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'Heroes of Net Zero' Follow Us

Hoping to avoid another COP-out


COP28, the annual United Nations climate talks, is under way in Dubai. Thousands of leaders from around the world are attending, including top government and business officials, scientists and activists.

COP stands for "Conference of the Parties," referring to signatories of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change — an agreement signed by over 150 governments in 1992.

COP28 is the 28th annual summit bringing their representatives together to seek agreement on goals and strategies to address the climate crisis. It began on November 30th, and is scheduled to finish next Tuesday, December 12th.

The talks come as climate scientists warn that the planet is increasingly flirting with climate disaster, and approaching "tipping points" for irreversible harm as ice melts, sea levels rise, and extreme conditions fuel drought, wildfires and floods. This year is expected to be the planet's warmest year on record.

Commitments made by governments so far fall far short of what is required. To keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C – as called for in the Paris Agreement – emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Getting to net zero requires all governments – first and foremost the biggest emitters – to take bold, immediate steps towards reducing emissions now.

The top five emitters (China, the United States of America, India, the European Union, the Russian Federation) accounted for about 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2021.

The Group of 20 (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union) are responsible for about 76 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, the least developed countries account for about 3.8 per cent of global emissions.

Progress on cutting emissions has been slow and inadequate. A recent report by the U.N. warned that, under current policies, warming could reach 3 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average by the end of the century — a level that would devastate the global population.

In Dubai, diplomats from nearly 200 countries will attempt to agree to a plan to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. A key question is whether a final agreement will call for a "phase out" of fossil fuels or use weaker language of a "phase down."

Expectations are low, given general inaction on cutting emissions and China signaling it won't agree to a "phaseout of fossil fuels." However, the U.S. and China — the world's two top polluters — have recently restarted negotiations, saying that they will pursue efforts to accelerate the substitution of coal, oil and gas.

Every country has to agree to every word of the final document produced at the summit, so making substantial progress has proven difficult in the past and led some critics to view these annual events as a waste of time. Furthermore, any agreements reached are not binding, which is also why critics accuse world leaders of making empty promises that have often gone unfulfilled.


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