COP28 Pledges Not Enough to Limit Warming to 1.5C

11 December 2023, Dubai, United Arab Emirates: A man applauds as civil society constituencies gather for a People’s Plenary for Climate Justice at the United Nations climate summit COP28. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert

A draft  of the new commitments out of COP28 climate summit will not be enough on their own to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), as the talks headed into the final phase. So far, 130 countries have agreed to triple renewables and double the rate of energy efficiency improvements, while 50 oil and gas companies have agreed to cut out methane emissions, but those agreements aren’t ambitious enough. They would achieve only a third of the emissions gap that needs to be closed in the next six years to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Why 1.5 Matters

A graphic released in March 2023 from the UN climate panel conveys the most important scientific findings about climate change — and breaks new ground.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment from Marc of 2023 shared a powerful global warming data visualization, illustrating how future warming depends on various emissions scenarios, and shows how climate change already affects — and is poised to alter — the lives of generations born in 1950, 1980, and 2020.The IPCC report contained stark findings, including that the world is way off track in limiting the severity of global warming; but there’s still time to rein in emissions from fossil fuels, land use change and other sources.

For the 1950s group, much of the climate change they have experienced has occurred since the 1970s, when the fingerprints of greenhouse gases became more pronounced. Those born in 1980 have already seen large and rapid shifts in climate, and will be 70-years-old during the middle of the century, which is the timeframe for when nations’ emissions are supposed to hit net zero.  People born in 2020, however, could see a world that warms dramatically more than it has so far if emissions remain high.

More Ambition Needed

11 December 2023, Dubai, United Arab Emirates: As negotiations move into their final stages, a group of people hold letters reading ‘Hold The Line’ outside the main plenary hall of the United Nations climate summit COP28. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert

2023 has been full of climate related disasters, in both the global north and the global south, and climate scientists have delivered fresh and concerning research, indicating that bold and drastic decisions at COP28 are needed to manage the climate crisis.

Mattias Söderberg, co-chair of the ACT Alliance Climate Justice Group, speaking on behalf of ACT Alliance, urged all the parties to come to consensus on a final decision at this COP that incorporates strong climate justice, clear indicators on the Global Goal for Adaptation, a full phase out of fossil fuels that includes a just transition, and adequate new and additional climate finance- in the form of grants, not loans- to meet the needs of countries and communities in the global south, who face the brunt of the impacts of climate change already.

The U.N.’s climate body on Monday published its latest draft text of the deal it hopes to reach at the COP28 summit in Dubai, which includes a range of actions countries could take to reduce emissions.

The list did not refer directly to a phase out of fossil fuels, which was a key demand by the European Union as well as many developing countries that are especially vulnerable to climate change.  A phase out of all fossil fuels is urgently required in order to keep global temperature rise to 1.5C but as necessary as this phase out is, a failure to do so without appropriate measures to create alternative employment and to ensure access to renewable energy for all through a just transition will have devastating impacts on growth and development around the world.

Protester onstage during the Global Climate Action High-Level Event (closing): Uniting on the Pathway to 2030 and Beyond at the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Dubai on December 11, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by COP28 / Christopher Pike)

Faith leaders continue to add their voices to echo the alarm that the climate crisis can not be addressed without clear goals. COP28 should adopt a framework to ensure  a clear blueprint for action. It should present global targets for action, and guide governments, politicians and organizations, when they invest in ensuring that their efforts have impact. And they aren’t alone. Over 800 leaders from the worlds of business, finance and politics, plus scientists, health professionals, indigenous peoples and faith leaders, including the CEOs of over 300 companies, have published a call for a 1.5C-aligned outcome at the end of the summit “because later is too late”.

Mary Robinson, a former UN envoy for climate change,  told The Guardian that “Those at the negotiating table at Cop28 are steering the course of our shared future: their success or failure will resonate for generations. I fear Cop28 is falling short of what is required to stay within the 1.5C warming threshold. There are countries here with the capacity to ensure the outcome of this summit is historic for the right reasons. They need to lean in now with ambition and urgency. Cop28 presents an opportunity for leaders to be on the right side of history.  Nations obstructing a livable future must abandon their subterfuge. The nations thwarting progress are those with the greatest stakes in fossil fuels but also the most plentiful resources to act. Saudi Arabia and allies are holding talks hostage. However it is not the only country hindering progress: the USA, China, the EU and India have been happy to hide in the shadows cast. There is still time for these countries to step up with the courageous leadership required to tackle this existential threat.”

The PC(USA) is a member of ACT Alliance.

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