COP28: The good, the bad, and the downright disappointing

by Shiva Gounden

18 December 2023

© Marie Jacquemin / Greenpeace

After over 2 weeks of climate negotiations, the 28th UN Climate Summit, COP28, has wrapped up in Dubai.

As world leaders and delegates negotiated on how to stay on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, 2023 was confirmed as the hottest year on record. And despite this obvious alarm bell, leaders still could not agree on a definitive phaseout of fossil fuels.

A lot happened at COP28 – here’s a rundown:

 

1. Launch of the Loss and Damage Fund

The good: The Loss and Damage Fund is finally operational.

The bad: Pledges fall short of what’s actually needed by climate-vulnerable countries.

 

Championed by Pasifika leaders, the fund allocates money to help developing countries cope with the impacts from the ongoing climate crisis. Even though the fund was first announced at COP27 last year, a lot of the funding arrangements were left up in the air. At COP28, wealthy nations responsible for climate change pledged a total of $700 million to the fund. Though it’s a good start, it’s still a drop in the ocean of what Pacific Island communities actually need to cover the costs of desperately needed climate adaptation and mitigation measures. Australia committed a pitiable $150 million to climate funding for the Pacific – a far cry from our fair share of $4 billion annually.

 

2. Australia signs Glasgow Statement

The good: Australia signs the Glasgow Statement.

The bad: It’s still unclear whether this will translate into much-needed action at home.

 

The Glasgow Statement is a joint agreement to end international public finance for fossil fuel projects. From 2016 to 2021, Australia funnelled $828 million in taxpayers money to overseas fossil fuel projects. Signing on to the Glasgow Statement means Australia will no longer finance international fossil fuel projects – a positive step that will help shift billions of dollars away from a polluting fossil fuel industry to clean renewables.

 

But domestic projects are not part of the agreement. The largest fossil fuel project in Australia up for Federal approval – Woodside’s monstrous Burrup Hub gas project – would release 6.1 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere if it goes ahead. This project is grossly incompatible with our net zero emissions targets, and would cause further climate harm to our Pasifika family. 

 

3. Global Stocktake

The good: There’s more awareness and unanimity around how off track we are from meeting the 1.5C goal

The bad: We are way off course from reaching the 1.5C goal

The disappointing:

 

The Global Stocktake is like a climate report card for countries, assessing how well they’re doing to reach their national emissions targets and limit global temperatures to 1.5C. COP28 made it undeniably clear just how severely off track we are from reaching that goal, helping to build consensus around the need for even more ambitious action, with minister Bowen saying that limiting global heating to 1.5C isn’t ‘up for compromise’. But, the horrifying reality is still how off course we are from meeting the 1.5C goal, and how quickly that window is closing.

 

The commitments made from this year’s COP and the actions taken after are critical, especially in meeting the 1.5C goal. For Pacific leaders and communities already on the frontlines of the climate crisis, 1.5C isn’t just a target, it’s a matter of ‘life or death’. 

 

What’s next? Where do we go from here?

After nearly 30 years of these climate change conferences, fossil fuels have finally been mentioned in the final text, but leaders fell short of calling for a phaseout, and the necessary finance required for developing nations to transition to clean energy.

After persistently calling for strong climate action and repeatedly sharing their stories of climate-induced trauma at these conferences, our Pasifika family deserved more.

It’s important to remember the human faces of the climate crisis, and what COP28 will mean for their lives – their homes, their cultures, languages, their very survival. With COP28 over, we’re armed with a new checklist of commitments to hold our leaders accountable. We have a responsibility to keep the pressure up, and make sure they follow through on these promises.

There is strong appetite for Australia to co-host COP31 with the Pacific. Yet Australia is the third largest exporter of fossil fuels – exports that cause immeasurable climate harm to the Pacific. If we want to be serious about hosting the UN Climate Conference in 2026, and reset our reputation as a leader in climate action – the Australian government must say no to all new fossil fuels.

Sign our petition now.

Shiva Gounden

By Shiva Gounden

Shiva is the Pacific Community Engagement Manager and Advisor at Greenpeace Australia Pacific with a background in humanitarian work, social justice and community development in post-conflict and disaster areas.

Shiva is Fijian-born, living in Australia, has experienced more than 25 cyclones in his life, including twin cyclones Kevin and Judy in Vanuatu in 2023.

He says he is the product of the experience, observations, generational story transfer and resilience of climate impacts to Pasifika communities, traditions, languages and identities.

Shiva has been prominently featured in global media about the impacts of climate change on the Pacific region.