COP28 must rebuild the credibility and ambition of the global climate regime

Posted on November, 29 2023

A breakthrough that will reset the ambition of global climate action, rebuild the credibility of the UN climate architecture, and restore faith that the climate crisis can be averted, is essential to kick-start momentum, writes Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Lead Climate and Energy.

COP28 comes at the end of another landmark year for climate change. As we approach the latest round of UN climate talks, scientists are set to confirm that 2023 will be the hottest year in human history.

This year, no part of the world has escaped the negative consequences of rising temperatures. More intense storms, floods, heatwaves, drought, crop failures, wildfires, and habitat degradation all provide evidence of the damage that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and global warming are inflicting on people and nature.

COP28 must help change the direction of travel

But despite this overwhelming evidence, we are heading in the wrong direction. 

Even with all the promises from world leaders, greenhouse gas emissions hit new highs in 2023. And emissions are forecast to keep rising.


The latest assessment by the UN of all countries’ commitments outlined in the national climate plans shows emissions rising by 9% by 2030.

To keep global warming within 1.5°C, we must cut emissions in half this decade.

And this drumbeat of bad news comes at a time when global international relations continue to be characterized by competition and distrust, rather than by cooperation and recognition of our common interests.

News reports this week suggest some countries are working against the aims of the Paris Agreement, by seeking opportunities to expand oil and gas exports and lock countries into fossil fuel dependency.

Breakthrough needed at COP28

This will raise the stakes for COP28 even higher.

The COP28 presidency must deliver a breakthrough that will reset the ambition of global climate action, rebuild the credibility of the UN climate architecture, and restore faith that the climate crisis can be averted.

COP28 must agree to phasing out fossil fuels

We believe that breakthrough should take the form of an unequivocal decision to phase out all fossil fuels by no later than 2050, with developed countries doing it earlier. We came close to such a decision at COP27.

COP28 president, Sultan Al Jaber, has acknowledged that phasing down fossil fuels is “inevitable and essential” - and we want to see this followed through at COP. 

COP28 must reset global ambition

Such a commitment would only be the start. Governments in Dubai will consider the findings of the first Global Stocktake – the mechanism within the Paris Agreement to assess our collective progress towards the goals of the treaty.

Its’ technical dialogue synthesis report, released in September, showed how far adrift we are from meeting the agreement’s aims.

In their response to the stocktake, governments have the opportunity to reset global ambition.

We need to see a Global Stocktake roadmap that leads to real action.

At WWF, we are calling on parties to revisit and strengthen pre-2030 commitments to ensure we reach a 43% reduction in emissions by 2030 and 60% by 2035.

COP28 targets must be credible, backed by national policies and implementation

But, for these targets to be credible, the rigour and accountability of the entire system must be reinforced.

Beneath the overarching goal of the Paris Agreement, and beneath national-level pledges, there is all too often a failure of implementation.

Targets are meaningless if they are not backed by national policies and implementation.

Governments need support in developing and implementing national climate plans to ensure that commitments are met, with policies and regulations to deliver them.

They need to face scrutiny to ensure that pledges on the international stage are followed by the hard work at home.

If, through their response to the Global Stocktake, countries can’t agree on the measures and targets needed to close the emissions gap, countries should revisit the bottom-up, largely voluntary nature of the Paris climate regime.

COP28 must deliver finance needed for climate action

There is also work to be done to restore the credibility of the system when it comes to support for developing countries.

Rich countries have only this year met a long-standing promise to provide $100 billion/year in climate finance.

These flows need to dramatically increase, and we want to see a pledge to deliver at least $600 billion/year by 2030, through a New Collective Quantified Goal that addresses mitigation, adaptation, and Loss and Damage.
COP28 can reinforce hope through decisions on nature, 100% renewable energy 

But, as we work to rebuild the credibility and ambition of the global climate regime, we must also remain optimistic.

We have the tools we need to meet the challenge of reversing the climate crisis. A 100% renewable energy system is well within reach. We have an ally in nature, which can bring win-wins in terms of restoring biodiversity, sequestering carbon, and bringing co-benefits to people.

We have unprecedented levels of public concern and support for ambitious action on climate change.

What we don’t have is time. 
We must move quickly, decisively and with ambition in Dubai to put the Paris Agreement back on track, and back on a firmer footing.

The world will be watching.

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