By Gabriela Nagle Alverio
As I walk through the Dubai Expo City on the first day of the second week of COP28 (more commonly known as the UN climate negotiations), I am struck by a host of mixed feelings. There is excitement at all of the incredible people I am crossing paths with (e.g. the founder of a company that uses code to amplify climate-forward messages worldwide, the lead researcher on a project seeking to quantify the benefits of investing in nature-based solutions in the agricultural sector, and even Miss America, whose passion lies in clean energy). But there is disappointment that not only we are at another COP but that it is being hosted by the president of a massive fossil-fuel enterprise who actively undermines the science and need for a phase-down of fossil fuels.
Still, I have hope as I witness an increasingly intersectional view of the impacts of climate change, evidenced by the first-ever Climate Mobility Pavilion and the success of the recently launched Health Day.
Starting off week two of COP28, it is critical to first understand what occurred in the negotiations in the first week. Let's start with the good news first.
The loss and damage fund, which provides financing to those irreversibly affected by climate change (e.g. sea level rise washing away houses, wildfires burning down communities) was fully operationalized and $700 million (with the U.S. contributing a measly $17.5m) of funding was committed to it. While that funding is still far below what is needed in order to address the loss and damage that is occurring, it is a step in the right direction that was once considered entirely infeasible.
Now, onto the not-so-great news. Overall, the first week of negotiations ranged from inconclusive to unproductive, with major countries like China and Saudi Arabia stonewalling some of the critical negotiations.
- Global Stocktake – the first time since the Paris Agreement where we assess how much progress we have made on reducing greenhouse gas emissions towards the 1.5 goal. The report about our progress was put out before COP, and here parties are meant to decide on what mandates will be made as a result, which will significantly impact the kinds of mitigation commitments that countries make at the first NDC update at COP30. In the first week, different proposals ranging from very specific mandates to very loose ones were thrown out. The word on the street is that “phase-out” (shifting away from fossil fuel use) has been removed from the options, however the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC today stressed that phase-out and phase-down are still on the table. In fact, he said, “what is on the table is something that can be historic…or not.” I guess we will see by the end of this week…
- Adaptation – It is widely agreed upon that adaptation is in the worst position of all the major issues. In the first week, countries couldn’t agree on even a single word for the agreement. Specifically, when discussing the Global Goal on Adaptation, which focuses on funding and awareness for countries with adaptation needs, countries remained stuck in procedural negotiations. Some countries wanted to put forth a robust framework with indicators and targets, while others focused more on receiving support.
- Finance – Climate finance will be a major topic at COP29 (which will be hosted in Azerbaijan), but even now there is no agreed-upon definition of climate finance. There are disagreements about whether we have or have not already doubled funds for climate adaptation since 2019, because there is disagreement about how much that number was and if certain ways funds were deployed count.
Over the next week, tracking these issues will become harder, as they are likely to move into back-door meetings as the end of COP nears. Updates will move through the grapevine until we see the final agreement, though those who want to stay up to date can check Carbon Brief and the Earth Negotiations Bulletin.
Along with the negotiations, there is an additional universe of panels, events, demos, and protests going on across COP. I will be spending my time participating in discussions around climate mobility (which is the general topic of my Ph.D. dissertation research), including through an official UNFCCC side event that I helped to co-host.
As a law student, I will also be following conversations around the legal aspects of the climate crisis, following up on my participation in the Climate Change Law and Governance Day and Specialization Course.
Ultimately, I believe that soft law has a critical role to play in solving the climate crisis, because the collective participation of the global community is the only way to make the progress that we need to make.
That is why I feel especially grateful to be here, learning not only from the negotiations and the COP participants, but also from the many students I am here with in my role as student instructor of the Duke UNFCCC Practicum.
In fact, the Duke students are posting blogs throughout COP that you can check out, in case you would like to learn alongside me.
Gabriela Nagle Alverio is a J.D. - Ph.D. student in the University Program in Environmental Policy (UPEP). Her research interests broadly include the impacts of climate change on human rights and human security and the policy solutions therein. Her dissertation research is on climate-induced migration and conflict.
Photos courtesy of Gabriela Nagle Alverio.
Blog: Duke Delegation to COP28 in Dubai
Duke's U.N. Climate Change Negotiations Practicum explores international climate change negotiations and climate policy under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This course is a Bass Connections-affiliated course that provides students with an opportunity to develop a comprehensive understanding of the issues at the heart of global climate change — from adaptation and mitigation to the political dynamics of the UNFCCC negotiations process. Students engage in independent coursework, classroom discussions, and guest lectures throughout the semester, all in preparation for the annual U.N. climate change negotiations.