The upcoming UN COP28 climate conference in Dubai is not merely another diplomatic gathering or a photo-op summit; it’s a critical lifeline in our global battle against the climate crisis.
Taking place in a world preoccupied with terrible violent conflicts like the ongoing war in Ukraine and humanitarian disaster in Gaza, COP28’s success is pivotal, transcending beyond immediate geopolitical struggles to address the existential threat of climate change.
The COP28 represents a critical juncture in international climate negotiations and action. Our planet faces an unprecedented warming crisis, with the last decade being the warmest on record.
Human activities, notably the emission of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and deforestation, have accelerated this crisis.
Societal impacts of climate change
We are already witnessing severe loss of sea ice, melting glaciers and ice sheets, sea level rise, and increasing number of intense heatwaves. The effects of the climate crisis are far-reaching, affecting not just the environment but the very pillars of human civilisation — economies, health, and security.
Ignoring climate change spells economic disaster. Natural calamities like hurricanes, droughts, floods, and forest fires, intensified by climate change, devastate economies, impeding development and causing long-term financial instability.
Conversely, investments in green technologies and renewables present immense opportunities for economic rejuvenation and job creation.
The climate crisis disproportionately affects vulnerable populations, especially in developing countries, worsening social inequalities. Extreme weather events, such as heatwaves and floods, result in loss of life and displacement, and they intensify public health crises.
Addressing this issue is not only an environmental obligation but also a matter of social justice, aimed at protecting those most vulnerable to the health and societal impacts of a changing climate.
Prioritise immediate and realistic goals
The world continues to fall short in providing necessary support to poor countries that urgently require infrastructure and technology to adapt to the rapidly approaching climate emergencies.
One of the major challenges in climate negotiations, particularly for the developed world, is closing the gap between complex scientific knowledge and public understanding. Effective communication strategies are crucial in helping the public understand the connection between climate disasters and their underlying causes.
Only when leaders effectively convey the severity of the climate crisis to their citizens can they make difficult decisions about reducing carbon emissions and investing in adaptation measures in their own countries and in other vulnerable regions.
At COP28 in Dubai, the international community must work for climate action, incorporating it into all aspects of global governance. This involves not only adhering to the commitments made under the Paris Agreement but also ensuring that climate policies are at the forefront of all international diplomacy.
The climate summit in Dubai, due to urgency, must prioritise immediate and realistic goals, such as reducing carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, rather than setting distant targets. This change in focus is essential to sustain the momentum required to keep the global temperature increase below the critical 1.5°C threshold.
Conflicts and climate action
COP28 should concentrate on the top countries responsible for the majority of emissions, moving away from broad negotiations that have previously achieved limited success. The actions of these major emitters are crucial in reducing global dependence on fossil fuels.
At the same time, rich industrialised countries must step up to support and contribute to agreed-upon climate finance initiatives, aimed at both reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
Climate change does not occur in isolation; it both worsens and is worsened by wars and armed conflicts. The ongoing wars in Ukraine and Gaza not only shift global focus away from the impending climate crisis but also contribute to environmental damage and global warming through the destruction and violence they cause.
The war and devastation in the Gaza Strip underscore a critical dimension of the climate crisis: it is not only a humanitarian disaster but has also significantly exacerbated environmental challenges.
Similarly, the war in Ukraine has disrupted global food and energy systems, illustrating how armed conflicts can impede climate action and the transition to sustainable energy.
The impact of war on the environment and climate change is complex, involving direct emissions from military activities, destruction and pollution of natural resources, disruption of environmental governance, and indirect consequences of reconstruction and displacement. Collectively, these factors contribute to environmental crises and amplify the effects of climate change.
Urgency for decisive, united action
Climate change undoubtedly serves as a catalyst for global instability, which in turn contributes to accelerating global warming.
As such, comprehensive climate action is not just an environmental strategy; it is a crucial component for achieving global peace and stability and breaking the dangerous cycle, particularly in regions with fragile political situations.
COP28 takes place at a challenging time, with the world grappling with numerous devastating wars and internal conflicts.
However, it also presents a unique opportunity to bring together global efforts against climate change. As the host, the UAE is expected to play a crucial role, given its significant diplomatic influence and strategic position between the developed and developing worlds.
The success of COP28 is vital, especially amid ongoing global conflicts. COP28 needs to transcend current geopolitical tensions, mobilising the collective will and resources necessary to tackle the climate crisis. We are at a pivotal moment, and the decisions made at COP28 will significantly influence our shared future.
The urgency for decisive and united action has never been greater.