COP28: hopes and expectations from our experts

As COP28 opens this week, here are the hopes and expectations of four CIWEM experts, presenting both UK and international views

You may have tuned in to our event earlier this month debating the benefits and limitations of COP for climate action. With UN Climate Change Conference – commonly called COP – now happening on a yearly basis, it can be hard to keep track of the stakes and challenges of each one, as well as their achievements. Four CIWEM experts share their hopes and expectations for COP28, which is starting on Thursday this week.

Bushra Hussain – CIWEM President and Ports Practice Lead (EMEA) at Worley, based in UAE

COP28 has invited inputs from stakeholders across government, business, civil society, youth, science and Indigenous Peoples. This diversity is encouraging in itself but I am particularly interested to hear the insights of the indigenous groups. I feel we have much to learn from their observations of nature and their traditions passed on over generations. Their knowledge complements the technical expertise brought by scientists, and can improve outcomes and solutions.

Related to the topic of inclusion and listening to vulnerable groups, I’ll be interested to hear the status of an action agreed at COP27: the ‘loss and damage’ fund for countries who are most vulnerable and impacted by climate change events. This year’s COP intends to put nature, people, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate action becoming one of the most inclusive COP events ever, which fits so perfectly with this year's Presidential theme: Connecting a community inclusive and accessible for all.

Finally, I would be keen to see more on the energy transition away from conventional power and towards green and blue energies and on emission reductions before 2030.

Adam Hosking – Chair of CIWEM’s Climate Change Panel, Vice President and Global Director for Water Resources & Resilience at Jacobs, based in the UK

I’m fortunate to be engaged in facilitating sessions on adaptation to the impacts of climate change at COP28. COPs have typically focused on climate change mitigation through decarbonisation. While this remains critical, Copernicus have stated that this year is “virtually certain to be the warmest year on record”. It is irrefutable that we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Adaption should be an essential focus for a successful COP28.

My hope is that understanding and addressing the impacts of climate change receives due attention at COP. This is a vital opportunity to share best practices and inspire action in adaptation and resilience, particularly for most vulnerable communities. It’s a chance to develop the social licence to be pro-active: to ensure investments in communities and infrastructure are robust in the long-term and prevent disasters.

Whilst sharing best practices and a meaningful commitment to adaptation are my hopes for COP, my commitment is to drive the discussions to enable adaptation and to make space to share our growing experience to address climate impacts, including the use of nature-based solutions which can limit both climate change and its consequences.

Joanna Eyquem – Member of the Climate Change Panel and Managing Director at Intact Center on Climate Adaptation, based in Canada

COP meetings have become much more than the annual meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The plethora of official side-events, coloured zones, invite-only and off-COP happenings has ballooned in recent years, meaning that an increasing number of people from both the public and private sector participate.

With growing hype around the COP, there is growing expectation of change and action – and cynicism around the lack of it. The signing of the new Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) is a particularly hard act to follow. My hope is that it will drive consideration of how climate mitigation and adaptation can be achieved in tandem with restoring nature. Nature and land use are part of the thematic program, although on the tenth day of the conference, December 9th.

Whatever happens at COP28 itself, my second hope is that it inspires all of those attending to take action in their own work. We need a whole-of-society approach to achieve climate-nature objectives, which means engaging with people who will not be at, or following, or even aware of COP28. These are ultimately the majority of the people who vote in the leaders of the Parties making the decisions at the COP negotiating tables, and we need more of them on board to make transformative action politically appealing.

Matthew Hunt, Member of our Climate Change Panel and Director for Environment-Resilience-Renewables at Royal Haskoning DHV, based in the UK

COP28 comes at a volatile time politically in the UK with looming elections highlighting divisions regarding the UK’s leadership on climate change. Since Paris we have seen passionate but inconclusive debate, hollow commitments and broken promises. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations continues to rise and communities suffer from increasingly intense and frequent weather events, with the global south bearing the brunt of the damage (though by no means exclusively).

I hope that the Parties move beyond statements and come to some meaningful and impactful commitments beyond those undelivered previously, followed up by immediate action. The COP briefing information mentions the need to ‘deliver on old promises’ for climate finance, but this is needed in all areas.

The focus continues to be heavily directed at mitigation and ‘slashing emissions’. This makes the choice of the UAE as a host, and its fossil fuels industry an ‘interesting’ dimension. However, addressing adaptation and the disproportionate contributions to and impact of climate change would more neatly align with this being “the most inclusive COP ever”. My hope is that I’m wowed by the international community’s ability to see beyond tomorrow, and to collaborate and deliver a vision for a sustainable world; my expectation is that I’ll need to keep holding my breath at least until the end of December 12.

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