The 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, referred to as COP, will host its 28th meeting in the United Arab Emirates.
Between November 30 and December 12, world leaders will gather to progress efforts to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and to limit the resulting climate change. On the sidelines of the main discussions, thousands of public and private sector leaders will attend COP28 to create an action roadmap on how best to reduce emissions, transition to renewable energy, address food and water scarcity and develop resilient relief systems, among other issues.
The challenge is immense, but the time for talking is over and it has been for some time. Concerted and collaborative action is needed to address the world’s significant climate emergency.
To do this, Santhosh Jayaram — Global Head of Sustainability at HCLTech — highlights the importance of this COP. He also discusses two positive outcomes that should be progressed from COP27, while identifying areas that need greater focus at this climate conference to consider it a success.
Course correction based on global stocktake
COP28 is the first time since the 2015 Paris Agreement at COP21, that countries and organizations will take a “global stocktake” of their progress toward the long-term goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
The UNFCCC describes it as “like taking inventory. It means looking at everything related to where the world stands on climate action and support, identifying the gaps, and working together to chart a better course forward to accelerate climate action.”
Ahead of COP28, the United Nations released its synthesis report on this progress, which found that global action on climate change is not on track to meet net-zero goals by 2050.
The report highlighted 16 other key findings, which led to the conclusion that we are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term goals.
- Emissions needed to peak sometime between 2020 and 2025, but they are still climbing
- Cleaner technologies need to be rapidly deployed all around the world
- The necessity to unlock and redeploy trillions of dollars to support the pathway and build resilience
- Improved access to technologies and finance for developing countries.
“The global stocktake should be seen as a measure of ambition and accountability of the collective will we have as humankind in protecting our future generations. This stocktake will set a precedent to the following stocktake as to whether it is done as a routine health check-up or done as a course correction. Creating an actionable roadmap to address the findings of the stocktake must be the priority at COP28,” says Jayaram.
Continued focus on water and food
At COP27 in Egypt there was a focus on the link between water and global warming, making it the first COP that included water on its official agenda.
“This is the water COP,” said Csaba Kőrösi, President of the United Nations General Assembly, at the time.
For the first time, the conference dedicated a day to the theme of agriculture and a key outcome was the launch of the Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation initiative.
Climate change is impacting Earth’s natural water cycle, which is leading to increased flooding and droughts and a lack of access to safe drinking water, while creating financial and logistical disruptions to agriculture and transport.
“Water is a vital topic, along with addressing the challenge of food scarcity. While COP27 ensured a good start to these discussions, it fell short of a transition towards sustainable food systems, and I would like to see a deeper dive into it at COP28. There must be inclusion of small-holding farmers into the overall discussions,” says Jayaram.
HCLTech is very keen on working in collaboration towards solutions around water. It is the first Indian company to join the Water Resilience Coalition this year. We have also endorsed the CEO Water Mandate. Our work through our HCLFoundation has replenished 26 time more water than we consume in India. In addition, HCL Group in partnership with UpLink, the open innovation platform of the World Economic Forum, runs the Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative to accelerate the innovation agenda around fresh water.
HCLTech has also launched its Climate Action Grant for the Americas, which will provide grants to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) combating climate change and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity with innovative solutions across the Americas.
Fast implementation of Loss and Damage Fund
In the extended hours of COP27, it was agreed to establish a Loss and Damage Fund, which will provide financial support for vulnerable countries experiencing devastating climate effects. It is not charity, but climate justice.
“It was a historic decision because it took 30 years for this agreement to come in from the time the discussion started. Now that we have an agreement, we need to work fast to ensure that the vulnerable regions get support as soon as possible. But as the discussions move into the scope of such a fund, there are many difficult questions that will require an answer that all parties agree with. It will be a great achievement if we can progress faster on this during this COP,” explains Jayaram.
More action needed: Greenwashing and renewable energy transition
Greenwashing is a term that describes disinformation spread by an organization to present an environmentally responsible image.
At COP27, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said: “We must have zero tolerance for net-zero greenwashing.”
Since this announcement, the problem continues to persist, despite some countries introducing regulations to tackle greenwashing. “The problem,” says Jayaram, “is the absence of clear definitions on terminologies and liable accountabilities on claims. Until this is addressed, the different shades of green will exist.”
Artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics and blockchain are three technologies that can be deployed to help build trust and eliminate greenwashing.
Another challenge that needs more attention at COP28 is the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables.
COP27 proved a disappointment, as the final deal did not commit to a “phase-out” but to a “phase-down” of fossil fuels. The lack of action was criticized, and Jayaram is not confident on this front ahead of COP28.
“Geopolitical pressures, mainly the war in Ukraine, may have contributed to the outcome of COP27 regarding a lack of conviction around reducing the use of fossil fuels. While this conflict continues, combined with the situation in Israel and Palestine, and the fact the climate summit is hosted in a region where oil is the major source of income, I’m not positive that we will see a firm commitment to phase-out fossil fuels.”
He adds: “However, the world has only one way to go and whatever the geopolitical pressures, we must commit to the total transition to renewable energy sources.”