What to watch at COP28

Intricate root systems of trees planted along the Pechelín Creek protect the creek bed from erosion.

Middle East — Nov 2023

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COP (Conference of the Parties) gatherings bring countries together every year to tackle climate change collaboratively. The commitments and conversations at COP shape global efforts to address climate change. As Christians, our faith calls us to steward God's creation and to care for our neighbors. Climate change threatens the vulnerable and affects biodiversity, but it's also an opportunity to express love and bring justice. Together, we can ensure that the same commitment to love and justice is upheld through global climate action at COP.

This year’s climate conference, COP28, will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12. This meeting follows a year with record-breaking high temperatures and a glimpse of the devastating consequences of not taking action. Severe floods, fires, heat waves, droughts and storms affected life everywhere. COP28 is significant because it falls midway between the adoption of the Paris Agreement and its target year of 2030, when crucial emissions reduction goals are meant to be achieved.

World leaders and representatives will gather in Dubai to discuss and negotiate commitments to address this crisis. COP28 will focus on several key action areas, including:

  1. Speeding up the transition to cleaner energy — The world needs to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and move toward cleaner sources of energy. Achieving significant progress on this transition by 2030 is essential to reducing harmful emissions that contribute to climate change.
  2. Delivering on previous promises — In previous climate agreements, countries pledged financial support to help low-income nations adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. COP28 will address the need to fulfill these promises and establish necessary financial agreements to reach these pledges.
  3. Prioritizing nature and livelihoods — Climate action cannot be just about reducing emissions; a holistic view is needed with systems that protect ecosystems, communities and livelihoods.
  4. Mobilizing for an inclusive COP — COP28 aims to be inclusive, ensuring that voices from all parts of the world are heard, especially those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Thabiso Matsoso, MCC's conservation agriculture worker in Mozambique, watches closely at how the water is being poured out by Julia Kombo, a project participant.

Matsoso assists the Chigogoro commu
Thabiso Matsoso, MCC's conservation agriculture worker in Mozambique, watches closely at how the water is being poured out by Julia Kombo, a project participant. MCC photo/Antonio Lembranca

Based on these overarching focuses, some key topics that will emerge at COP28 include:

  • The first global stocktake — Under the Paris Agreement, countries agreed to evaluate their progress every five years. At COP28 these results will be presented. This report is not expected to be very surprising, but it will highlight gaps in funding and failures to meet emissions reductions targets. It will also provide the foundation for the next round of emissions reduction targets for 2035 and 2040.
  • Loss and damages fund — COP28 will address financial support for low-income countries facing negative consequences from climate-related events, like extreme weather. This support is crucial for vulnerable nations, and establishing this fund was a key success from negotiations at past COPs.
  • Financial commitments — Funding is always an important conversation at COP gatherings. COP28 will focus on reaching the long-standing commitment of $100 billion per year in climate finance, which has not been achieved, and operationalizing the loss and damages fund. Meeting these overdue financial commitments is an important priority for this COP.
  • Emissions reductions — The previous COP gathering failed to set new emissions targets, but with 2030 approaching and the results of the global stocktaking, there is potential for new and stronger targets to be set at COP28.
  • Global goal on adaptation — A key aspect of the Paris Agreement is improving countries’ ability to adapt to climate change. COP28 will work on a concrete framework to achieve this goal, which will help to define and measure adaptation action and set clear goals.
  • Agriculture — Food systems are responsible for a third of all emissions, and agricultural practices are not the only problem: massive food waste, transportation and packaging all contribute significant emissions. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization has announced that it will release a plan by COP28 that will address aligning food and agriculture systems with the Paris Agreement.
  • Peace — COP28 will have a special focus on climate-related challenges in fragile and conflict-affected areas, including increased adaptation, disaster prevention and response, and loss and damages. This focus on peace and conflict is a new addition to the COP discussions.


There are controversies surrounding COP28, particularly regarding the appointment of COP President Sultan al-Jaber, who holds positions in both the UAE government and the state oil company. Critics argue that this dual role poses a conflict of interest that may impact negotiations on important targets. There are also ongoing concerns about the influence of fossil fuel companies on COP meetings, as dozens of countries, including Canada, have included registered fossil fuel lobbyists in their official delegations.

Despite these concerns, this gathering serves as a pivotal moment for world leaders and representatives to address the climate crisis. Occurring halfway between the Paris Agreement and the target year of 2030, COP28 represents an opportunity for countries to reaffirm their commitments and forge a path toward a sustainable future. The focus areas and goals outlined by the COP presidency provide a clear road map for action. The outcomes of COP28 will impact the trajectory of global climate change efforts, including a strengthened understanding of adaptation, a newly active loss and damages fund and important attention on the impacts of climate change on peace and conflict.