is way past due for world leaders to make the tough decisions. That applies to every detail, no matter how big or small.
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