The 2023 Dubai Climate Change Conference began on a high note. During the opening plenary, parties adopted a decision operationalizing the new loss and damage fund that was established the previous year in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and a number of parties announced pledges for its initial capitalization. This success was made possible by an agreement reached in the Transitional Committee that was tasked and met throughout 2023 to make a recommendation on the institutional arrangements for the fund.

Parties also swiftly adopted the agendas for the meeting. Pre-sessional consultations managed to secure agreement for a number of contentious issues to be addressed either in presidency consultations or under existing agenda items, rather than as stand-alone items.

Despite these initial high points, negotiations throughout the two-week meeting were difficult, especially on the central outcomes for this conference: the first Global Stocktake (GST) under the Paris Agreement, the framework for implementing the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), the mitigation work programme, the work programme on just transition pathways, and matters related to Paris Agreement Article 2.1(c), on aligning finance flows with low-greenhouse gas (GHG) climate-resilient development.

During the second week, negotiations were largely conducted behind the scenes, with the Presidency, its appointed ministerial Co-Facilitators, and others conducting bilateral consultations on draft texts with a view to identify landing zones. Key issues of contention related to, among others, language on fossil fuel phaseout in the GST decision and references to means of implementation for the GGA. Despite the Presidency’s intention to close the meeting on time on Tuesday, 12 December, consultations continued into the early hours of Wednesday, 13 December. In the early morning, draft decisions on the remaining issues were eventually posted and adopted by the closing plenary.

Parties adopted a decision on the GST that recognizes the need for deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in GHG emissions in line with 1.5°C pathways. It encourages parties to ensure their next nationally determined contributions have ambitious, economy-wide emission reduction targets, covering all GHGs, sectors, and categories, and aligned with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

Among other things, the decision also calls on parties to contribute, in a nationally-determined manner, to global efforts on:

  • tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030;
  • accelerating efforts towards the phase down of unabated coal power;
  • accelerating efforts globally towards net zero emission energy systems, utilizing zero- and low-carbon fuels well before or by around mid-century;
  • transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly, and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science;
  • accelerating zero- and low-emission technologies, including, inter alia, renewables, nuclear, abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilization and storage, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors, and low-carbon hydrogen production;
  • accelerating and substantially reducing non-carbon-dioxide emissions globally including, in particular, methane emissions by 2030;
  • accelerating the reduction of emissions from road transport on a range of pathways, including through development of infrastructure and rapid deployment of zero and low-emission vehicles; and
  • phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions, as soon as possible.

Closing statements showcased how difficult it was to reach the compromise on the GST. Many denounced the lack of a clear reference to fossil fuel phaseout, weak language on coal and methane, and the loopholes associated with so-called “transitional fuels,” which the decision says “can play a role in facilitating the energy transition while ensuring energy security.” Others found the reference to these specific global efforts too prescriptive and underscored the bottom-up and nationally-determined nature of the Paris Agreement. Nevertheless, the decision is celebrated as the “beginning of the end of fossil fuels.”

Other outcomes of the conference include:

  • the adoption of the framework for the GGA established in the Paris Agreement, which aims to guide the implementation of the goal and, among other things, establishes impact, vulnerability, and risk assessment (by 2030), multi-hazard early warning systems (by 2027), climate information services for risk reduction and systematic observation (by 2027), and country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory, and transparent national adaptation plans (by 2030);
  • the designation of the consortium of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the UN Office for Project Services as the host of the Santiago Network on loss and damage;
  • the launch of the implementation of the work programme on just transition pathways, with at least two hybrid dialogues to held prior to the two annual sessions of the Subsidiary Bodies;
  • the decision to continue and strengthen the dialogue to exchange views on and enhance understanding of the scope of Article 2.1(c) of the Paris Agreement (on aligning finance flows with low-GHG climate resilient development) and its complementarity with Article 9 of the Paris Agreement (on climate finance); and
  • the decision to convene an expert dialogue on mountains and climate change and an expert dialogue on the disproportionate impacts of climate change on children at the Subsidiary Bodies meetings in June 2024.

The UAE Climate Change Conference convened from 30 November to 13 December 2024, 24 hours longer than originally scheduled. The conference consisted of the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 18), the 5th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 5), and the 59th sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 59) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 59).

In total, 97,372 people were registered for on-site attendance, including 51,695 delegates from parties, 25,360 observers, 3,972 members of the media, and 16,345 support and Secretariat staff. Of the observers, 4,885 were guests of the host country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Another 3,074 people, including 177 delegates from parties, 2,821 observers, and 76 media representatives registered for online participation. COP 28 was by far the largest UN climate change conference to date.

Further Reading

This article was first published by the IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin. You can view the original summary report on the IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin website.

Cover image by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis

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