COP28 climate change summit begins next week: What you need to know

Can the world's leaders finally come together to protect people from the worsening impacts of the climate crisis?

COP28 will draw over 70,000 delegates and 140 heads of state to Dubai between November 30 and December 12. With emissions reaching all-time highs, and 2023 expected to be the hottest on record, world leaders are set to fiercely debate about how to protect the public from the worsening impact of fossil fuels.

What do I need to know?

  • Held annually by the United Nations, the COP (Conference of the Parties) is the world's highest-level climate change negotiation event.

  • This year, 198 parties will be represented at the United Arab Emirates for COP28. It will attract high-profile attendees including King Charles III and Bill Gates, while Pope Francis will be the first pontiff ever to address a COP.

  • The host nation has controversially appointed a fossil-fuel executive as its COP28 president, Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber. Climate activist Greta Thunberg called the decision "completely ridiculous".

  • It is not expected that leaders of the world’s two biggest polluting nations, US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping will speak.

  • Australia’s Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen has promised Australia will push for “stronger practical outcomes, not just maintaining the status quo."

🤔 Do I need to be worried?

Yes! Ahead of COP28, the United Nations released its annual Emissions Gap report, warning the world is on track to warm by 3 degrees this century. This is double the target of 1.5 degrees that 196 parties agreed to at COP21 in Paris.

Both the United Nations and the International Energy Agency have warned all new exploration of development of oil, gas and coal projects must stop. That hasn’t happened.

Extreme weather is becoming more frequent and severe, and parts of Australia are becoming uninsurable because of their susceptibility to natural disasters like floods and bushfires.

Greta Thunberg (right) and Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber (left) over a suburban bushfire background.
Greta Thunberg (right) has criticised the appointment of Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber (left) as COP28 President. Source: Getty/AAP

🗣️ What they said

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General: “The emissions gap is more like an emissions canyon, a canyon littered with broken promises, broken lives and broken records."

Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, COP28 President: "We must progress the unlocking of finance to support a just and orderly transition while protecting people, lives, and livelihoods.”

Greta Thunberg, climate activist: "It is what we decide now that will define the rest of humanity’s future."

💬 Conversation starter

Hosting the COP generates a significant amount of emissions, 62,695 tonnes at COP27 in Egypt, down from a whopping 131,556 tonnes at COP26 in Glasgow. However, the agreements attendees make are likely to offset these emissions.

Because the host nation limits freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International predicts the talks could thrust its human rights record into the global spotlight.

And while Australia has a small population it has a substantial impact on the climate crisis. It is the world’s largest exporter of coal and ranked sixth on another fossil fuel — liquified natural gas.

Australia has a subtle strategy to attract attention at the COP with its pavilion at previous gatherings proving popular because of its first-class coffee. So expect international delegates wandering over for a cuppa as Australia tries to sure up support to host COP31.

🗓️ What happens next?

There is pressure to finalise details of a loss and damage fund that would see rich nations help poor countries mitigate the impact of the climate crisis.

At COP27, China and Saudi Arabia blocked a proposal to “phase out” coal and gas, and this issue is expected to be discussed again. With the price of fossil fuels sky-high, also expect discussion about fast-tracking the transition to renewable energy.

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