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What is COP28? And why does it matter?

Flooding, wildfires and heatwaves have barely been out of the news in the last 12 months with continual warnings from scientists about the changes needed to avoid a catastrophic climate crisis.

This month sees world leaders gather at the annual climate conference – COP28 – to discuss progress towards climate action. After all, the only way to affect real change is together.

Here we look at everything you need to know ahead of the COP28 summit.


What is COP?

COP, or to give it its full name, the Conference of the Parties, is an annual summit of a group of nations that signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.

The summit is regarded as a milestone moment  each year, although in the past has received criticism for not being as productive as it could be. At each COP members discuss progress on climate action against the Paris Agreement – a commitment to limiting the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.


Where will COP28 be held?

COP is held in a different location each year, with Glasgow playing host to COP26 in 2021. For 2023, the world’s leaders will descend on Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, from November 30 to December 12.

The destination is not without controversy, as the UAE is one of the world’s top 10 oil-producing nations. President of COP28 is Sultan al-Jaber  is also CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company but he also has experience in the renewable energy sector, so there is hope he will work to tackle issues on both sides of the fence.


Who will attend COP28?

More than 200 governments from around the globe are on the invite list. For the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will attend alongside King Charles. And while US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping have not RSVP’d personally, both nations will have a seat at the table.

On top of that, there are environmental charities, community groups, think tanks, businesses (like GRIDSERVE) and faith groups all lending their expert voices to the discussion.


Why does COP28 matter?

To achieve the goals of limiting global warming and averting a complete climate crisis, action is need right now.

Long term warming suggests we’ve already reached 1.2°C and are on course to break through the 2°C well ahead of 2100 – the current date that the Paris Agreement uses as the benchmark. In fact, the UN says that the window for keeping the 1.5°C limit in reach is ‘rapidly narrowing’.

Better news is that the UN says big ticket events such as COP, which bring all nations together, have caused ‘near-universal climate action’. Hope then that it’s possible to slow the tide.


What’s on the agenda for COP28?

Beyond the general topic of climate action and the small matter of 1.5°C, there are key topic areas that will form the basis of discussions.

The first is how clean energy sources – such as solar and wind – can be fast-tracked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Second is how money can be delivered from richer countries to poorer ones to help fund climate action, plus support for developing nations.

And there will also be a focus on nature and people this year, as well as making COP28 the ‘most inclusive’ ever.