COP28: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Posted on: 20 February, 2024

In this guest article, UCEM’s Jessica Gordon-Calvert gives her personal reaction to the fallout from December’s international climate conference.

By Jessica Gordon-Calvert, Sustainability Education & Engagement Officer

From an outsider’s perspective, COP28 was a disappointment for me.

COP28 started badly enough, with the host, Sultan al-Jaber, being Chair of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (who dismissed the science supporting the need to gradually eliminate the use of fossil fuels, but later changed their stance). However, what’s worse is that this COP saw a substantial increase in lobbyist presence with 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists in attendance. According to TIME, that’s more than the number of passes issued to delegates from the 10 most climate-vulnerable nations combined.

Learn more: What is COP28 (and why is it so controversial)?

From a UK perspective, a lack of political leadership was noted as Rishi Sunak purportedly spent more hours travelling to COP28 on his private jet than he did attending it. I also feel he could have been more pragmatic when talking about the challenges of the climate crisis, as opposed to campaigning for his upcoming election. Our climate secretary left the CLIMATE conference early to come back to the UK (whether or not to vote on the government’s Rwanda Bill), leaving the UK without much in the way of senior leadership.

Pleasingly though, there were some positives. The COP committee in Dubai was made up of 63% women, which is a significantly better than the recent announcement that the COP29 hosts (Azerbaijan) have appointed a 28-member committee with not a single woman included. Equality, diversity and inclusion need to be at the heart of the conferences, to ensure those more adversely impacted by climate change are heard and acted upon. We need to see more representation from climate-vulnerable as opposed to lobbyists at future COPs.

Having said all this, what ultimately came out of COP28 was historic, with nearly every country in the world agreeing to “transition away from fossil fuels”. The loss and damage fund, which was introduced at COP27 in Egypt with the aim of supporting those countries most affected by climate change, was also finally put into action, and international climate finance projects were also announced.

What can we do?

In 2024 we’re going to see A LOT of elections, reportedly around half the world’s population will be voting this year. If you have the power to do so, please go out and vote. Vote for the future of our people and planet.