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COP28 – what to watch

22 November 2023
With COP28 kicking off in Dubai at the end of the month, DWF's Sustainable Business and ESG experts will be actively engaged in following the negotiations to assess the potential impacts of key decisions on its stakeholders. 

DWF are advocates of ambitious multi-stakeholder action to address the climate crisis, demonstrated by its own climate action commitments. As inaugural signatories of the Legal Charter 1.5, DWF also collaborates with other leading businesses to maximise the potential of the legal industry to use its expertise and collective voice to accelerate progress in tackling this global challenge.

With the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) kicking off in Dubai at the end of the month, DWF will be actively engaged in closely following the negotiations to assess the potential impacts of key decisions on its stakeholders.

As part of its commitment to the Net Zero Lawyers Alliance (NZLA), DWF has also engaged with the charity Legal Response International (LRI) to provide pro-bono support to national delegations with less access to specialised experts, including lawyers, throughout the conference. Kirsty Rogers, Global Head of ESG at DWF, commented

"Supporting the work of LRI presents our colleagues with an invaluable opportunity to contribute to the crucial goal of a Just Transition. At DWF we unanimously support this ambition to ensure that all voices are heard at COP28, echoing our own core purpose to deliver positive outcomes, and consistent with the commitments of Legal Charter 1.5."

The four key themes DWF's Sustainable Business and ESG experts will be focussed on during negotiations are:

Global stocktake: overshoot and urgency

COP28 will see the completion of the first Global Stocktake on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the 2015 Paris Agreement. However as evidenced by the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and leading climate scientists, progress is not where it needs to be with 2023 continuing to break records for temperature and extreme weather events. Our current decade was deemed the 'decade for action', yet three years in the world has not seen the pace of change required to shift the dial on warming as a 1.5 degree Celsius limit looks increasingly out of reach.

So whilst the tone going into COP28 is a sombre one, not helped by the turmoil in the broader geopolitical landscape, there is a clear message: urgency is key to delivery, and further distraction, reduced ambition, or delay is untenable.

The fossil fuel debate: phase down or phase out?

At the heart of much controversy surrounding this year's conference is the question of fossil fuels. There is still a heated ongoing debate over the commitment to a full phase out with some actors, including this year's hosts, continuing to pursue a rhetoric of a 'responsible phase down' by 2050 with calls for investment in technology and innovation to deliver carbon capture and other removal mechanisms. This stance directly contradicts the scientific consensus, which universally concludes that a phase out of fossil fuels is the only route to a viable future. However, whererever the verdict lands at COP28 there will likely be unanimous support for further acceleration of renewable energy capacity globally. Encouragingly this is one area of significant progress since targets were set in Paris in 2015, a trend endorsed by DWF's global energy team whose renewable energy experts are increasingly retained to support clients with the low carbon transition.

Loss and damage

Whilst a long-awaited agreement to establish a Loss and Damage fund was one celebrated outcome of COP27, the discussion failed to secure a mechanism for operationalising the funding arrangement. A blueprint for the fund was agreed at the start of November 2023 and a breakthrough achieved with agreement that the World Bank can manage it on an interim basis. This blue print is to be approved and launched at COP28. The wider practicalities of managing and delivering funds is a crucial topic for discussion, as the task of supporting climate vulnerable nations to manage the increasing scale of climate-induced damage is only getting more urgent.

Adaptation and Climate Finance

Yet another hangover from COP27, questions around Adaptation and Climate Finance will be in prime focus at this year's conference, also in the context of what an appropriate scale and mechanism for delivery looks like. Urgency is again front and centre of this debate, as calls for the availability of low-cost capital signal the vital need for those at the forefront of the climate crisis to gain meaningful access to resources for effective management of the worst impacts and the development of sustainable infrastructure solutions.

Beyond the headlines

Whilst these are the hot topics up for debate at this year's conference, there are many other key issues under discussion from bolstering regulatory frameworks around the voluntary carbon markets, to accelerating action to halt biodiversity loss, all within the broader thematic programme.

Experts from DWF's Sustainable Business and ESG Advisory Practice will be watching closely, and will share their key takeaways for business as the negotiations conclude next month.

Further Reading