This year will mark a momentous occasion for the United Arab Emirates as it takes on the esteemed role of hosting the 28th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 28) to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). From November 30, 2023, to December 12, 2023, the UAE will be at the center of global discussions on crucial environmental matters, setting the stage for a historic gathering. 

Notably, COP 28 will coincide with the UAE national day on December 2, further adding to the significance of this moment. With over 80,000 delegates, including 140 heads of state and government, converging at the event, decisions that hold the key to vital environmental actions will be contemplated and taken. The remarkable Dubai Expo City has been chosen as the venue for COP28, symbolizing the shared aspirations of sustainability and fostering international collaboration in addressing pressing global challenges, objectives that both COP 28 and Expo 2020 Dubai hold in common.

If all goes according to plan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is on its way to becoming the second Middle Eastern country to host a session of the Conference of Parties (COP), following Egypt’s lead. This decision was reached by the UNFCCC after the UAE garnered unanimous support from the Asia-Pacific group during COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021.

COP28, as per global reports, carries immense environmental expectations and is poised to deliver significant resolutions in the fight against climate change.

Understanding the Meaning and Significance of COP

COP, also known as the Conference of Parties, stands as the highest authority for decision-making within the UNFCCC. The UNFCCC was established to address the escalating threat of climate change, with its inception dating back to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, commonly referred to as the Rio Summit or Earth Summit, held in 1992. The Secretariat of the UNFCCC is based in Bonn, Germany.

The presidency and venue of the COP sessions rotate among the five recognized regions of the United Nations, namely the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Central, Eastern, and Western Europe. The inaugural COP meeting took place in Berlin, Germany, in March 1995, and these sessions are typically held on an annual basis unless otherwise decided by the participating Parties.

Key Achievements of COP 26

Since its inaugural conference in Berlin, the Conference of Parties (COP) has yielded notable achievements. Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, highlighted the sustainable outcomes of COP 26 during the ministerial dialogue at OLADE energy week. The following outcomes were emphasized:

  1. Enhancing Adaptation to Climate Change: Post-COP 26, a comprehensive work program has been established to outline the strategies and approaches that countries will adopt to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
  1. Mobilizing Funds for Developing Countries: Efforts have been made to create additional financial resources to support developing nations in their adaptation endeavors.
  1. Accelerating Renewable Energy Deployment: Despite some reductions in emission levels, governments need to intensify their efforts. This necessitates the accelerated deployment of renewable energy sources.
  1. Finalizing Guidelines for Paris Agreement Implementation: Significant progress has been made in establishing guidelines for the complete implementation of the Paris Agreement. Notably, agreements on Article 6, which pertains to carbon markets ensuring fair competition, and the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) were concluded to enhance trust-building among nations.

The Paris Agreement is a global treaty aimed at combating climate change by legally binding all participating parties to limit the rise in global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. It was  established during the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) held in Paris in 2015,

What is COP 28

COP 28 refers to the 28th session of the Conference of Parties, an annual gathering aimed at discussing and finding solutions to address climate change. This upcoming event will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at Dubai Expo City from November 30 to December 12, 2023. The thirteen-day program will commence on Thursday and conclude on Tuesday.

COP 28 Agenda

The upcoming COP 28 in November 2023 will involve several tangible actions, including the following:

  • The transitional committee established during COP 27 for the Loss and Damage Agreement will provide recommendations on how to effectively implement the fund at COP 28. Its initial meeting is scheduled to take place before the end of March. Unnikrishnan Divakaran Nair, the head of Climate Change at the Commonwealth Secretariat, emphasizes the need to focus on strategies for collecting and filling the fund, as well as ensuring proper disbursement.
  • Despite the daily loss of over $200 million due to adverse climate impacts, high-income countries have yet to fulfill the $100 billion adaptation funding goal set at COP 15 in 2009. The negotiators at COP 27 failed to take a firm stance on adaptation finance. However, COP 28 will witness the establishment of a framework for a global adaptation goal, benefiting individuals whose livelihoods depend directly on a favorable climate, such as farmers.
  • The CAF report, commissioned by a group of 20 major economies, proposes a more prominent role for the World Bank in addressing climate change issues. The World Bank President expressed the organization’s collaboration with shareholders to develop various approaches to tackle climate change before COP 27. Development experts believe that the United Nations should urge the World Bank to play a larger role in monitoring countries’ commitments to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. According to Rabah Arzeki, former Chief Economist and Vice President at the African Development Bank, and Philippe Le Houérou, Chairman of the Board of the Agence Française de Développement, the World Bank, as a prominent institution, has the capacity to actively contribute to climate stability, with majority shareholders contributing more.
  • The Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETPs) has assisted countries like South Africa (COP 26), Indonesia, and Vietnam (previous year) in utilizing blended finance to reduce dependence on coal and transition to a greener energy mix.
  • U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres launched a plan at COP 27 to implement a multi-hazard early warning system covering all Earth’s residents within the next 5 years. In 2023, the priorities will include identifying any gaps and assessing people’s capabilities to handle the early warning system, progressing with the implementation, and ensuring increased funding. Guterres will provide updates on these developments at COP 28.
  • A new plan for food and agricultural security was created at COP 27. However, the final agreement overlooked critical aspects such as the food systems approach, nutrition and dietary shifts, and adaptation and mitigation work plans. The food and land use coalition program agenda aims to achieve better outcomes at the Global Stocktake and COP 28. The Food and Agriculture Organization is prepared to release a plan to reduce emissions from the food and agriculture system in line with the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the Agriculture Innovation Mission (AIM) for climate initiative, led by the U.S. and the U.A.E. with the U.N. as a founding member, plans to hold a summit in Washington. The initiative aims to increase funding for innovation in climate-smart agriculture from $8 billion to $10 billion by COP 28.
  • The Global Stocktake, a two-year process that occurs every five years, began at COP 26 and will conclude at COP 28. Currently in its second phase, which involves technical assessment, the stocktake focuses on three themes: mitigation, adaptation, and implementation/support. The findings will be presented and analyzed during COP 28.
  • The Global Goal on Adaptation, established under the Paris Agreement, obtained a framework at COP 27. This framework will be deliberated upon and potentially adopted during the convention in November.
  • COP 28 will also highlight the significance of the ocean and marine life. The host country, UAE, has already taken steps in its Nat-Zero 2050 strategy to restore and enhance ecosystems such as seagrasses, mangroves, and salt marshes. These efforts will be presented and emphasized during the conference.

Environmental Relevance of the UAE as the Host of COP 28

The choice of the UAE as the host for COP 28 highlights the country’s dedication to transitioning its economy towards clean and renewable energy sources, embracing technological advancements, and implementing climate-smart solutions. The conference will primarily concentrate on demonstrating the economic benefits of inclusive climate action.

The UAE views the opportunity to host COP 28 as a privilege and recognition of its long-standing commitment to environmental initiatives spanning over three decades. As early as 1989, the country ratified the Vienna Convention for the protection of the Ozone layer, signaling its determination to combat climate change. Subsequently, in 1995, it became a member of the UNFCCC and ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2005.

The UAE has implemented and advocated for several environmentally friendly initiatives, including:

  • Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM): Proposed by the UAE and the US at COP 26, this initiative seeks to attract significant investments in climate-smart agriculture and food systems over the next five years. With the agriculture sector employing approximately 5 billion people globally, the UAE has pledged an additional $1 billion to support this project.
  • The UAE is committed to minimizing methane emissions and has joined the Global Methane Pledge. Its hydrocarbon industries boast the world’s lowest methane intensities at just 0.01%. Furthermore, the country aims to reduce methane emissions by 30% by the end of 2023.
  • The UAE government has taken significant steps to maximize the utilization of renewable energy sources. A substantial investment of $400 million has been dedicated to assisting developing nations in transitioning from traditional energy generation methods to renewable alternatives.
  • The Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure in the UAE has developed a comprehensive blueprint called the Hydrogen Leadership Roadmap. This strategic plan outlines the necessary steps to position the country as a leading exporter of hydrogen, thereby supporting low-carbon industries.
  • The UAE is home to a groundbreaking large-scale carbon capture facility (CCUS), which plays a vital role in reducing the costs associated with solar energy.
  • As part of its second NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) derived from the Paris Agreement, the UAE aims to plant 100 million mangrove trees by the end of the decade. This ambitious afforestation project contributes to the country’s commitment to combat climate change.
  • The government has allocated $17 billion to support 27 island nations facing climate change threats. Numerous projects in renewable energy sectors such as solar, wind, and battery storage have been initiated to address the challenges these nations face.
  • In April 2022, the Barakah Nuclear Plant commenced operations. Once all four reactors are fully operational, the UAE’s power sector will significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The UAE is an early adopter of the strategic initiative Net Zero 2050, aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by the mid-century. As one of the first countries in the Middle East and North Africa to announce this project, the UAE demonstrates its commitment to a sustainable future.

Statements from UAE Government Representatives

The decision of the UNFCCC was met with appreciation by various representatives of the UAE government. Reflecting on the legacy of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, emphasized that COP 28 should be a ‘solutions COP,’ offering viable solutions to the challenging global issues of our time.

Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy for Climate Change, emphasized the importance of inclusivity at COP 28. He expressed that representatives from all sectors, including public and private, developed and developing nations, as well as academics and civilians, should have the opportunity to express their opinions and concerns. The UAE believes in the principle that ‘partnership promotes progress,’ and this philosophy should be evident throughout COP 28.

Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment, highlighted COP 28 as a crucial platform for comprehending the global implications of climate change on both planetary and economic scales. She emphasized that the UAE’s approach of considering challenges as opportunities has paved the way for a sustainable future for future generations. COP 28 presents an opportunity to share insights on this approach, and she expressed her desire to increase youth participation in the conference proceedings.

COP 28 Advisory Committee

Comprising 31 experts from diverse countries across six continents, the COP28 UAE Advisory Committee is a distinguished group of individuals well-versed in the field of climate change. Representing a wide range of sectors including policy, industry, energy, finance, civil society, youth, and humanitarian action, these committee members will serve as trusted advisors to the COP Presidency. Their role encompasses providing valuable guidance and counsel in preparation for COP28 and beyond.

The Advisory Committee exemplifies the core principles of diversity and inclusivity that lie at the heart of COP28 UAE. With a significant 65% of its members originating from the Global South, the committee ensures a broad spectrum of perspectives and experiences. Its principal objective is to foster collaboration and spearhead transformative action in critical domains such as adaptation, mitigation, finance, loss and damage, food and agriculture, and nature-based solutions.

The COP 28 Zones

The COP 28 summit in the UAE comprises two distinct zones for different participants.

Blue Zone

Managed by UNFCCC, the Blue Zone serves as the main site for all parties involved, including heads of state, ministers, negotiators, accredited observer organizations (NGOs, IGNOs, and UN agencies), media, and other leaders.

Green Zone

The Green Zone is designated for the general public, youth organizations, civil society, indigenous groups, and the private sector. This area provides a blend of entertainment, culture, and business. Within the Green Zone, three exhibition areas—the Decarbonization Hub, the Technology and Innovation Hub, and the Knowledge Hub—offer businesses the opportunity to showcase their ideas. The primary aim of the Green Zone is to foster dialogue, raise awareness, and encourage commitment to climate action.

COP28 Event Registration

To secure pavilions for COP 28, the application portal for expressions of interest opened on May 10, 2023, and will close on June 15, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. (GMT+4).

Interested delegations looking to secure a pavilion during COP 28 can visit for detailed information and to submit their applications, as announced by the UNFCCC.

Observer organizations, including NGOs and IGOs, should register their representatives for each conference using the Online Registration System (ORS). Information on the admission process for NGOs and IGOs can be found on the official UNFCCC website. Once registered, representatives can attend any session or meeting of the UNFCCC.

The International Youth Climate Delegate Programme (International YCDP)

In order to ensure the active involvement and meaningful participation of young individuals in climate-related decision-making processes, the International Youth Climate Delegate Programme (International YCDP) will include 100 youth delegates in international climate policy negotiations. While giving priority to small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCS), the programme welcomes youth from all regions. Eligible participants should be between the ages of 18 and 35.

A selection committee, led by YOUNGO, the Official Children and Youth Constituency of the UNFCCC, has been assigned the responsibility of shortlisting the candidates. The chosen delegates will have the opportunity to:

  • Expand their understanding of climate diplomacy.
  • Take part in the 18th Conference of Youth (UAE).
  • Participate in COP28 at Expo City Dubai (UAE).
  • Gain valuable insights and engage in essential climate action initiatives.
  • Interact with fellow youth delegates to foster a collective understanding of shared climate action objectives.

The UAE’s commitment to environmental initiatives, such as transitioning to clean energy sources and implementing climate-smart solutions, makes it an ideal host for this important gathering. The conference aims to deliver significant resolutions in the fight against climate change and promote international collaboration in sustainability efforts.

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