What can we expect from COP28?

At the end of November, representatives from over 190 countries will travel to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to engage in two weeks of discussion and debate on solutions to tackle climate change. The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, better known as COP28, will see heads of state, environmental organisations, Indigenous Peoples, youth groups, and more, come together to address the climate crisis. Events in the past year have highlighted the need for rapid action; devastating floods in Pakistan and China, extreme ice sheet melting at the poles, severe drought hitting African countries and record-breaking heatwaves experienced in Europe and the United States1 have meant that more people than ever are feeling the direct impacts of climate change.

Expectations of the conference are high, considering the warning earlier this year from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the UN-appointed body that assesses climate change science) predicting a warming of 1.5°C by 2100 against pre-industrial levels will be reached even with lower emissions2. The importance of international cooperation to achieve a Net Zero world is increasingly and urgently vital for the health of the ecosystems we depend on.

Was last year’s conference a success?

The COP27 conference held in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt saw some potentially significant steps in progress: there was the first major recognition of climate change threatening food security, encouragement to implement nature-based solutions, and the methane reduction pledge was joined by 30 additional countries. Important dialogue between the United States and China was reignited, evidencing the strengthening reinvolvement of the United States in international climate talks. Establishing a “loss and damage” fund was another major success: countries who are most vulnerable to, and already experiencing, the most extreme impacts of climate change will have more access to financial support from wealthier nations4.

However, progress was lacking in financial investment, both in adaptations to the climate crisis, and from developed countries into developing nations to support their transition to sustainability3. Globally, private and public money still flows into fossil fuels rather than establishing and strengthening climate adaptation measures2. These priorities need to change if we are to limit the damage already being inflicted on the natural environment and human populations.

What’s up for discussion at COP28?

Finance, one of four themes for this year’s conference, will be a primary focus – appropriate, considering the shortfall of investment seen at last year’s talks. How successful preparations for the “loss and damage” fund have been will be a key focus of the debate. Technological innovations that could aid in pulling us back onto a 1.5°C increase trajectory are also expected to be presented3.

Alongside mobilising financial and technological interventions, both of which are integral to meaningful climate action,2 COP28 aims to give a voice to underrepresented youth and gender groups3. Indigenous Peoples will have a specific platform, which is vital for hearing specialised knowledge of fragile ecosystems and firsthand accounts of challenges faced by frontline communities. It is hoped this  will go some way to combatting the heavy presence of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP: they numbered 636 attendees in Egypt last year compared to the 293 representatives of indigenous delegations and made up a larger group than the size of any single nation’s delegation, aside from this year’s host: the United Arab Emirates5. Unfinished debates from COP27 are expected to continue on the necessity of phasing out fossil fuels instead of just phasing them down.

It is important to acknowledge that this conference is set against a backdrop of continued global conflict, which has in part highlighted our dependence on fossil fuel reserves. The main attention of many diplomats may therefore be focused elsewhere, so extra efforts are needed from nations more able to take on responsibilities to push forward with an issue that threatens to create and exacerbate future global instability6.

What can businesses and organisations do?

Although COP28 provides an opportunity for impactful action on an international scale, change needs to be instigated across all areas of society. As the UK government plans to escalate North Sea oil and gas projects threaten the nation’s Net Zero commitments7, it is more important than ever that businesses of all sizes take the initiative to implement positive and lasting change.

Not sure where to start? Working towards an Investors in the Environment (iiE) accreditation will equip your organisation with the knowledge and tools to establish an Environmental Management System to understand and reduce your impact on the environment. On the COP28 theme of finance, examining where your finances, such as pension funds, are invested, can have a huge impact in reducing the financial flow into the fossil fuel industry, and support sustainable alternatives instead. Check out this webinar on why where your money is matters. When acting together, what can seem like small changes can have a profound and wide-reaching effect.

Image credit: United Nations Climate Change


  1. How Climate Change Made Summer 2023 One for the Record Books | Earth.Org
  2. IPCC_AR6_SYR_SPM.pdf
  3. Thematic Program – COP28 Schedule & Agenda – COP28 UAE
  4. COP27: Key Outcomes from the UN Climate Talks in Sharm el-Sheikh | World Resources Institute (wri.org)
  5. Provisional list of participant (unfccc.int)
  6. Climate Issues to Watch in 2023: Toward COP 28 and Faster, More Urgent Climate Action | unfoundation.org
  7. New licences granted for North Sea oil and gas projects – BBC News