Expo City Dubai opens with stunning visuals on Al Wasl dome
The COP28 will be held this year at the Expo City in Dubai from November 30 to December 12. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: World leaders are due to gather for annual climate change talks in Dubai in December. On the agenda: everything from cutting greenhouse gas emissions, to adapting to extreme weather events, trading carbon emissions and gender inequality.

This year has once again seen the devastating effects of climate change on the planet. The summer season in the northern hemisphere was the warmest on record globally. At least 5,000 people were killed in Libya in the Mediterranean storm Daniel in September, while a wildfire on the Hawaiian island Maui killed at least 115 people.

When is COP28?

It starts on Thursday, November 30, and is due to finish on Tuesday, December 12. While the talks are scheduled to last a fortnight, they are notorious for spilling over by an extra day or two as delegates argue over the final language of the communique.

Where is COP28 being held?

This year the rotating presidency is held by the United Arab Emirates, and COP28 will be held at the Expo City in Dubai.

What is COP28?

It's the annual gathering of nearly 200 countries, hosted by the United Nations, to discuss ways of avoiding man made climate change and adapting to warming temperatures. The talks have been going for 28 years, giving this year's talks the technical name of the 28th Conference of the Parties under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The original idea three decades ago was to create a multilateral process in which everyone got to have an equal say in how the world should best cut greenhouse gases. In reality, there are stubborn divides between rich and poor countries. Developing countries argue that developed countries got rich over the last century by creating industries founded on fossil fuels, and that they should be able to do the same.

The COP process made a breakthrough deal in Paris in 2015, when all countries agreed for the first time to ensure that temperature rises stay well below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels and they set a stretch goal to ensure warming doesn't breach 1.5 C. To achieve that means emissions should fall to "net zero" by the middle of the century. While the Paris Agreement was a landmark moment, countries have struggled to deliver on it. Each member must make pledges showing how they will contribute their fair share to keeping temperatures in check. But those plans aren't good enough.

read more on COP28

How many people will attend COP28?

This year's summit is expected to be the biggest yet. The UAE is well set up to manage a mammoth event with plenty of hotel rooms in Dubai and one of the world's best-connected airports. Both COP21 in Paris and COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021 had more than 40,000 registered participants, while 33,000 people registered to attend last year's meeting in Egypt.

Who can attend COP28?

At the heart of COP28 are the negotiators - civil servants from 197 countries, who spend two weeks locked behind closed doors thrashing out the details of the agreements that are supposed to drive action on tackling climate change. Negotiators are often accompanied by their ministers, and sometimes the heads of state who can help to seal a deal. But it's not just governments who attend.

Members of civil society groups as well as businesses all turn up too, to make their cases heard on the fringes of the event. And of course, the site is teeming with journalists reporting what's happening to the wider world.

Why is COP28 important?

This is the first year since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 that countries will take stock of the progress they're making on tackling climate change. We already know the answer: that they're not going fast enough in cutting emissions at the pace Paris promised.

The review is supposed to put pressure on countries to speed things up. After COP28, countries will have until 2025 to submit new national plans to fight climate change - which will truly determine if the world is heading in the right direction.

Some richer countries, particularly in Europe, are pushing for tougher commitments, such as phasing out fossil fuels and "peaking" emissions (stop them from climbing) by 2025. That's a big ask for many developing countries, such as India that see fossil fuels as crucial to growing their economies. This year's COP will also be crucial for climate finance. Rich countries have never managed to deliver on their promise to mobilize $100 billion a year to help poor countries deal with the worst impacts of climate change.

Next year, negotiators will be seeking to reach a deal on a new, post-2025 collective goal for climate finance. Initially, wealthy nations responsible for the most historical emissions were asked to chip in, but now countries such as Ghana are calling for the pool of contributors to be widened to include major economies such as China, the world's biggest source of climate-warming gases.