Questions and answers: Climate conference in Dubai: What it's about and what's at stake

At the end of the year, which according to initial forecasts will probably be the hottest since weather records began, the global community is discussing its future.

Questions and answers: Climate conference in Dubai: What it's about and what's at stake

At the end of the year, which according to initial forecasts will probably be the hottest since weather records began, the global community is discussing its future. Heads of state and government – ​​even the Pope and King Charles III. – wrestle with the question: What do we do to prevent it from getting much hotter and climate change causing far more drastic damage? Around 70,000 negotiators, journalists, activists and experts are meeting for two weeks in Dubai for the UN Climate Change Conference. An overview of what it's all about and what's at stake.

Doubts that the crisis will be resolved at these conferences are justified. The processes are cumbersome and the agreements are often voluntary. And yet: the mere fact that representatives from around 200 countries come together is not a given. All countries involved, even China and Russia, de facto recognize: We have a common problem.

In Paris in 2015, the states agreed to limit global warming to well below two degrees - preferably 1.5 degrees. Most countries have ratified this agreement and have committed themselves to bringing their climate policies into line with it. This was considered a breakthrough at the time. However, not enough has happened since then. “This also appears regularly in the resolutions of the climate conferences, but paper is known to be patient. Far too little happens afterwards,” says Jan Kowalzig, an expert in climate diplomacy at Oxfam. Since many countries continue to be heavily dependent on coal, oil and gas, it has not yet been possible to make a clear commitment to phasing out fossil fuels at climate summits.

Expectations in this area are muted, especially since the presidency shows little ambition in this regard. The host of the conference, Sultan al-Jaber, is also the head of the state oil company Adnoc, which is planning numerous new fossil fuel projects. “The goat has been turned into a gardener,” says Greenpeace boss Martin Kaiser. Instead, an ambitious new target for the expansion of renewable energies is to be agreed in Dubai. There is also a financial pot for damage and losses, and for the first time since Paris, an official inventory is on the agenda: Is the world on track to contain the crisis?

No, they are far from that, as current analyzes show. According to the United Nations, instead of 1.5 degrees, the planet is currently heading towards almost three degrees by the end of the century - and only if all of the states' promises are kept, which it doesn't look like at the moment. A key question at COP28 will be how to close this gap.

Not to stop, but to limit. “Every tenth of a degree counts” is also the motto of UN climate chief Simon Stiell. Climate change is already causing more intense and longer heat waves, devastating floods, storms and droughts all over the world - even at around 1.2 degrees of warming. The hotter, the greater the climate damage.

Kowalzig, like many other experts, is of the opinion that the conferences achieve far too little, but without them things would look even worse. It is true that we are still a long way from the Paris goals. “But at least we are currently heading towards a warming of just under 3 degrees, ten years ago it looked like over 4 degrees,” said Kowalzig. "We shouldn't be satisfied with that, because even 2 degrees or 3 degrees mean huge upheavals in many countries, catastrophic crop damage, island states that are drowning, areas of land that will become uninhabitable in the long term - and the erosion of the livelihoods of billions of people."

“How much political investment you can put into the climate process also depends on the other issues in the world situation,” says expert Kowalzig. At the same time, climate protection can also be a common denominator when people disagree on a lot of other things.

For example, positive signals have recently been sent out by the major climate polluters, the USA and China: Shortly before the summit between US President Joe Biden and China's head of state and party leader Xi Jinping, both countries committed to increased cooperation in the fight against global warming . The countries announced in mid-November that they wanted to strengthen this – the climate crisis was “one of the greatest challenges of our time”.

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