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COP28 Reflections

“The era of fossil fuels must end – and it must end with justice and equity” These were the closing remarks of Secretary Antonio Guiterres at the end of the Cop28 climate conference. With over 70,000 people participating, and many more contributing virtually from around the world, the annual conference is no longer just about the negotiations. It is also a symbol of the strength of the environmental community, and a showcase of the environmental work being done by nonprofits, businesses, individuals and more. That is why, I still believe that COP continues to play a crucial role in the climate movement. COP acts as a focal point where we define and reassess what is most important for our global efforts. While progress is slow, it is still tangible. 

A week after COP, I want to share some of my key takeaways from the conference - both inside and outside the negotiation rooms, with a focus on water and climate adaptation 

Main takeaways 

🔥An Embarrassing Lack of Progress: This year was the first global stocktake - where countries share the progress they have made and what still needs to be done. It was dismal, to say the least. Despite increasing awareness of the climate crisis (56% of Americans are “Alarmed” or “Concerned” about global warming), the world is still on course for almost 3°C of warming. We must dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to meet Paris Agreement goals, but NO countries are on track to meet their Paris goals, and based on current trajectories, emissions are set to rise by 10% over the next eight years. We need a 43% emissions reduction by 2030 to reach 1.5°C

🔥A Glimmer of Hope This was the first time that the COP 28 outcome mentioned a transition away from fossil fuels -  a significant improvement on the outcome of the Glasgow summit in 2021 where parties agreed to phase down unabated coal. Countries agreed to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency by 2030. While this language is still weak, it is a step in the right direction.

🔥Circular Conversations: Many of the conversations held inside and outside of the negotiation rooms were not new news. In the global stocktake, delegates stressed that the world is facing an unprecedented challenge due to climate change, that women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities worldwide have a crucial role in implementation, and that transitions should be just, equitable, and fast-tracked. While this acknowledgment from international governments is important, these principles have been well-established for several years. 

Water Takeaways 

While COP has historically focused on mitigating more GHGs in the atmosphere, this year there was an increased acknowledgment that even if we meet our Paris targets, we need to adapt to a future with increased drought, disasters and hotter temperatures. 

🔥Funding Sources  $2.9B of new funding for Nature-based Solutions and Water projects worldwide was announced. This includes $1.1B in financing packages for forest-rich countries,

$1.0B for a Nature Based Solutions Hub for the Asia Pacific Region, and $200M for water security and urban water utilities

🔥 37 countries joined the Freshwater Challenge, a country-led initiative to protect & restore freshwater ecosystems. There was also a focus on Water Scarcity and Drought. 6 new countries joined the International Drought Resilience Alliance, and the UNCCD’s Global Drought Snapshot 2023 Report, which outlines the dire impacts of drought worldwide, was released during COP. 


🔥December 3rd marked the first Health Day at COP - adding onto existing thematic days sucg as days for children/youth and food systems. The aim of the day was to underscore the intricate connections between health and climate change. The Declaration on Climate and Health was signed by 124 countries, with a clear commitment to fortifying healthcare systems against climate challenges and acknowledging the essential role of governments in safeguarding public health.

What’s Next? 

Azerbaijan will host COP29 in November 2024, where governments must establish new climate finance goals. At COP30 in 2025, countries must come prepared with their nationally determined contributions. The outcomes from COP28 are far from what the climate community hoped for. What countries must do for adaptation, specifically, remains poorly defined, and this must be addressed at the next cop.  In the meantime, we roll up our sleeves and get back to work on making our global goals and aspirations for a greener future a reality.

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