Making a COP28 statement, UN Climate Chief Simon Stiell emphasized the need for world leaders to achieve greater advancements in climate financing, engage in a global stocktake, and overall work to dramatically speed up climate action.
With the conference now reaching a halfway point, COP28 has seen a number of commitments toward financing climate action, especially through the creation of a loss and damage fund to support developing countries. There have also been pledges made to scale up nuclear energy development and to curb emissions from the increased use of air conditioning, among others.
Stiell, however, pointed out that commitments without action are not enough to address the worsening climate crisis. He said that efforts made so far are “just a start,” and that “good intentions won’t halve emissions this decade or save lives right now.”
He explained that, instead, “serious progress” will need to be made to finance and deliver on climate action, particularly as finalized financing agreements have not been met and a decision on the future of fossil fuels has also not yet been achieved.
Fossil Fuel Decision Unclear Amidst Worst Decade for Global Warming
With the conference located in a top oil-producing country and its president the CEO of a major oil company, some parties are skeptical over whether COP28 will lead to meaningful climate action.
Stiell himself called for “highest ambition, not point scoring or lowest common denominator politics” as the conference continues, especially as the planet has now reached 1.4 degrees over pre-industrial levels, just 0.01 away from the level at which irreversible environmental damages are possible. Early into COP28, the UN World Meteorological Organization also unveiled alarming emissions levels during the current decade, which is expected to be the hottest in the planet’s history.
Fossil fuels account for more than 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions according to the UN, making them the largest contributor to climate change by far. Nonetheless, COP28 debates continue over whether to phase out or phase down fossil fuels in the coming years.
Global Stocktake May Bring Climate Action on Track
This year’s conference marks the first year that will feature a global stocktake since the establishment of the Paris Agreement in 2016, and Stiell said this will be a key springboard for climate action. The stocktake will reveal how much progress countries have made on climate goals, therefore indicating steps they will need to take going forward. While a starting text is currently in development, a final document has not yet been released.
Once completed, the global stocktake will reportedly need to be front and center during proceeding negotiations, acting as a realistic enabler for climate action rather than what Stiell warned could amount to a collection of “wish lists” and “posturing.”
Stiell said that by the end of the conference, COP28 will need to deliver a “bullet train” to speed up climate action, calling the current developments “an old caboose chugging over rickety tracks.” With the necessary solutions to the climate crisis readily available, according to Stiell, it is the responsibility of governments and negotiators to take action to implement them.