Good COP or bad COP

A round-up of how things finished at the UN climate talks (COP28) in Dubai and the impact the Tearfund team had there.

Written by Tearfund | 14 Dec 2023

The UN climate summit (COP28) in Dubai drew to a close on Wednesday after two weeks of negotiations. But what happened at the talks and how did they end? And what will the impact be on people living in poverty, who are experiencing the worst effects of the climate crisis?

In case you missed it, here’s why Tearfund was at COP28 in the first place. Our team of campaigners and staff were there to lobby governments and speak to the media, amplifying the message that vulnerable communities are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis despite doing the least to cause it.

We were also calling for a fair and funded phase-out of fossil fuels, and an acceleration in the shift to renewable energy, which is key for a safer and fairer future. We were calling for wealthy nations to deliver on their climate finance commitments and for funding for loss and damage caused by the climate crisis in vulnerable nations.

How did the talks finish up?

Throughout the talks, all eyes were on the negotiations about the Global Stocktake (GST) – the first ‘report card’ on climate action since the Paris Agreement in 2015. Paris was a milestone where countries committed to limit warming to as close to 1.5℃ as possible. The GST text was the key deliverable from this COP and will shape national climate plans until 2040. 

The final outcome was a mixed bag. Significantly, COP28 reached an agreement to transition away from fossil fuels but it also opened the door to dangerous distractions and weakening of past commitments – falling short of its potential to deliver a landmark agreement to phase out all fossil fuels. Securing this commitment was widely seen as a measure of success for these talks.

It was good to see countries pledge to triple renewables and double energy efficiency by 2030, but this needs to go hand in hand with phasing out fossil fuels. There is no room for fossil fuels if we are to have any chance of averting the worst of climate catastrophe and delivering justice for millions of the most vulnerable people around the world. 

Encouragingly, this COP saw Norway and Australia sign the Clean Energy Transition Partnership, which Tearfund and others have been campaigning on for years. If fully implemented, the partnership, which now has 41 signatories, could shift more than US$28 billion per year out of fossil fuels and into clean energy. 

The talks saw limited progress in scaling up finance to meet the escalating costs of the climate crisis. However, a key milestone was reached in making a ‘loss and damage’ fund a reality, with many countries, including the UK, pledging funds. This is a welcome step, though it falls well short of the billions of dollars required to help people rebuild their lives in the wake of climate disaster. We need to see wealthy countries make regular and substantial contributions to the fund if it is to deliver justice.

Among the announcements came the welcome news that the Scottish Government will allocate funds to Tearfund to support survivors of the devastating floods in Pakistan last year. These vital funds, totalling £250,000, will enable communities who have suffered enormous losses to rebuild their lives.

What else did the Tearfund team do?

Tearfund co-hosted a number of side events in the Faith Pavilion (a space designed for faith leaders to engage with discussions), tackling topics from learning from indigenous people to tackling youth unemployment through green jobs. Renew Our World – a global movement of which Tearfund is a member – launched a new book at the pavilion: Making a world of difference, written by Rev Dr Dave Bookless, aims to help churches tackle the climate crisis.

We had a fantastic range of media coverage, with interviews on BBC Radio 5 Live, Times Radio, BBC Scotland and Sky TV Italia, and our statements featured in Christian media and sustainability specialist outlets.

And on Saturday 9 December, thousands of people, including Tearfund supporters, took to the streets in cities across the world to raise their voices as part of the Global Day of Action.

What next?

No one conference or organisation alone can deliver climate justice in its entirety. The crisis is a daily reality for millions of people, and demands a daily response. In the weeks and months ahead, we need actions that meet the scale of the crisis. And we need leaders who will step up to their responsibilities and turn climate action into a daily commitment. 

Following this year’s COP, we will be holding leaders to account on all that was promised and everything that was left undone, until the next set of discussions at COP29 in Azerbaijan in 2024.  

The climate crisis is part of the interconnected crises that we face on a global scale – rising poverty, inequality, environmental destruction – but we believe the church can be the most powerful agent for change. 

That’s why we’re inviting hundreds of thousands of churches around the world to connect, speak out together and hold the powerful to account, changing the trajectory of this century through a Restorative revolution

We’ve produced resources, including Bible studies, to help Christians and churches explore how they can partner with God in his ongoing restoration story and help make this vision a reality as part of a wider movement. Check them out today and consider sharing them with your church. And sign up for Tearfund Action emails for more ways to put your faith into action.

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