World Vision Ireland: COP28 Review
In what feels like an all too familiar situation, the world has watched COP28 assemble, outline the devastating 3° trajectory we are on, re-iterate Paris Climate commitments, hear the voices of the most vulnerable and most impacted and, ultimately, come away with an agreement which falls far short of the ambition need to get us back on track towards a liveable future.
Over 40 decision texts and agreements were adopted at COP28, ranging from procedural texts such as where the next COP will be held (Azerbaijan in case you are wondering), to the establishment of the long-awaited Loss and Damage Fund. Included in this is a group of texts dubbed the UAE Consensus; these documents focus on key elements such as the outcome of the first Global Stocktake, the Global Adaptation Goal and the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund. In addition to formal decisions taken by Parties, more than 170 pledges and declarations were made during COP28. These ranged from the Global Methane Pledge, signed up to by 155 countries, which aims to cut world methane emissions by 30% by 2030, and the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, with over 130 nations pledging to doubling global renewable energy capacity by 2030.
It is fair to say that significant achievements were made at COP28. Chiefly amongst them was the capitalisation of the Loss and Damage Fund. It will go a long way to addressing the enormous imbalance in the devastating impact of climate change. An estimated $700m has be pledged so far which, while an impressive figure, would seem incredibly small given the estimated $655m worth of damage caused by just Cyclone Freddy alone. This figure was calculated by the insurer Aon and is just one of over a hundred disasters which accumulated tens of billions worth of damage in 2023.
Given the scale and frequency of disasters around the world, it is essential that there are no delays to operationalising this mechanism and that it comprises new and additional funding. While recognising this as an achievement, it is important to highlight that the fund is voluntary, countries are not obliged to contribute, and there is no overarching target outlined which measures against the increasing financial need. We would like to see significant structures put in place to ensure that this new fund is successful.
The agreement on targets for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) is another achievement of COP28, despite many calling for more robust and ambitious targets. Adaptation is crucial for the communities we work with, to build capacity and resilience, and reduce vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change. The GAA now sets out voluntary targets on reducing climate risks across societies and ecosystems, but it is unclear whether it will generate the sustained and predictable finance that frontline communities urgently need.
World Vision Ireland was also very encouraged by the role of children and the increased child participation in COP28. The Global Stocktake referenced the empowerment and participation of children in a number of articles. Article 182 in particular outlines the need for an expert dialogue session to discuss the disproportionate impacts of climate change on children. This a major pillar of World Vision Ireland’s work around the world and we are looking forward to contributing to this important dialogue.
The language of the Global Stocktake is encouraging and includes a number of references to gender equality, empowerment of women and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment which is very welcome.
Ultimately, after incredible resistance, the long-overdue recognition of fossil fuels as the key driver in global warming and the climate crisis was recognised in the final agreement. This is a fundamental step and, as UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutters said "Fossil Fuel Phase Out is Inevitable". Many see the agreement as the beginning of the end for fossil fuels however, others recognise it as the lowest possible position that could be accepted, when true leadership and ambition was essential.
The agreed term to “transition away from fossil fuels” has been welcomed by many. It is not the ‘phase-out’ language that climate activists and campaigners have called for, but it is an important step. Beyond the language, many are concerned by “a litany of loopholes…..which does not deliver on a subsidy phaseout and it does not advance us beyond the status quo” which was identified by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).
Climate champions made themselves heard and played a valuable role throughout COP28. Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders, speaking on the urgency of the crisis said “Every day of delay condemns millions to an uninhabitable world”. Anne Rasmussen, the Samoan spokesperson for AOSIS, received a standing ovation after a passionate speech on the disproportionate affect climate change has on small island developing states, saying “what we really needed is an exponential step-change in our actions and support”. Along with countless others, they highlighted what can be achieved at COP and what must yet be achieved.
We welcome the COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action as a significant step towards a sustainable future. It is very promising to see 134 countries pledging to fully incorporate food and food systems into the next round of their nationally determined contributions. We hope this will result in accelerated innovations that will not only support farming communities but also safeguard livelihoods, reduce hunger and contribute to the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions, which presently account for a third of global emissions.
World Vision Ireland joins in the call of NGOs and climate advocates around the world to make the most of the COP28 agreement. While we too had hoped for stronger language, we hope that governments use COP28 as a platform for leadership and ambition to address the climate crisis and its impacts on the most vulnerable around the world. After all, we do not need a global agreement to tell us that action is needed at all levels to address the threat posed by the climate crisis.