The road to COP28: What have we learned from previous climate summits?

20/11/2023 by Ali Sajwani

With the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) commencing at the end of this month, delegations from all over the world are preparing for what is set to be another pivotal climate summit. From 30 November to 12 December, Expo City in Dubai, UAE will welcome more than 70,000 participants, facilitating crucial conversations and decision-making on climate action. All nations and all sectors, including real estate, have an important role to play.

The UAE is heavily engaged in the fight against climate change, having recognised that this issue must be prioritised if the nation is to maintain economic growth and sustainability over the long term. I am therefore immensely proud to see this most important of international conferences being hosted in my homeland.

Since it first took place in 1995, COP has successfully formed hundreds of vital projects and movements while ensuring a greater understanding of climate change. Some of the event’s key contributions include the Paris Agreement, put in place to keep the global temperature rise within 2°C of pre-industrial levels, and The Kyoto Protocol, which commits industrialised nations to limit and reduce greenhouse gases and emissions.

So, what have these summits taught us so far?

It’s not too late if we act now

Thankfully, climate change is becoming more normalised in everyday discourse, which means more people than ever are taking it seriously. Still, there are some who do not recognise the urgency of climate action, even going so far as to question whether anthropogenic climate change is even happening. There is simply no room for misconceptions on this issue, which is why these summits are so important.

Indeed, past COPs have taught us that, with coordinated efforts, solutions are possible. In recent years, the growth of greenhouse gas emissions has slowed, and since 2010, there have been sustained decreases of up to 85% in the costs of solar power, wind energy and batteries. On top of this, an increasing number of policies and laws have been introduced to improve energy efficiency, reduce rates of deforestation and enhance the distribution of renewable energy.

One day, it will be too late to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, but we have the tools and knowledge necessary to make a difference now if we act together. If previous summits have taught us one thing, it’s that climate change must be taken seriously and acted on collaboratively – and sooner rather than later.

Innovation is key

All COP summits have centred heavily on contributions from science and innovation, which are fundamental in our understanding of climate change and our efforts to combat it.

The UAE, for example, has joined 22 other countries and the European Union (EU) as members of Mission Innovation (MI), a global collective focused on investment in research and development to make clean energy more affordable and accessible. This initiative aims to accelerate progress towards the Paris Agreement and net-zero goals.

Since its establishment, MI has helped achieve a substantial boost in public-sector funding, increased private-sector investment and engagement, and more effective international collaboration. COP has always highlighted the extent to which innovation and collaboration can drive environmental efforts, and I’m sure the upcoming conference will be no exception.

More funding is required for real change

For our children’s sake, money should be no object when it comes to protecting our planet. Experts have warned that the world will become uninhabitable if climate change continues at its current pace. Funding and finance are needed to ensure ambitious yet necessary targets can be properly met. Of course, some countries are clearly better positioned to prioritise climate financing than others.

Thankfully, at COP27, an agreement was established to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries affected by climate disasters. However, it was also revealed that at least $4-6 trillion a year will be required for a global low-carbon economic transformation, while plans to mobilise $100 billion per year by 2020 have not yet been realised. COPs have taught us that developed nations and international financial institutions need to step up to ensure funding goals for climate finance are met.

To this end, COP28 President-Designate, His Excellency Dr Sultan Al Jaber, recently announced plans for a $4.5 billion UAE finance initiative which is set to invest in Africa’s clean energy potential. It is only through this kind of bold, multi-stakeholder approach that sustainability-related finance will become available, accessible and affordable for all.

Anticipating the future

COP28 will focus the eyes of the world – and the minds of the most powerful people on the planet – on the crucial next steps we need to take to combat climate change. I am really looking forward to this year’s summit, and with the UAE as hosts, I am certain that the lessons of the past can help inspire hope for the future.

Our nation seeks to be at the forefront of climate-related issues, and I am sure this will be evident throughout the Expo City conference. No country, company or individual can address a challenge of this magnitude in isolation. Fortunately, COP28 in the UAE has the potential to bring the world together in action.

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